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Software The Almighty Buck Linux

Open Source Federal Income Tax Software 227

Posted by kdawson
from the taxman-meets-penguin dept.
niiler writes "There is finally a usable US federal income tax program for Linux users who don't wish to file online. TaxGeek is a Mozilla-based US income tax program that includes Form 1040, Schedules A, B, C, C-EZ, D, E, K-1 (1065), SE (Short and Long), W2, Forms 8880, 8853, 8863, 8812, 5695, 4952,3903, 2106, 2106ez, 2441 with access to most other files as PDFs. It is intended to be extensible so that developers can easily add other forms that are needed without affecting the existing file formats and stored data. TaxGeek will also create PDFs of all the supported forms so that you can print them and send them in to the IRS. (PDF creation support requires the installation of Perl PDF::Reuse.) At this point, e-filing is not supported."
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Open Source Federal Income Tax Software

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  • Nice Disclaimer (Score:4, Informative)

    by dduardo (592868) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:20PM (#18300832)
    ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEES ARE OFFERED. If you have a ton of money riding on finding all the right loopholes and getting everything 100% perfect, buy a tax program or use an accountant.
    • News from their website page:

      2007-03-08 TaxGeek06d, a major release with *numerous* bug fixes, more extensive testing based on the IRS PATS (Participants Acceptance TeSting) test input suite, improvements to the user interface, and more supported forms, has been released. Several additional forms have been introduced as well.

      Please every one use this software this year so all the bugs get found and I can use it next year! 03/08 is a bit close to 4/15 for me to be worrying about bugs!

      • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:32PM (#18300918) Journal
        While I don't want the refund check dependent on a beta, I am going to run both Tax Cut and TaxGeek06d to see how they compare....
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If you're poor enough that you need to use free software to prepare your taxes (up to $52,000 AGI) then you can just use any of the IRS's FreeFile [irs.gov] online participant companies. If you make more than that then you need to stop whining and just go buy Turbotax or Taxcut or use one of their online web sites if they don't support your choice of fringe desktop operating systems. Turbotax online should work fine in Mozilla on any platform. If you have State Farm insurance there is even a "free tax filing" link
    • Re:Nice Disclaimer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by canuck57 (662392) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:36PM (#18300950)

      ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEES ARE OFFERED. If you have a ton of money riding on finding all the right loopholes and getting everything 100% perfect, buy a tax program or use an accountant.

      Ask your accountant for his guarantee. I don't think it is any different. But the benefit in seeing an accountant is they have memorized the loop holes you can tap into.

      But at least with this event, those commercial tax packages better get a Linux version or lose market share. Not everyones tax is complicated enough to need an accountant.

      • Re:Nice Disclaimer (Score:4, Informative)

        by Hollinger (16202) <michael@noSpAm.hollinger.net> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:56PM (#18301048) Homepage Journal
        Well, not really. Web applications are generally cross-platform. Have you tried www.hrblock.com? I've used since 2004. The site works in firefox, it includes e-filing, and paying by check or credit card.

        How would a bad linux version translate to a loss of market share when you have web apps that will work just as easily?
        • Not everyone is online all the time.

          A web-filing program requires this.

          A native Linux program does not.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by maxume (22995)
            This is like saying that plants won't work because they 'require' the sun. If an online program works, and prints to paper, it is sufficient, and 'cross platform'.
        • www.eztaxreturn.com is good too. In fact, earn me some money and use my code if you use it to file (you'll get a discount too): http://www.eztaxreturn.com/ezcash [eztaxreturn.com], use ER1141 as the coupon code.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by thrawn_aj (1073100)
        Mod parent +1 insightful.

        What you want in a tax software package is functionality. However, an equally important thing is liability. If this OSS burps and does something wrong, I doubt the IRS is gonna listen to your "dog-ate-my-homework" kind of excuse. However, if you do use a package from the list of supported software on the IRS website http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=118986,00.h tml [irs.gov] (chances are, you can find a free one that can e-file for your income level quite easily), at least you're in a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dreamchaser (49529)
        I like Linux as much as most of Slashdot, but do you *really* think that not having a Linux version of tax software will cause any appreciable loss of market share for the mainstream tax software providers? If you do it's time to take the rose colored glasses off!
      • Ask your accountant for his guarantee. I don't think it is any different.

        I guarantee that the returns I complete are correctly computed based on the information you've provided and will pay any penalties you owe due to any mistakes I've made. And pretty much any paid tax preparer will give that same guarantee. So no, it is different.

        Not everyones tax is complicated enough to need an accountant.

        True, though the difficulty of the tax is only one factor. Other factors are the knowledge of the taxpayer a

    • Re:Nice Disclaimer (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bfields (66644) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:42PM (#18300990) Homepage

      For those of us who still do our taxes by hand, it wouldn't really be any riskier, and might not be any more trouble, just to run through the software once, check it by hand, and send in bug reports.

      Not mentioned in the summary: this is free software (under the GPL).

      • by garcia (6573)
        For those of us who still do our taxes by hand, it wouldn't really be any riskier, and might not be any more trouble, just to run through the software once, check it by hand, and send in bug reports.

        This isn't a troll but a simple question. Why are you still doing your taxes by hand? Isn't it worth the $38 to buy TurboTax or TaxCut and have it whip through your taxes in 25 minutes?
        • Isn't it worth the $38 to buy TurboTax or TaxCut

          Not if I have to drop that $40 to find out that I'm only getting $100 or so back.
          • Isn't it worth the $38 to buy TurboTax or TaxCut
            Not if I have to drop that $40 to find out that I'm only getting $100 or so back.

            Huh? Why should it matter how much you're getting back? There are other reasons to file besides the refund, like not going to jail for failure to file income taxes, for instance.

        • by bfields (66644)

          Why are you still doing your taxes by hand? Isn't it worth the $38 to buy TurboTax or TaxCut and have it whip through your taxes in 25 minutes?

          • It takes me more than 25 minutes just to dig up all the numbers I need, so I assume you're just counting the time required to work through the forms themselves. I'll admit that takes me longer (maybe over an hour), but it's not necessarily the biggest part.
          • I don't have any Windows or OSX machines. I suppose I could borrow one from someone else, but it hasn't se
    • Re:Nice Disclaimer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:43PM (#18300992) Homepage Journal

      ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEES ARE OFFERED. If you have a ton of money riding on finding all the right loopholes and getting everything 100% perfect, buy a tax program or use an accountant.

      Honestly, that's the same guarantee you you get with a commercial tax program or from an accountant. The difference is that the accountant, and to a lesser extent the commercial software, will probably do a better job. Probably. But if you miss out on big deductions you should have taken, or, even worse, if the program or accountant tells you to take some deductions that land you in hot water, it's all on you. Your taxes are your responsibility, period.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        "Honestly"? who is being honest? Who hasn't checked the 1040 form recently? The tax preparer gets his/her OWN line on the tax form that he/she signs. So there IS accountability for the preparer, if he/she does things incorrectly. There is no guarantee that you get all the best loopholes (though some DO guarantee this) with an accountant, but the IRS likely has never convicted anyone of paying too much in taxes.

        I have posted this comment to other posters who don't know how taxes work (are you still a

        • by swillden (191260) *

          are you still a dependent?

          No need to be insulting, especially when you could have answered this question yourself by looking at my profile.

          But if someone prepares your taxes for you, they will be held responsible in some manner by the government, whether or not they want to be held responsible, once they sign on the line.

          The preparer will be held responsible for fraud he or she commits, yes, but that will not get you, the taxpayer, off the hook. From the IRS [irs.gov] web site:

          In some situations, the client (taxpayer) may not have knowledge of the false expenses, deductions, exemptions and/or credits shown on their tax returns. However, when the IRS detects the false return, the taxpayer must pay the additional tax

          • My apologies for the apparent personal insult (although I don't find being a dependent to be anything demeaning, just a reason why someone wouldn't know that a tax preparer is held accountable). And apologies for the "Honestly?" comment, which was an unnecessary gibe. And yes, you are correct that the individual is held accountable. That was your point, that nothing alleviates the taxpayer of accountability, so the "NO GUARANTEES" text shouldn't be shocking, and is no different from a CPA or any other ta

      • by ptbarnett (159784)
        Honestly, that's the same guarantee you you get with a commercial tax program or from an accountant.

        Intuit warrants TurboTax for calculation errors, but that's all. You also can pay extra for a professional to review your return and make recommendations, but as you note, there's no guarantee they will catch everything.

        You can also pre-pay for representation if you get audited. I suspect that's a high-profit item for them -- kinda like the extended warranty offered by the big-box electronics stores.

      • H&R Block "Worry-Free Audit Support." http://www.hrblock.com/popups/pop_wfa_features.htm l [hrblock.com]

      • Honestly, that's the same guarantee you you get with a commercial tax program or from an accountant.

        I've posted this elsewhere, but I'll repost it here. You're wrong. I personally guarantee that every tax return I complete has been prepared correctly according to the information you've given me, and I will pay for any penalties you incur due to any mistakes I make.

        But if you miss out on big deductions you should have taken, or, even worse, if the program or accountant tells you to take some deductions t

        • by swillden (191260) *

          I personally guarantee that every tax return I complete has been prepared correctly according to the information you've given me, and I will pay for any penalties you incur due to any mistakes I make.

          Thanks for pointing that out. Yes, preparers can choose to warranty their work, and some do. My point was that as far as the IRS is concerned, it's the taxpayer who's on the hook for any errors of substance. As I understand it, the preparer is responsible for the arithmetic.

          So if you use a good preparer who does warranty his or her work, and if you get the guarantee in writing, then you do have protection as long as the source of the error wasn't in the data that you provided.

          • Yes, preparers can choose to warranty their work, and some do.

            Frankly, I don't know any who don't, and I would think this is covered by an implied warranty barring an explicit disclaimer. But I'm not an expert on the UCC, so take that with a heaping tablespoon of salt.

            My point was that as far as the IRS is concerned, it's the taxpayer who's on the hook for any errors of substance. As I understand it, the preparer is responsible for the arithmetic.

            The taxpayer is responsible for the arithmetic also, as t

    • by troll -1 (956834)
      ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEES ARE OFFERED. If you have a ton of money riding on finding all the right loopholes and getting everything 100% perfect, buy a tax program or use an accountant.

      I think you'll find commercial programs also come with a similar disclaimer, although worded in more convoluted legalese. Usually if there's a bug in the software the fine print prevents you from any recourse against the manufacturer.
    • have you ever read an Microsoft EULA? Let me quote from a bit of one... this is copy/pasted directly. Note the original was all in capitals, but slashdot's lameness filter meant I had to overwrite with lower case (so even /. website think's MS's EULA is lame :-)
      disclaimer of warranties. to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, microsoft and its suppliers provide to you the os components, and any (if any) support services related to the os components ("support services") as is and with all fault
    • http://turbotax.intuit.com/tax_products/turbotax_a dvantages/guaranteed_accurate_online_tax_prep.jhtm l [intuit.com]

      But, you could input false info and get in trouble for tax fraud, although TurboTax says it will flag anything that will get you a audit.
  • Stupid question... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    but why don't the US use Pay As You Earn, like the UK do? Surely it's easier for everyone, including the taxman?
    • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:49PM (#18301014) Journal

      I've often wondered that too. I asked a Russian co-worker about it though, and he said his experience with foreign systems that only use a payroll tax, is that they are much more likely to be corrupt. Since there's a lower compliance rate, they have to have a higher tax. I don't really buy into that though. I'd much rather just have the payroll tax and be done with it, as long as I can't be held personally liable for failing to pay it. If it's just a payroll tax, then who is liable though? It can't be the person who runs payroll. Those jobs don't pay very much, and people won't run the risk of personal bankruptcy for failing to carry a decimal. If the corporation or company is liable, then it's much harder to pin blame on a person. The corporation or company just goes bankrupt, so I think my Russian co-worker had a good point.

      Historicly, taxes in the US were collected from individuals. I've been told that payroll deductions, called "witholding" here, were an emergency measure adopted because they needed funds during WWII. After the war, witholding continued. Some have actually argued that we get rid of witholding due to its history as a WWII emergency measure. It also feeds into some conspiracy theories regarding the "continual state of war" in the US. Anyway, the US is, in some sense, "pay as you earn", it's just that you have to file to reconcile the difference between what you've paid and what you actually owe.

      What you owe can be less due to deductions (e.g., charity, marital status, etc.). Over the years, the US has used the tax code for social engineering. Those deductions are popular, entrenched, and backed by powerful lobbies and interests who have a lot to gain from the tax code as it stands. If I had to give a one-word answer to your question it would be:

      Inertia.

      • No, up until the Civil War taxes for the(previously small) national government were mostly collected from the states. The Civil War put a huge burden on the federal government(and caused it to become much larger) and out of that income taxes were born. It took an amendment to the constitution(16th amendment) many years later while William Howard Taft was president for income taxes to be officially codified in the Constitution

        wikipedia link [wikipedia.org] if you want more info.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Most people are extremely bad about putting away savings, if they took away withholding, there would be a lot of people unable to pay taxes at the end of the year.
    • by KillerBob (217953)
      AFAIK, they do. It's more a question of people who work multiple jobs (and therefore aren't removing enough tax at the source) and people who are due refunds.

      If the tax system is working properly, nobody needs to file their taxes, because the government has the right balance taken off at the source. But that assumes that nobody takes unpaid leave from their work, and that you always work the same number of hours per week. Most people get refunds here in Canada.
    • by martyros (588782)

      In the US we do pay as we earn (with some exceptions). So at the end of the year, your company sends you a little form that tells you how much you earned and how much they actually payed. Then you figure out how much you should have paid in taxes. If you paid more than you should have, they give you money back (a 'tax return'), or you have to send them money.

      The tax system is an easy centralized place for the US to do things like "incentives". Have children? You get an exemption. Lose money from your

    • by ptbarnett (159784)
      but why don't the US use Pay As You Earn, like the UK do? Surely it's easier for everyone, including the taxman?

      FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes are straight payroll taxes, deducted at the source. Those are easy to compute, and only require adjustment at the end of the year if you were an employee at two different jobs and earned enough to exceed the wage limit ($94,200 last year).

      There's also withholding for income taxes (both state and federal). But, there are many things that can affect y

    • by Guy Harris (3803)

      but why don't the US use Pay As You Earn, like the UK do? Surely it's easier for everyone, including the taxman?

      To quote the Wikipedia article on PAYE:

      While not officially called "pay as you earn" the tax systems of both Canada and the USA are similar. Taxes on pay are withheld by an employer and sent directly to the government on the earner's behalf. However, due to various exemptions and deductions which exist in the tax systems of those countries, an employer can only roughly estimate an individual's to

  • by passion4 (1069666) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:28PM (#18300888)
    So far this has been a great year for open source and taxes in general it seems.

    This company [timetrex.com] also released there entire Payroll, Time and Attendance [timetrex.com] suite as open source. So employers like myself can pay their employees and easily take care of all their payroll related taxes such as W2/W3's, 940/941's, 1099's and state taxes for free.
  • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:34PM (#18300932)
    On open source, we talk on how we can defer judgment and help from one corporation to anybody we wish. Using MS products means we're at the mercy of MS for proper fixes.

    Using an open source kit gives us the ability to find whomever we need to fix it, and not the ordained "fixer". This isnt a slam at MS, but instead is towards the whole proprietary software community.

    However, when it comes to taxes and associated penalties, having a company to blame is one of the best recourses one can have. Of course, the IRS can do whatever the hell they want for taxes, but suing the preparer for incompetence is of the utmost importance. Lesser yet, are companies who offer guarantees on their fitness of returns.

    I wouldnt trade the ability to point fingers for "free software".
    • I think this is only an issue for people that are doing things "on the edge." For the vast majority of us, paying taxes is a pretty straightforward affair with clear black and white answers. A program just helps us do the math and make sure we put the answers in the correct boxes.

      I think this relatively simple open source program is intended to serve the masses, not replace accountants.
  • April 18 (Score:5, Funny)

    by ballmerfud (1031602) * on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:46PM (#18301012) Journal
    Subject : [TAX GEEK] Announce
    Date: April 18, 2007

    We are pleased to announce our latest update of Tax Geek, which fixes a critical off-by-one error in the previous release, which could in some cases lead to (severe) inaccuracies. Please update your current version ASAP. As always, if you find any additional errors, please submit bug reports (and preferably patches) on Source Forge, and Joe will look into when he gets home from class.

    The Tax Geek Team
  • This is great. I've been doing my taxes on computer since MacInTax on a Mac Plus, nice to see something becoming available for Linux. (And while I'm usually very biased toward FLOSS software, I'd even have paid for a copy of TaxCut if it were available for Linux.)

    I don't need the silly "interview style" interface anyway, it's not like even the paper forms are that hard to figure out if you're willing to RTFI (instructions). (And my taxes are complicated enough that I have to include a couple of schedules
    • FWIW, I had no problem installing TaxCut on my linux (Kubuntu) box using WINE. Granted, I won't actually be *using* it on my computer for our actual tax filing, since my wife does our taxes on her computer, which runs WinXP. But it was one of the smoothest .exe installs I've done under Wine, and it seemed to start up and run just fine.
  • No Warranty (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 10, 2007 @02:57PM (#18301056)
    Well, lot's of folks here are making a fuss, saying these folks offer
    no Warranty, and don't check the accuracy.

    Well, guess what NEITHER DOES CLOSED SOURCE.

    Your $49.99 QuickTax/EasyTax, whatever doesn't come with a warranty either, besides one on the MEDIA.

    If it screws up, guess what, it's YOU who owes the IRS money. The developers are held harmless, because they are simple developers. They are not tax law experts.

    Same thing happens when you take your taxes to H&R block. The best 'guarentee' they offer is your money back.

    Now if you went to an accountant, or a CA, CCA, etc, They can be held partially accountable.

    If you ask me, we need real engineers designing complex software like tax programs, not simple programmers or developers. Stand behind the work, and put your professional licence behind it.

    Other wise, might as well use quicktax, and cross your fingers.
    • Not entirely true (Score:5, Informative)

      by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @05:45PM (#18302150) Homepage
      I had taxes done at HRBlock last year. I normally do them myself, but between multiple employers, multiple home sales, multiple streams of income (consulting, wife's business), and having lived in 3 states, I wanted someone with more experience to take care of things. They offered a 'peace of mind' program for an extra $39 to cover mistakes up to $5000. I took it, and actually had chance to use it. I missed this, but so did they - no schedule D was filed at all. Just an oversight, but it was an extra $400+ in taxes I owed. HRBlock redid all the amended paperwork in a week, I paid the taxes, and they cut me a check to reimburse me a week later. If/when I get an interest/penalties letter, HRBlock will cut a check for that as well. While I don't normally use a service like that, they *do* offer some degree of protection. True it's at an extra cost, but when you're talking about potentially thousands in taxes/penalties, being able to get any sort of insurance is probably worth it.
  • Just when you thought the IRS could get any stupider:

    6. Why can't I e-file with this program?

    Because of the lack of cooperation of the IRS and the API. When I wrote to the IRS regarding this, I received the following reply:

    Thank you for your inquiry.

    The government believes that private industry, given its established expertise and experience in the field of electronic tax preparation, has a proven track record in providing the best technology and services available. In addition, the government believes a partnership with private industry will: provide taxpayers with higher quality services by using the existing expertise of the private sector; maximize consumer choice; promote competition within the marketplace; and meet objectives in the least costly manner to taxpayers.

    We hope the above information will prove helpful to you.

    Sincerely,
    The IRS Website Support Team

    I suspect that there will either need to be an outcry, or we will need to present this project as a corporation of sorts for cooperation from the IRS. For more info, see the previous FAQ entry.

    How ... monolithic. I've never even heard of the government referring to itself as "the government" before.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      It gives me the impression that the IRS employee didn't know what the question was. I'd like to see what email was sent to them before judging the returned email.
      • by ptbarnett (159784)
        It gives me the impression that the IRS employee didn't know what the question was.

        It looks like a form reply to me. I suspect it's the one that is sent to people that ask: "why do I have to pay to file electronically?".

        Personally, I believe the IRS should be paying electronic filing fees. They are saving at LEAST as much money by not having to enter the data themselves. If you include the error-checking done at the source, there's also a reduction in the number of exceptions they have to handle.

        • by mspohr (589790)
          My tax form is complicated and I don't qualify for the free filing. I'm not going to pay extra for electronic filing to help the government do their paperwork. They should pay me for electronic submission... so I file my 25 page tax form on paper. The cost is minimal to print it out and postage is less than a dollar. Maybe one day they will get a clue but until then they can pay someone to enter all of those numbers into their computer (and check their accuracy).
    • Is to use the royal we.

       
  • by synthespian (563437) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @03:29PM (#18301206)
    Some of you might find it interesting to compare the US situation with other countries (comparisons are always nice for parameters)...
    Brazil's equivalent of the IRS (Receita Federal) offers its version for federal income tax software for download for Windows, Linux, Macintosh and jar files for any other OS Yes, they use Java. It makes sense.
    http://www.receita.gov.br/PessoaFisica/ReceitaNet/ RecnetJava.htm [receita.gov.br]
    • It would be awesome if the US did this. I couldn't imagine it happening though--the IRS is full of very conservative boring people (no offense, I applied to work there as a lawyer, so I fit the mold...well, except that they didn't hire me); I think they wouldn't write a program because they're afraid they'd write it wrong. They know how to tax, not how to write code.

      However, I'd be willing to lobby for this. Anyone with me?
    • I forgot to mention, Virginia allows you to file your state taxes in a form online on their website for free (probably only people with pretty easy taxes can use this form). I used this form this year, and it worked quite well.
  • Is the tax system out of control?

    That's a lot of bureaucrats...

     
  • I have real estate, stocks, make a good income.

    It takes me a grand total of 2 hours to do mine by hand.

    Something *FREE* like this would be a nice extra safety check.

    Unless you have a huge amount of money (top 5% of the country) you probably don't need advanced software or tax accounting methods.

  • [smugness level="high"]Really ridiculous, the situations you Americans are in. We Dutchies have it much better :-) We get IRS-developed software for Windows, Linux and Mac OS, built with wxWidgets [wxwidgets.org].[/smugness]
  • Not quite open source. But free as in beer.

    I've been using this guy's spread sheet for the past three years. Labled as 'Excel' but I've actually used it in Open Office. Prints nice.

    http://home.mchsi.com/~taxcalculator/ [mchsi.com]

    This year I should donate a few dollars to his paypal account. If I get a refund of course.
  • by amightywind (691887) on Saturday March 10, 2007 @07:39PM (#18303124) Journal

    I shouldn't do this [mchsi.com]. But please give the guy some cash. It is extremely useful, and works with OpenOffice. My taxes were fairly complex and they came out perfectly. Maybe you can help out and make an even better version.

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