It has been essentially two weeks since my last post on this Doba + Shopify experiment. Why no posts? Was it because I was busy setting up my website? Was I taking time to make sure I understood the services Doba and Shopify offer? Was I developing a marketing strategy? Nope, I was spending two weeks filling out forms and submitting paperwork to get a sales and use tax ID so that I can sell products legally. In other words, the most time consuming part of this process, thus far, has been government paperwork. And this in a state where the process is relatively streamlined, and in my case I already have a corporation so it wasn’t as though I was setting up an entire company or something.
Without going into too much detail, here’s how the process could have been improved:
1. Online registration. I wasn’t able to fill out the forms online. I had to submit my request on paper, faxed in. But I only figured this out after spending hours online, giving up, and calling the appropriate state government office. All forms should be online and accessible through a single business account so that you can fill out parts of forms, save your work, and return later to finish the process.
2. Online IRS accounts. In order to complete the state paperwork, I needed to have a letter from the IRS confirming the type of corporation I have. I had no idea what this letter was or where it might be (my corporation was created in 2003 and I have all sorts of boxes of paperwork all over the place and this is the first time this letter has been needed), so I talked to my CPA. He contacted the IRS, and found out that this letter is automatically generated by their computer system and mailed out when you register your corporation. Great, can you resend it? No, it can only be sent when a corporation is created. Are you kidding me? Did I go back in time to 1987? Didn’t the Internet go mainstream about 15 years ago? Why don’t have I have an online account with the IRS that I can log into and access any and all documents they’ve ever sent me?
I’m not advocating that the government get out of the business registration business…yet. But they could definitely improve the way it all works. It should have taken me all of a half hour, if that, to do what has taken two weeks.
The thing is, I think I was faster at getting this all done than most people would be. If I lost two weeks of time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average is 4-6 weeks. Multiply that times all the other businesses created each year, and you’ve got all sorts of wasted time. How much more productive would we be as a nation if this were all streamlined? How many more jobs would exist? And this isn’t even beginning to consider the number of potential entrepreneurs who get into all this paperwork and end up deciding it’s just easier to work for someone else. Who knows how many businesses and jobs have never been created because of government paperwork?
Oh, and I haven’t actually gotten my sales and use tax ID yet, it took me this long just to get the paperwork done and sent in. Now I have to wait to see if; 1) I filled out the paperwork correctly, 2) how long it will take to process.