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Government Open Source Software The Almighty Buck United States

Ask Slashdot: Open Source Tax Software? 387

Posted by timothy
from the enclose-a-stinkbug-with-each-envelope dept.
An anonymous reader writes "I finally started looking at my taxes and instead of handing over my personal information and money to TurboTax I was wondering if there were any recommendations for freely available/open source tax software? Ideally, the data would be stored in a portable, open format. I wouldn't really need a GUI, but something that filled out PDF forms would be nice." It's a question that just won't go away. Open source solution or not, if you're a U.S. taxpayer, the deadline for filing is nearly to hand.
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Ask Slashdot: Open Source Tax Software?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @11:31AM (#39632603)

    Rumor has it if you just send in your tax documents without filling anything in they will calculate your taxes for you and give you many deductions you might not have thought you could do.

  • by autocannon (2494106) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @11:35AM (#39632661)

    Yes, go use some free open source "stuff" to file your taxes. Hope it works, hope it's accurate. Oh, and hope they update it multiple times every god damn year to keep up to date with the ever changing tax code. But hey, it's free right. Why would anyone want to actually support software developers by "paying" for software.

    Seriously, what is the obsession here with people wanting everything for free? You want to do your taxes for free, sit down with the paper form and do them. If Turbotax is too expensive for you, try TaxAct. It was $20 to efile both state and federal this year.

  • by alexander_686 (957440) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:08PM (#39633297)

    First, it’s not Turbo Tax which is lobbing for this stuff. They don’t have too. There is enough lobbyist pushing their special interest and crack pot positions searching for short term gain that they don’t need to spend the money – it’s done for them.

    Second, It’s not that it’s technically difficult; it’s the Certification and fast turn around time.

    It’s not like a word processor in which you can start off with the basic stuff and add stuff later. Nor is it static like a word processor – each year the IRS tweaks stuff. You kind of need the whole package up and running – perfectly - by February 1st.

    At least they make the on-line software free for the easy, low income, returns.

    That being said, I would like the IRS to come out with some basic tax forms which do the calculations and look up by itself. i.e., you would still need input the numbers, but the simple “multiple by 28%” and “Look up income in tax table” would be automated.

    Or even better, tax simplification. Less work spent on make work, fewer loop holes to abuse.

  • by rssrss (686344) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:14PM (#39633419)

    I am a lawyer. I used to do my taxes myself without purchasing a tax program. I wrote a spreadsheet to do the calculations, because doing them by hand was tedious, complicated, and error prone.

    One year in the 1990s I did my taxes using my own spreadsheet. A few months later, I received a letter from the IRS explaining that I had miscalculated my taxes, that they had recalculated them, and they were enclosing a check payable to me for the $1,100 that I had overpaid.

    In that moment I realized that I could no longer rely on my own efforts and understanding to complete my tax returns. If I had left $1,100 on the table, I had probably left more than the IRS would tell me about.

    After that, I started to use tax programs. I use H&R Block At Home, but I am sure that Turbo Tax is also useful. At any rate they are a lot cheaper than paying too much taxes.

  • by F69631 (2421974) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @12:50PM (#39634039)

    Seriously, what is the obsession here with people wanting everything for free? You want to do your taxes for free, sit down with the paper form and do them.

    Where I live, the process goes like this:

    AT THE START OF EACH YEAR: The government send you your tax card. It tells you your tax percentage, etc. (based on assumption that you earn as much as you did the previous year). You take that to your employer, he pays the taxes directly from your wage and there is nothing more you NEED to do. If your income is very different than it was the previous year, you get taxed the wrong amount and the government sends you either returns or a bill at the end of the year. If you know your income has changed and don't want a large bill/can't give the government any money temporarily, you can fill out a simple 1 page (2 sides) form that they sent you with the card (or submit it online) and then they'll send you a recalculated tax card.

    DURING THE YEAR: Most people don't need to do anything. If your income changes a lot and you don't want to pay the government any extra (which they would, of course, return at the end of the year) or don't want a large bill, you can call them, visit an office or fill out the info online and they'll send you a recalculated tax card.

    AT THE END OF THE YEAR: They tell you that they want to either return some money (and ask you to inform them if your bank account number has changed) or they send you a bill. Again, you get a simple 1 page (two-sided) form (or can fill it out online) to tell them about anything that might affect the decision (such as having earned/lost a lot of money by trading stock or any similar things).

    For example, I got a bit better paying job last year but was too lazy to inform them so they now sent me a letter "You've earned more than we thought you would, so you've paid 790 euros too little taxes. Here are two bills of 395 euros, you have six months to pay the first and twelve months to pay the second. Here is a form you can use to complain if we've made any incorrect decisions." I might fill out the form because I've spent quite a few euros to buying stuff that indirectly helps me earn income (books to get certifications, etc.) and that sort of stuff is tax deductible. I don't expect to reduce the bill by a lot but it's going to take just 3 minutes or so, so why not.

    I've never understood why does USA have such a complex system that the government doesn't know how much they should pay taxes...

  • by m3000 (46427) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @01:52PM (#39635159)

    Obama actually campaigned [politifact.com] on doing exactly that, but Republicans think it's a tax conspiracy [foxnews.com] and refuse to do anything useful. ::sigh::

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.