Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Don't Trust Tables

I've mentioned this before but it bares repeating since the question just came up today.

Don't trust information presented in tabular form or in lists. I was chatting with a woman today, and she was clutching an old publication her company used to answer sales and use tax questions. She really relied on this publication but she recognized that it was a little out of date. She was looking for something to replace it. There were a couple of pages of text and then tables showing the various exemptions... maybe five pages for each state. As I glanced through it, I could spot quite a few situations where the one word answer was just not enough.

The problem is that we like tables because they're simpler. Answers are distilled down to a nice, neat matrix and we get some very short answers that fill in the little boxes. Unfortunately, most of the answers are NOT short and NOT simple. So when we rely on lists and tables, we're NOT getting the whole answer. In sales and use taxes, we simply need longer answers. We need paragraphs!

Tables may be OK for simple issues like rates, but beware of tables and lists for more complicated topics. Always assume it's more complicated.

The Sales Tax Guy

See the disclaimer - this is for education only. Research these issues thoroughly before making decisions.

Here's information on our upcoming seminars and webinars.

No comments: