Budget Week and TaxCalc.ie

With the budget (well, the half I was interested in) being announced last Tuesday, this was the big week for TaxCalc.ie – both the site and the app.  It is the natural time for people to be interested in their tax affairs (the other is in the New Year when people actually see the changes to their pay packets).

The Budget

The budget itself contained no surprises, especially after the Taoiseach’s speech on Sunday night.  Considering the various stories circulating of a possible 3rd rate of tax or more USC bands it was a very easy budget in terms of code changes needed in my app.  The tweak to USC does seem badly thought out to me since someone on €10,035 pays nothing but another person on €10,036 ends up paying €200.72 in USC.  Hopefully someone in the Department of Finance will see sense and have the 2% USC rate eliminated altogether.

The App

I was a bit more prepared this year and created an update which posted user’s details to an endpoint on the TaxCalc site and returned the resulting breakdown as a lump of JSON.  This way I wouldn’t have the usual bad reviews because the apps wasn’t updated instantly.  Apple even approved my request for an expedited review for the update since the budget was so close and the update was available from the Sunday before the budget.  There were 390 downloads of the updated app by the end of budget day.

I was rather pleased with the number of new purchases of the app.  It reached a high of #8 in the top 25 paid apps on Tuesday before falling out of the top 25 on Thursday evening.  This was all based on 56 sales on Tuesday and rapidly dropping off to 7 on Friday.  The app is now back to selling between 2 and 6  units a day, which is still enough to get it to #1 Finance app in the Irish app store.

The Site

The site didn’t do as well as last year.  Apart from some tweets I made myself, the only place it got a mention was Broadsheet.ie which gave a boost on Budget day.  Traffic collapsed on Wednesday to the normal trickle.  This is very different to last year, where mentions on Boards.ie and TheJournal.ie meant that traffic was maintained for a couple of days after the budget.

The Competition

The only real competing app for this years budget was a free one from PricewaterhouseCoopers which got heavy advertising in the Irish Times and made it into the top 25 free apps.  This was a rather poor app that really should have sunk without a trace.  The first version had the bottom button partially off the screen.  My guess is that it was not supposed to have the status bar at the top and so the screen is 20px too big.  Then when the calculator is actually used the summary screen shows 0 for all values and you need to ‘View Details’ to see anything.  Even then, the view details screen doesn’t fit and you need to scroll sideways to see everything.  All in all, a very amateurish effort from one of the big accounting companies.

The other two apps – Irish Tax Calculator and the Irish Taxation Institute – haven’t been updated yet and I suspect the former has been abandoned by its developer.

Lessons Learned

Next year, I really should make more of an effort to get the app and site mentioned again on the likes of Boards.ie on the run up to and during the budget.  The site traffic to the site was certainly affected and the SEO tweaks I’ve been doing didn’t make up the numbers.

Having the endpoint ready to go well before the budget meant that I could roll out changes announced very quickly.  I could also take a bit more time with an update and run more tests.  Next year I should aim to have a version ready for developer release well before the actual budget so I’m not rushing to get everything changed at once.  Most of this year’s work should help that along.

Overall I’m happy enough but I think I can do better next year.  I’ll definitely be better prepared.

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