Sunday, 27 April 2014

W is for Websites

It is the end of April and time for declarations. The first quarter's cotisations and last year's tax must be paid (see I is for Impots).

It's no big deal and it happens everywhere, but here in France there is the issue of the websites to be dealt with.

All the official correspondence that drops into our boitolette tells us brightly that it is quick and painless to perform our declarations online.

The actual websites tell a mighty different story.

I am forming the opinion that the French are not as hot on websites and the worldwide interweb as most of the rest of the world. The favoured methods of communication here are still the telephone and, better, face to face. Email, the bedrock of failsafe correspondence, is only just easing its way into the French way of doing things.

The French adoption of the internet appears slower than the rest of the world and more creaky. These government websites are densely written with gobbledygook; it takes hours of trawling through scribble to find the nugget of information you are seeking. But most infuriating is the fact that after two hours of going through the process of signing up for online declarations (quick and painless I was promised, remember), I am told that I cannot make any declarations just yet. I must try again ultérieurement (later). I must wait for the website fairies to grant me permission.

Elsewhere on the internet, French websites often fail to cut the mustard. Maybe its because they are still used to a formal way to communicating (just take a look at any official letter), but they often feel the need to cram their pages with text that is never going to be read and that only obscures the more important details. What exactly is your address and what are your opening hours?

Today, I shall abandon my laptop and drive the 45 minutes to the offices of URSSAF. I shall be handing them our declarations in person. It feels much safer that way.

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