×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Future of Tax Software on Linux?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the getting-ready-for-next-year dept.

Linux Business 58

mengel asks: "So this last week, I repeated my annual ritual of trashing my scratch partition, making a FAT filesystem on it, booting Microsoft Windows(tm), and installing tax software to do my taxes. I had hoped, with the advent of Xandros, and of Linspire (formerly Lindows), that one of these increasingly important commercial companies would have talked someone like Intuit, or the Tax Cut guys, into developing this years tax software against Wine, so that it would also run on Linux under Wine as well as on MSWindows. So what has to happen before the companies who write Tax Cut and TurboTax will do versions that least run under Wine, much less native Linux versions? What can we do to help make that happen?"

"Tax Preparation is the only reason I boot MSWindows anymore, and each year it gets more arduous, as soon I'm going to be forced to upgrade the MSWindows partition to XP, just as a few years ago I had to upgrade from MSWindows 3.1 to MSWindows 98 -- so in effect my tax software costs me double, because I keep getting forced to buy a newer MSWindows upgrade every 3 years or so as well as the tax software."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

58 comments

TurboTax Online (4, Informative)

Reducer2001 (197985) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885880)

I ran the online version of TurboTax just fine on my Gentoo box running Firebird/fox.

Re:TurboTax Online (1)

musicgreg (308564) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886155)

The online version of TurboTax doesn't support W2's from multiple states. I tried H&R block and although they can do it, they want $100 to file my federal and $60 for my state.

The Federal was actually cake to do, so I did that myself, H&R called me after I submitted and told me that if I only wanted state that they would have to charge me for federal anyways.

I ended up going to a windows machine and installing the desktop TurboTax.

(I live in MA and work in CT, also had a W2 from beginning of last year in MA)

Re:TurboTax Online (2, Informative)

PerlGuru (115222) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886404)

The online version of TurboTax doesn't support W2's from multiple states. I tried H&R block and although they can do it, they want $100 to file my federal and $60 for my state.


That's funny sure seemed to handle my multiple W-2's just fine this year, same as last year.

Re:TurboTax Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8889254)

multiple states dumbass

Re:TurboTax Online (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887393)

I tried H&R block and although they can do it, they want $100 to file my federal and $60 for my state.

Did you need some premium features? I filed on-line with H & R Block for $34.95. (Maryland now has it's own free web-based state filing.) No problems at all this time. (In past years there was a problem at the end with downloading the PDF of the return, where their server was too dumb to understand that, yes, I do have a PDF reader installed; this year they were smart enough to provide a "click here to download" link.)

How to make tax time simple (1)

Yeechang Lee (3429) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886316)

> I ran the online version of TurboTax just fine
> on my Gentoo box running Firebird/fox

Ditto. I've used TurboTax online for the past four years, always from a Linux box. Other than how the price jumped $10 from the $59.90 of last year, I have no complaints. In fact, this time around the application works without any hitches under Firebird/fox, unlike the odd occasional hitches of the past.

I've done my taxes by hand before; as others note, it's really not that hard. That said, it'd have been tough to finish the entire return, federal and state, in 90 minutes flat as I did last night without a computer.

Speaking of which, here's how to ease the pain of tax season:
  • At the start of each year, go to a stationary store and buy one of those accordion file folders. Label it with the year. Also write down your car's beginning-of-year mileage somewhere, perhaps on the folder itself.
  • Put everything relevant (sales receipts, charity receipts, bill stubs, pay stubs, product refunds, uncashed checks, etc., etc.) into the folder, either chrologically or by category.
  • When the year is up don't stick the folder in the closet yet; keep it around a few more months, because now you'll have to file the incoming W-2s, 1099-INTs, 1099-DIVs, and other such forms from your bank, brokerage, employer, and favorite charities. Many credit card companies will also send end-of-year statements categorizing everything you've used the card for.
  • At tax time, pull everything you need out from the folder. By being organized you'll be done a lot sooner than you might think.
  • Stick a copy of the completed returns in the folder. Now stick the folder in the closet.

The above steps are of course not revolutionary, but it's remarkable how so few people will actually follow them and thus self-inflict enormous pain every April.

Re:TurboTax Online (1)

mikehoskins (177074) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887144)

I personally can't and/or won't use the online version, because my personal taxes are too complex and because I don't like the privacy implications, even with SSL/HTTPS.

I only want the final tax data going over the wires and don't want another company having all the forms data. (Of course, most of that could be reconstructed from e-Filing, etc....)

I also don't want to have some new April 15 DDoS knocking out the Internet, itself, come tax day, to stop all Internet filing.... (BTW, I got my return mid-March, so I really don't file late; I'm speaking hypothetically.) I'll just e-File early to mid-March each year and not use the online/web version.

So, I believe that to answer the original question, we have got to point out that we are about as large as the Mac community, on the desktop. They make Mac standalone versions of Tax software, so why not Linux?

Better yet. Why not ask them to write a Java application that is compiled to native machine code (or perhaps just leave as Java binaries)? They could build a write once, run anywhere Java app, couldn't they? (You know they could, of course....)

You know, Tax Cut and Tax Act are smaller than Turbo Tax. It seems to me that they'd benefit most from a Windows, Mac, Linux, (or whatever) version of tax software in Java....

Why not? Couldn't this be said of most productivity software? Build it in Java and support at least three platforms?

I think companies are now realizing that Linux will be and already is big. We just have to do more convincing that the desktop is now.

I still don't see what excuse they could give to not just code "write once, run anywhere" Java software products.

They could inlude a pretty installer and, even include the necessary version of Java for the application, if need be....

No need.... (4, Informative)

woobieman29 (593880) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885899)

You can do this on the web, using either the Tax Cut software on the web provided by H&R Block, or go to Yahoo and use their TurboTax service. There are probably others too.

Re:No need.... (2, Informative)

Jahf (21968) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887178)

Agreed. For the last 3 years I've used HRblock.com's online preparation services and e-filed through them.

It doesn't save any money over using the software locally that I've found so far but it has 3 distinct advantages:

1) Runs Mozilla (though you need to turn on pop-ups for that site since the entire application is in a pop-up)

2) Access from anywhere ... twice I've needed to refer to my past year's taxes while out of the house and HRBlock keeps up to 3 years online at a time in PDF format

3) I don't have to worry about trashing my drive without a backup of the data

And yes, it does contain some sensitive info but I don't have anything in my taxes that I really care if anyone sees beyond my SS# and HRblock.com seems to be no worse at security than anyone else. The only people I wish didn't have access to my tax info is the IRS and I don't get a choice there :)

If you want they will provide all the same analyses of your taxes as going into their office and they have online support (all for a fee of course), but I've found the information in the program enough to get my taxes done and itemize my mortgage, home office, etc.

Re:No need.... (2, Informative)

DeadSea (69598) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887262)


For two years I have used TaxAct [taxact.com] online. This year it cost my $17.00 to file both my federal and state taxes.

Advantages:

  • Works on linux (I used firefox web browser)
  • Cheap (as I said $17.00) - less than I have found in downloadable software or other online services.
  • Fast - the website is very responsive and unlike turbo tax online, I have never been frustrated by the server speed.
  • Stores last years return for you and auto fills in that data.
  • Has tax advice, good instructions, a nice wizard interface, and checks on your return.
  • Gives your PDFs to print and save when you are done.
Disadvantages:
  • It is online - you are giving your financial data to a third party.
  • The first year you must enter tax data from the previous year. There is no way to import turbo tax files or the like.
  • You must manually enter all your w2 data. Unlike other software, it does not allow you to download it.

TaxAct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8888539)

For two years I have used TaxAct online. This year it cost my $17.00 to file both my federal and state taxes.

I used TaxAct online, too, based on the recommendations here.

I had a couple of scares.

I entered my W2 and a first swat at my Federal and state 1040s on 4/12. I intended to eFile on 4/14. When I tried to log in the evening of 4/14 at around 19:30 Central, the web site was not responding. I banged at it with FireFox for an hour or so before it came up. I gotta guess they had an outage under the load. Once it answered it responded perfectly well for as long as a needed to gather my data and finish and file.

I paid for eFile service on my US and state 1040s. They had a message up saying if you got it in by 5 PM Central on 4/15 the returns would be sent on time.

This morning 4/16 I got an email that my state eFile was rejected. The state department of revenue responded that a return for my SSN had already been filed. I panicked, thinking that some fraudster had filed for a refund under my SSN. I called the state and with a bit of effort got through to a rep who checked and said TaxAct had eFiled my return twice. I was relieved that all was well. I don't think it was me who filed twice.

I later got an email notice that the Feds accepted my return.

It's also a worry that they don't ackowlege the filing until it's after 4/15 so you can't do anything at that point to get it in on time. I guess that's the nature of the eFile system. In my case I had paid the state online with a credit card and had a refund from the feds so I wouldn't had had a late filing penalty.

In spite of all this I think I'll use TaxAct online next year. Next year they'll already have my data.

BTW, when I checked out the "Why it's secure" notice on H&R Block's online tax prep site, it said it was safe because it uses SSL. I think they're a little unclear on the "safe" concept. I need to know my 1040 can't copied by a Lamo doing a reverse proxy.

Re:TaxAct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8889693)

You might want to consider doing your taxes more than a week before they're due - the ability to crush servers under the weight of millions of procrastinators is dwarfed only by the power of the force.

What can we do to help make that happen? (2, Funny)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885909)

um, pay more taxes?

I tried this (3, Funny)

AtariAmarok (451306) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885930)

I tried this a few times and went back to Windows tax calculation. No matter how I calculated it with the Linux version, I always ended up paying $699 more than with comparable Windows tax software scenarios.

TaxCut for the Web (3, Informative)

yelvington (8169) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885917)

Tax Cut for the Web [taxcut.com] lists Netscape 6+7 as supported browsers, so it should work fine with Mozilla/Firebird.

Re:TaxCut for the Web (1)

mrgrey (319015) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885963)

Looking at the cost of "Tax Cut for the Web" prices on their site it's cheaper to have my taxes done by a local tax firm.

Re:TaxCut for the Web (2, Insightful)

Electrum (94638) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886225)

Looking at the cost of "Tax Cut for the Web" prices on their site it's cheaper to have my taxes done by a local tax firm.

Then it's also cheaper than the stand-alone software. Problem solved.

TaxCut for the Web-Free providers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8888420)

Actually if you met certain criteria, you could go from the IRS site straight to a free provider (they usually charge for the state).

TurboTax for the web (1, Interesting)

lindsayt (210755) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885937)

Why do people buy windows software to do their taxes? I just pay the $30 (I have to do the long form and some schedules) and use TurboTax for the web every year - it allows me to do my taxes on my Sun Rays (Solaris/Mozilla) as well as my linux machine at work (linux/mozilla). And I can stop at any point and come back to it later on a different computer. It's amazingly easy and it doesn't make me (1) buy physical software packages; or (2) steal a neighbor's windows machine for the few hours it takes me to do my taxes.

Re:TurboTax for the web (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | more than 9 years ago | (#8906388)

I bought the software because I got close to $53 off and paid $20 to do my taxes with TurboTax. ($10 off coupon for staples + $30 rebate on the state tax software + 3% off thanks to being a business rewards member + $10 gift card to staples for buying tax software at staples and being a business rewards member == $20 tax software).

the software is a crutch, and it breaks (2, Insightful)

klossner (733867) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885949)

It beats me why an individual taxpayer who knows anything about programming would use tax prep software. I did my taxes by hand, along with separate state and federal returns for each of my three kids, in less than the time it took you to set up a Windows environment and get the software running.

Anybody who can follow instructions like "subtract the lesser of lines 14 and 16 from line 18 and enter the result on line 21" would be better off following the hacker creed and doing it themself.

Re:the software is a crutch, and it breaks (2, Interesting)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886082)


[i] It beats me why an individual taxpayer who knows anything about programming would use tax prep software.[/i]

Actually, even though I'm very good with programming, high level math, etc, I screw up small calculations like that all the time. Expense and mileage reports, everything. I'd probably goof up.

The main reason I did my taxes on line, back in late Janurary or Feburary, was so I'd get my refund faster.

Doing them online, with eFile, and Direct Deposit...I got my refund in about 12 days.

As opposed to: Fill out forms, stamps, envelope, do the math, mail it all in, wait for check, take check to bank...

It does cost $9.95 or something, but it's worth it to get the money quicker. Its nowhere near as bad as the gouging on those 'instant refund' places

Re:the software is a crutch, and it breaks (1)

kaisyain (15013) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886395)

Getting your refund via direct deposit has absolutely nothing to do with how you file your taxes.

Big refund = interest-free loan to government (4, Insightful)

flockofseagulls (48580) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886899)

If you're getting a big enough refund to be anxious about it, your are already doing your taxes wrong by having too much withheld. You should adjust your withholding (allowances) so you get the money in your paycheck rather than in the form of a tax refund.

You're better off owing $100 or less on April 15th than overwithholding all year and then figuring out how to get that refund a few days faster.

As for the simple math required on the tax forms, what a lame excuse! Get an $18 printing calculator. Go over the numbers twice. The IRS will check your calculations and correct them anyway, and in that case you have a fifty-fifty chance of getting a reduction or increase in taxes. For small discrepancies resulting from arithmetic errors you won't get into any trouble, they'll just send a refund or a bill -- don't you think they get LOTS of those already?

If you're going to defend the big refund by saying that it's a great way to save, it's not. Set up an auto-withdraw savings plan with your bank, credit union, or U.S. Treasury in the form of savings bonds. Overwithholding is just an interest-free loan to the government, and then when the "windfall" check comes you're probably going to blow it rather than save it anyway.

Re:the software is a crutch, and it breaks (3, Insightful)

angle_slam (623817) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886949)

It beats me why an individual taxpayer who knows anything about programming would use tax prep software

Ease of use maybe? Actually following instructions is easy. But it's time consuming. TurboTax does it for you already. For a really simple return, you can be done in 2 minutes. For more complicated returns, it does the thinking and calculations for you: should you itemize? Enter in your deductions and it will determine that for you. Are your medical expenses more than 7.5% of your AGI? TurboTax will automatically determine that and enter the information for you. Do you have to pay AMT? Turbo Tax automatically calculates the AMT once all your data is in.

It's just much faster than doing it by hand. You don't have to worry about making an addition mistake. You won't make a mistake in looking up the tax owed. You can file electronically and get your refund much faster. It will automatically transfer your information to a state tax return. It is more readable than hand-written returns. You can forecast next year's taxes and print out an appropriate W4 (I did this last year. If not for unexpected income, both Federal and state would have been within $50 of what was withheld). If you have your own business, it will do your estimated taxes. It will tell you of your options with basically anything you can think of. I'll never do taxes by hand again.

Of course, if you have to buy and install Windows to do this, you don't save much time. But for a person who has a Windows machine, TurboTax (and the like) have great advantages.

Well... (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887295)

I did my taxes by hand this year, and then via a web-preparation thingee. I'm a smart guy, and a programmer, and I found the forms easy to fill out.

I got $1200 more using the program than I did filling out the forms manually. I think it made a lot of this difference by transferring some elegible deductions from my wife's return to mine (as her part of the return actually got smaller). Perhaps I should have known which I could do this with, but I didn't.

Add to this that the total time to use the program was about 15 minutes, whereas getting the forms done manually took about 2 hours - and I think I'll go straight to the $20 option next year.

Straightforward enough (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885964)

As Ask Slashdots go, this is almost as easy as "My school's network is insecure. What should I do about it? Should I sniff passwords and publically post them?" earlier this week:

Use Linux. Insist on Linux software and *buy* it when it's available.

There's no conspiracy here-- those companies do MacOS ports because Mac users make it worth their while. As long as the US desktop Linux base remains tiny and as long as most of those users can dual-boot and are willing to buy the software, what's the value for them? Especially since you know the remaining Linux core is a) going to complain that it doesn't run on Gentoo or LFS, b) berate them for not making the whole thing open-source and c) too cheap to pay for it anyway.

There is one huge upside, in that there will *never* be a good free alternative, so if a userbase exists, products will emerge.

Re:Straightforward enough (1)

eugene ts wong (231154) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886573)

Use Linux. Insist on Linux software and *buy* it when it's available.
No!! They must give it to us for free!!! Just kidding. Just kidding. I agree with you. I'm actually trying to move away from open source software. I'm focusing more on open standards & standards compliance. But I digress...

Regarding Gentoo, there is a feature that allows us to install binary software that has no source available. You can install RealPlayer, & probably a few others. Some people will still complain, though.

I've actually considered writing Canadian tax software. The idea would be to give out the binaries for free on a bootable CD or floppy. This could be a way of getting my name out in the world. Selling it would be better, though. Another benefit of "free" binaries would be simply to help people through their taxes. I don't know about everybody else, but I find taxes stressful, because I don't want to break the laws, yet I find that there are situations where I honestly don't know what to fill in, & I'm not too sure how to ask for help. Like I said earlier, selling it would be better.

For those who are interested in writing Canadian tax software, I'd like to point out that the file formats are open & standardized. If you create software, then the government will send you about 20 fake income tax returns to test on your software. Once your software gets certified, then you get your company listed on their page. The entire process is free, so there is very little upfront risk. The only potential loss is your time, & whatever it took to create the code & binaries. If anybody wants to write Canadian tax software, then let me know. I'm interested in it as well.

Financial Incentive (3, Insightful)

greenhide (597777) | more than 9 years ago | (#8885991)

So what has to happen before the companies who write Tax Cut and TurboTax will do versions that least run under Wine, much less native Linux versions? What can we do to help make that happen?

The companies need to believe that they will make money if they release versions for Linux. Currently, there just aren't enough users who only use Linux to encourage tax program companies to devote resources to making compatible versions available.

Also, consider the Linux culture, which generally eschews proprietary software. It's pretty much impossible for a tax preparation sw company to release its source code, so you'd have to use binaries. That could lead to compatibility problems between different variants of Linux. The thing is, if you write an application for Windows, you mostly only have to worry about writing it for two flavors of Windows: 95/2000 and XP. It's a known quantity. At this point, most companies just have to change the rules from the previous years, and can keep most of the GUI and interfaces intact.

Right now, there are some 25 million Mac users (supposedly) in the US, and there's one (TurboTax) preparation software application available to them. I'm guessing there's far fewer than 100,000 users in the US who use Linux and a Linux-based desktop exclusively in their home, and a great many of these people use the Linux desktop because they don't want to spend any money on an OS. <joke>A good portion still live in their parent's basement, and don't have much of an income to speak of.</joke> All considered, 100,000 is a very low number.

Re:Financial Incentive (1)

Electrum (94638) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886282)

you mostly only have to worry about writing it for two flavors of Windows: 95/2000 and XP

There are two lines of Windows. The 9x line includes 95, 98 and ME. The NT line includes NT 4, 2000 and XP. 9x and NT are a completely different operating system. They both implement the Win32 API and thus run (most of) the same applications.

Right now, there are some 25 million Mac users (supposedly) in the US, and there's one (TurboTax) preparation software application available to them.

There is also TaxCut Premium for Mac [taxcut.com].

Re:Financial Incentive (2, Informative)

b-baggins (610215) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886393)

I'm a big fan of Taxcut. They'll refund your efilling fees, give you a rebate on the software and refund the cost of the state package. And it's about $20 cheaper than turbotax right off the shelf.

Two questions: (2, Insightful)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886017)


#1

I did the TurboTax software on the web. Doesn't it work under a Linux browser?

#2

Wouldn't it be easier just to have a tax preparer do them for $40, or is your time worth that little?

Re:Two questions: (1)

RockyMountain (12635) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886953)

#1 I did the TurboTax software on the web. Doesn't it work under a Linux browser?

Yes, but there are other reasons it isn't right for everybody. It all depends on your own tax circumstances. For me, in the past few years with an S corporation, various depreciating assets, etc., the dumbed-down web-based version just didn't hack it. The full offline "Turbo-Tax Business" version probably would have, but I ended up using an accountant anyway, since it was too complex.

But I no longer own a business, so next year I'll revert to doing it myself. I probably will use the online TurboTax.

#2 Wouldn't it be easier just to have a tax preparer do them for $40, or is your time worth that little?

More like $350 or so. Once again, it all depends upon your circumstances. If your taxes are real simple -- salary income, a few simple investments, and a handful of itemized deductions, you might be able to find a $40 preparer. But, if your taxes are that simple, it would be pretty trivial to just complete the forms yourself, too.

I am in almost the same boat. (2, Informative)

Captain Rotundo (165816) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886029)

Each year I use Windows for one thing, taxes. and each year I print out way more just in case I need to check a document, I wont have to go through the windows trouble. I've been lucky enough that I have had access to windows systems so far. But this year was probably the last that will be the case. Every year I also tell Intuit (via there registration and/or other feedback) that I would prefer a Linux solution.

I am as much a free software zealot as the next guy, as a matter of fact this is one of the few areas I would probably disagree with RMS on, I will be the first in line to purchase a tax solution for linux. - It is probably one of the last areas where there is literally NOTHING to compete with the windows platform, not even a substandard work in progress.

I understand the web based solutions, but would really prefer a standalone app if only for illogical person preference reasons.

TaxActOnline (1)

grunthos (574421) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886030)

I refuse to pay any more money to Bill, or for any software that run on his OS, so I found myself in the same situation.

I was going to actually pay the extra money for TurboTax for Mac, figuring if that was the cost of avoiding Bill's monopoly, I better put my money where my mouth is.

Then I came across TaxAct [taxact.com], which is much cheaper than either TurboTax or TaxCut. I almost caved in to spend money on the Windows version, because they let you download a free version where you only pay when you file, but I couldn't get it to run under Wine or WineX.

Their online version worked great with Mozilla 1.4. My federal and state returns, both with efiling, cost me $18 total. A very good price.

Re:TaxActOnline (1)

Stubtify (610318) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887205)

I'll second this. I've used Tax Act version dating back to 1998 and have been nothing but thrilled with their product. One of the best things they ever did was when I bought the 2002 version last year they sent the 2001 version with a note that said "here's a full version of last year's tax software in case you forgot to file or would like to compare our software to your previous year's software" I ended up needing to go back and do some 01 taxes, and the full version they sent was indeed just that, no strings attached.

Actual tax software on your PC? (2, Informative)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886056)

I just went to the CCRA [ccra.gc.ca] website and went through an online efiling. I found out about this cool site [cutetax.ca]. Since I made less than $25,000 CDN last year (being a student and all), it was even free.

Works quite well in Mozilla.

I Have a Dream (2, Interesting)

npsimons (32752) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886133)

. . . but first, some backstory:


Normally, every year at tax time, I would browse on over to TurboTax.com to use TurboTax for the web, which seemed to work just fine under Linux. Unfortunatley, this year they finally decided to start denying access to users without an "accepted browser". Up until this point, I had been very happy with TurboTax for the web. I briefly considered writing a tax return preparation package for Linux, but then decided I should probably just do my taxes ASAP because it was Apr. 14.


So, I went to Google to search for "Linux tax return software", and not finding anything of worth that was free, decided to try TaxCut.com (a part of H & R Block). They had a web based version, and it seems to be working fine with Linux and Mozilla. However, I wonder how long it will be until it doesn't, and I'm reminded of my dream: to never have to use another piece of non-free (as in speech) software again, including being able to file my taxes online under Linux.


I would still seriously like to start work on tax preparation software, but I wouldn't know where to begin, and even if I did, I don't have the time. I figure, maybe I could take courses to become a certified public accountant, try to get on the inside track for accounting and tax codes, but again time is an issue.


Anyway, that's just my story; if anyone else has the gumption to actually start a tax preparation program for Linux, let me know. I may not have the time to work on it, but I'd definitely be interested in testing and donating what little time I do have to it.

Re:I Have a Dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8886640)

Pfft, what do a bunch of unemployed free-love hippies need a tax program for?

Re:I Have a Dream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8886986)

Huh?
I would still seriously like to start work on tax preparation software, but I wouldn't know where to begin, and even if I did, I don't have the time. I figure, maybe I could take courses to become a certified public accountant, try to get on the inside track for accounting and tax codes, but again time is an issue.
How serious can you be? You don't know anything about taxes or accounting, or the programming skills needed to write tax software. And you don't have time to learn either. That's not serious, that's delusional.

Re:I Have a Dream (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887505)

if anyone else has the gumption to actually start a tax preparation program for Linux, let me know. I may not have the time to work on it, but I'd definitely be interested in testing and donating what little time I do have to it.

There are some classes of programs where Open Source makes little sense, and it is unlikely to attract enough people to make it worthwhile. One of those classes is the set of programs that basically are gigantic business rules databases. (Note this is as opposed to systems that run the business rules, which you can come by cheaply or freely.) There is a huge amount of work every year, updating those rules for the Federal level, every state, and quite a few cities. You're not going to get this for free.

Moreover, the liability is horrid, if there's a mistake. Again, nobody's going to take that on for free.

Do not hold your breath waiting for Free tax software; speaking for myself, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, either as a user or a developer. If I expect someone to take on that kind of liability, I expect I'm going to have to pay them.

Re:I Have a Dream (1)

IpalindromeI (515070) | more than 9 years ago | (#8900118)

Actually there's no real liability. Software doesn't have the same kinds of liability guarantees that manufactured products usually do. In fact, most licenses state it very clearly (usually in all caps).

For a commercial company producing tax software (like the one I work for), the only real liability is losing credibility with your customers. There aren't any penalties to the company if we (or even the user) find a bug that would cause miscalculations, except that if there are lots, people won't buy your software anymore.

Mostly the reason you won't see Free tax prep software is not because of the liability (because there isn't any), but because of the effort required for updates, as you pointed out. It really is a huge pain in the ass updating for the new year's law changes. Too much of a pain, I would wager, for someone to consider it worthwhile to do for free.

Re:I Have a Dream (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 9 years ago | (#8900989)

Tax preparation is a different story. The software author is functioning as a tax preparation provider. Unfortunately, I can not quickly find a link outlining what additional responsibilities that entails, and while the tax filer ultimately has the responsibility to ensure their return is correct I'd be surprised if the preparer gets off "scot free" in the event they make an egregious error. It is, as I said, a risk I might take on in return for compensation, but most assuredly not something I'd take on for free. I'm confident in the GPL's ability to shield me from any liability I may have for destroying a computer (in the unlikely event my software could every directly be responsible for that anyhow, and even more unlikely event it could be proven), but not its ability to shield me from the IRS.

(In the end, even if I'm wrong and tax preparers have no liability, the fact that I could not quickly find that out is enough to scare me, and anybody else sane, away from such a project.)

Why not online? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8886476)

Why not use the online versions? The software's pretty much worthless once you've done your taxes anyway, since you'll have to buy the new version next year for the new tax laws.

Online, once you either print or e-file, you can save a copy of the return as a .pdf, print hardcopies to store, etc. So it's not like you're relying on them to save your records, even.

Re:Why not online? (1)

flockofseagulls (48580) | more than 9 years ago | (#8886962)

You can use the online tax programs for free up to the point you either print or file. Once you get there, just use a pen to copy the final numbers from the online forms to a printed tax return form (free, as in speech/beer from the IRS, your local post office or library, etc.).

If you want to e-file to get your refund faster, your already did your taxes wrong: you over-withheld. Fix your withholding and try again this year.

I used turbotax on linux, no worries (1)

aminorex (141494) | more than 9 years ago | (#8887682)

I used the webapp version. No headaches. No bloody Windows. Cheaper than a retail box, with more
functionality too.

Brazilians declare taxes with Java app this year (1)

Gustavo (64413) | more than 9 years ago | (#8888285)

The current Brazilian government's love for Free Software gave us a nice surprise this year by providing a nice Java app [fazenda.gov.br] with which we can declare our anual taxes on several platforms. Until last year we had to chose between using a Windows app or using paper forms. Gee, I just realized that the Receita Federal site [fazenda.gov.br] (our IRS equivalent) is made on plone [plone.org]. How nice!

Starting a project... (1)

Micah (278) | more than 9 years ago | (#8888583)

Ok, several people have mentioned thinking about starting a tax prep software project for Linux.

Question: why does it have to be that hard? Take it in stages, with low goals.

For next year, make a program that can fill out a 1040EZ. That should be dirt simple, and useful for a few people.

For the next year, make it able to fill out and calculate a 1040A.

For the next year, make it do a 1040 with one or two of the most common schedules. I'd recommand Schedule D for stock transactions, since several of us geeks do that on occasion.

Even a basic 1040 and schedule D is not rocket science, though the D calculations on paper can be a pain in the arse. Still, I've done it by hand several years. It's not that big a deal, but a little Linux program to help would be great.

Oh, and do it in Python. That would make it even easier. There is NO reason to do this kind of stuff in C or C++. And be sure to store all values in integer variables, probably as the value * 100, or maybe * 1000, so that all calculations use integer arithmetic.

I will write one OK?? (1)

The MESMERIC (766636) | more than 9 years ago | (#8890441)

Just give me time :)
Is it difficult? Is it complex?
I just emailed an accountant main client of mine.

Been doing lil apps/webapps/macros for him for ages.

But I have no knowledge (at all) of tax software, what they do, how it works ... and I am personally terrible with money (no wonder I am so dangerously in debt).

Should I do it GPL, should I make it proprietory?
I mean, I wouldn't feel guilty receiving money from bankers, solicitors and accountants :)

I need a lead, I will wait for his email
But the app will be UK version - (do they change much?).

Message me with ideas, if you want, I am serious.
The only thing stopping me from doing it - if its way highly complex (for one person to make).
Hope it works out cos I love doing real apps and this one will be in Linux (way too cool).

Skip doing taxes yourself... (1)

JGski (537049) | more than 9 years ago | (#8888782)

I had a CPA do my taxes - it took just under 2 hours from the moment I walked in the door to the moment she filed electronically. And she charged me a few hundred for it (I have a business and lots of extra stuff complicate things - I counted 20+ forms generated in addition to the 1040 & 540). I also had all my paperwork in order when I went in.

I think she was using TurboTax (or something that was Windows-based) but at least I (and all her customers) didn't buy or need to use TurboTax directly. Thus we did not support/aid/abet the Windows platform with a Windows software purchase. Sure she's using Windows, but every customer she has dilutes the value and market for TurboTax sales and indirectly Windows. That should satisfy any Linux political agenda anyone might have, and eliminate the need to boot up Windows.

Self-sufficiency is not always desirable, necessary or cost-effective.

The Middle Way (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 9 years ago | (#8890772)

There's a way of doing your taxes that lies squarely between A) use a commercial package, B) do it all by hand and check your math, and C) the never-gonna-happen Free Software solution. For the last several years, I've been using homegrown spreadsheets to do all the arithmetic, then transferring the numbers to the paper forms.

The basic logic of the 1040, schedule SE, etc. changes very little from year to year; usually all I have to do is plug in different values for standard deductions and exemptions (I have a data-entry cell for each of these) to make them current. So every year I merely type in my W-2 data and a few other bits that apply to my situation (e.g. college tuition credit), copy and paste the year-end revenue/expense totals from my moonlight consulting, hand-scribble the resulting numbers (including autocalc'ed subtotals) into the various spots where they belong (using scanned copies of last year's forms as a reference to find spots I need), then find my final tax in the big table in the instruction booklet. The same set of entries also feeds into the sections for my state and local forms. I spend nearly as long scanning the completed forms when I'm done as I do filling them out. If I had a really complicated tax situation it might be worthwhile to hire an accountant or use a commercial app rather than trying to model it all myself, but I have models of the forms I need, so this works fine for me.

You're missing the point (1)

miniver (1839) | more than 9 years ago | (#8908547)

... which is this: why should we have to buy Tax preparation software in the first place? What's wrong with our Tax system that it has to be this complex? Or if it must be complex, why doesn't the IRS (who has to cope with end results on an efile) just write a front-end client that can be distributed for free? It would have to be cheaper for the government than what they have now.

Of course that would cut into the business models of the tax preparers and tax software manufacturers, so I guess it isn't really feasible, is it?

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...