Sunday, January 23, 2011

Everyone Has Internet Access, Right?

The División Ejecutivo de Ingresos (DEI), sort of the Honduran IRS, thinks everyone in Honduras has internet access; at least, that's the only conclusion one can come to upon finding that in order to obtain the form necessary to buy or sell a car, or get different license plates, one must download and print it from their website.

The head of the modernization project at the DEI, Juan Carlos Galindo, said that the move to make forms only available on the Internet is part of the DEI's modernization project begun under the Lobo Sosa administration.

Juan Carlos Galindo said that the DEI has put several forms up on the website, among them the DEI-410 and DEI-490.
"The taxpayer who wishes to request or make a link to their numeric RTN only has to download the form from the institutional web page"

said Galindo.

So why did the DEI make this move? In order to download the form, you must provide your name and RTN (taxpayer ID) in order for them to pre-generate a custom identifying number of the form. In other words, the form generated is not generic, it's unique, and the number on it has your taxpayer ID number (RTN) embedded in it. So the motivation is new business logic, no doubt a new database and tracking system. Too bad it's ill conceived and impractical for all but the most modern world countries.

While the move to make government forms available on the Internet is laudable, the decision to make that the only way to access them is dumb. In the United States, with much greater access to the Internet, the IRS still has to print paper forms and make them available at its offices. We are all grateful that we can download many of them as well, but they are, none the less, completely generic forms. In Honduras, where Internet access is more restricted (about 5% of the population), this move is sheer stupidity.

But government bureaucracies never admit their mistakes. This system is in place and likely cannot be changed. If that's the case, the DEI should be required to make computers and printers available to the public in their offices, like they must do under the Transparency laws anyhow, for taxpayers to print the forms, or do the smart thing and go back to generic paper forms. This solution is too clever for Honduras or even the United States, where not everyone has Internet access.


Xma'Kal said...

Don't blame on conspiracy what can easily be attributed to human (in this case government) stupidity.

RNS said...

I'm confused about why you would think I thought this was some kind of conspiracy? I called the decision "dumb" and an act of "sheer stupidity" so I think we're in agreement here. No conspiracy, just stupidity.

LS said...

You state that only 5% of Honduras has access to the internet. Can you provide a citation or reference for this number?

RAJ said...

@LS: the 5% estimate was, at the time we wrote this post (in January) the most recent we could find. It was current for 2008; see, for example, this listing of internet access.

This source, based on UN data, claims that internet access rose to 12% in 2009 and remained there in 2010.

We would note that data provided by the CIA World Factbook would project a slightly lower percentage for 2009-- about 9%.