until one week before Tax Day, 92% did
it electronically,e while in Brazil all submissions are in electronic form since
2011. Therefore, filing tax returns is
an ICT-dependent process marked by
significant procrastination in practice.
Although electronic tax submissions
have several benefits over other forms
of submission, users see the process as
complex, tedious, and time consuming.
However, procrastinating tax submissions or doing it incorrectly may impose
important penalties on individuals,
while also impeding governments to
see the big picture of taxes earlier.
As many people spend hours at work
each day, it is reasonable to expect non-work-related computing (NWRC) in
companies when the deadline for tax
submission is approaching. However,
many companies have policies restricting the use of organizational resources,
including the ICTs, for personal matters, whereas people use different ethical standards to guide personal behavior, sometimes indulging themselves
in doing NWRC. A digital effectiveness
situation thus arises, which involves at
least three stakeholders—the employee
(taxpayer), the employer, and the government. Table 2 synthesizes the analytical aspects for the specific case in
which the employee is the focal stakeholder, that is, the one whose ICT use
purpose should be met.
The approach promotes reflection
about the ICT use situation, as there
is always a need to accommodate the
personal interests (the ICT use purpose) and the opportunities for action
(the personally and environmentally
defined limitations and capabilities).
As in Table 2, enforcing or wisely relaxing the norms about ICT use in organizations is a matter of managing
priorities and reducing possibly unnecessary tension, that is, recognizing
the presence of different rationalities,
personal needs and paths to group effectiveness. In the particular case of
NWRC, it should not be always seen
as detrimental to work, either because
people will inevitably search for the
satisfaction of pressing needs, or because judicious NWRC can be compared to a coffee break—a needed
pause at work.
tiveness is low.b On the other hand, a
very limited person in regard to ICT-
related cognition who is able to de-
ploy technology as demanded in pro-
fessional routines may deliver high
levels of digital effectiveness.
I will exemplify the main aspects of the
approach with a case on electronically
filing tax returns, and doing it while at
b It is also possible that, if ICT use objectives are
defined so as to harness people or other systems,
and if one’s actions are effective that end, we
could argue that the ICT user’s digital effectiveness criterion was met. Although the present approach may include such cases, I take for granted that we need a responsible digital society, so
that ICT use objectives and outcomes should not
be detrimental to people and the environment.
work. Procrastinating tax submissions
is a common phenomenon. In 2017,
50% of U.S. taxpayers did not file their
tax returns until the last two weeks before Tax Day, while 40% did not until the
last week; and, comparing the submissions in equivalent weeks of 2017 and
2016, the numbers were worse in 2017
in all comparisons before and after the
due date.c Contrasting the U.S. numbers
with those in a country with a different
economic and social reality but comparable size and population such as
Brazil, the situation is similar.d Among
the U.S. taxpayers who filed their forms
Table 2. A case about preparing and submitting personal tax forms using the organizational
ICTs at work.
Stakeholder Digital effectiveness criterion
Employee The employee wants to file his or her tax return using the available ICTs at work.
Employer The employee should use the company’s ICTs exclusively for work due to
productivity and security issues.
Government The taxpayer (employee) should file his or her tax return electronically by the due
date regardless of other issues.
The three stakeholders differ in their digital effectiveness criteria about the employee’s due actions.
Here I will focus on the employee’s perspective. Let me call him John. John is a new 21-year-old
customer-service attendant in a department store. He works at the store during eight hours per
weekday. John depends on the store’s IC Ts to prepare and submit the tax forms, as his smartphone
has an obsolete operating system that does not run the needed apps or websites, whereas, at home,
John devotes attention to family. He also does incidental gardening services when time permits.
John planned to use the store’s computers and Internet access to prepare and submit the tax forms
during break times and fractions of working time. There was no private room to do it, so John was
afraid of doing NWRC and people seeing his tax numbers. Moreover, the shared computer rooms were
noisy, the air conditioning system was being repaired, and people frequently interrupted John to chat.
He also needed permission from the technical support to have access to external websites and install
temporary tax apps. Finally, the tax tools required registration and authentication by the user, thus
imposing more delays on John’s access to the actually needed ICT functionality.
It was the first time John used computer tools for tax submission. Although he pertains to the digital
natives generation, he had a learning curve to overcome. Also, John had significant changes in his tax
profile in the preceding year, as the family increased and he moved to this new job and company. To
make things more problematic, John did not know much about tax preparation, and, in his country,
alternative tools were available for electronic tax filing, with each tool having a different interface and
options for free (basic) and paid (full) services.
John delayed until the very last week to prepare the tax forms. He also procrastinated to organize
the documents reporting his expenditures and earnings in the preceding year. And when John had the
chance to use the store’s computers to prepare the tax forms, he often got distracted by checking the
virtual social networks and reading online reviews about his consumption passion—musical instruments.
John had significant digital limitations in all three dimensions, but eventually he was able to file the
forms by the due date. Particularly helpful were his capabilities to adapt technology and the work
environment to the situational needs, learn fast due to information-processing capabilities grounded
in formal education and innate analytical talents, and find support from others who alleviated
the policies on NWRC and temporarily exchanged task responsibilities. However, the process was
stressful and the quality of assigned tasks at work was compromised. From a purely utilitarian
perspective, though, John achieved digital effectiveness to some degree.