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Tax Software for Linux? 182

Posted by Cliff
from the getting-ready-for-4/15 dept.
Bob Cunningham asks: "Is there any US Federal and State Income Tax software for Linux? Normlly, I would just snag the evaluation copy of whichever Win9x product appeals to me (i.e., lowest cost). This year I'd like to try something different: Do my taxes under Linux. My initial searches have failed to uncover a single native tax package for Linux, nor even rumors of any related development being underway. Right now, it seems my only option will be to run a Win9x package under Wine, and hope it is well behaved. Is Win9x/Wine my only option? If so, are there any packages that have already been tested under Wine?" Financial software has traditionally been lacking under Linux, but I'm hoping that someone will soon step up and write something like this.
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Tax Software for Linux?

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  • you could try to run some tax software w/VMware. I find that Wine "misbehaves" on too many pieces of software... Maybe tryout VMware if there aren't any other alternatives...

  • by WNight (23683) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @02:37AM (#1450336) Homepage
    Fairly hard.

    I write stuff like this for work, and it's not 'hard' work, as in, brain teaser type stuff, but it's slow and tedious.

    The problem is that you need to test this once done, and you either go through, meticulously, rule by rule, checking everything dependant on that rule, or you enter saved examples, and compare the values the program returns to what was generated by another program, or by hand-calculating it.

    Tiny errors, especially in the conditionals (You're allowed this write-off if your wage is under X, and you're single, or married with three or more kids, etc...) are nearly impossible to catch, especially when two or more conditionals modify the same value.

    It is possible to write, especially for yourself, where you can ignore certain segments of tax law, like the spousal section if you're single, but the testing involved would make it easier to just do it by hand.

  • by Suydam (881) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @02:38AM (#1450337) Homepage
    Technically: Easy
    Truthfully: Damn near impossible
    I think the people who write Kiplinger's and TurboTax are spending lots of money on lawyers and stuff to be sure they cover every possible situation and to be sure that they ask all the possible questions as far as forms that you might need to add to your base 1040.

  • Aren't there some spreadsheet based versions that could be converted to run under the Star Office package?

    As for how hard is it to whip one up? You must file the EZ form. I went to software two years when I found that trying to manually balance a couple of businesses and consulting and profit sharing generated 50 pages of paper to be filed. I have enough problems understanding all the clauses without having to figure out all the lines that don't apply to me. The other problem is IRS approved forms printout but I guess some of that can be handled by grabbing the PDFs from the IRS website. The software is nice since I can make a rough pass to get the initial bottom line and then dig for deductions to try to bring it back to a realistic number.
  • Here in Brazil, there's only one IR tax package - not surprisingly, the government-sanctioned package that only runs on Windows. Thankfully, they've recently put up an online version as well.
  • If everyone 'wrote their own' it would invalidate the purpose. It would be far easier to just fill out dead-tree tax forms than to program (your) state and federal tax rules into a program.

    The purpose of these programs is that one group does the work of creating a framework and programming in rules (which are hopefully dynamic so they can be changed every year, along with tax law, without changing major parts of the framework code). Everyone else then benefits from the work of that one group.

    Now...Perhaps you meant that this guy should spearhead the development of tax software for us all to use. In this case, you're showing a bit of a programmer's-bias assuming everyone can whip up code. Linux user != programmer, the quicker that notion is dispelled, the quicker Linux can really take on Microsoft.

    One last point...The best hope for tax (or other financial software) on Linux may be if Quicken and others produce versions of their commercial software. I support Open Source, but its probably far too early to expect the general population to trust OSS on something where they can legally be held liable for the results the software produces. (The IRS man won't care that your GPL'd software made a calculation error, he just wants his damn money and he wants it now.) The general population, for right or wrong, probably will feel much safer with a known-entity commercial vendor.

  • by Ainis (52941) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @02:46AM (#1450341)
    PTax98 [arborway.net] is a first stab at tax software for Linux. You must have Perl/Tk installed in order to use it. Note this is alpha software, and is not recommended for doing actual tax returns. PTax98 computes the 1998 Federal 1040EZ. No other tax form is supported at present. You enter the data into the blanks and check a few buttons, and it computes your taxes. It doesn't do the Earned Income Credit yet; you can compute that by hand and enter it if you qualify. It does not produce printed output, you must copy the results to an official IRS form.
  • Unfortunately, this is probably true. I currently am forced to use VMWare to run Quickbooks, and will probably also resort to the same strategy for TurboTax when Tax time comes around. The good news is that VMWare has been rock solid from day one in this capacity. The bad news is, of course, that it is not open source, nor free (quite expensive in fact), and (even though I am spared a reboot) it's just too much like running Windows (well, because it really is running Windows).

    I have noticed that the most recent release of Wine does an excellent job with running Quickbooks apart from seriously mangling the fonts (which I can't even straighten out with a tt font server) and not being able to print. I'm not to the point where I will trust Wine with this, but it does not seem far off anymore - maybe within the next year. Also, it seems that tax programs are among the things which alot of people have at least been trying to run with Wine, so it is worth a shot - just don't expect to be able to print anything!

    The bottom line is that if Intuit would just release a Linux version of Quickbooks and Turbotax, I think I could once and for all rid my computer of that nasty Redmond virus. And, I would bet that I am not alone in this regard.

    Has anyone inquired about this? These two things (accounting and tax programs - not necessarily Intuit's) really seem like killer apps for getting Linux onto alot more desktops.

  • ...but I was a happy Windows-free Linux/BSD geek at home (keeping only a DOS partition for gaming), but buckled under and installed a Windows partition 2 years ago for the sole purpose of running Tax software. Today I'd look into WINE or other alternatives, but of course the Windows virus has festered on that machine, and going back would not be easy (and my wife would divorce me).

    The bang for the buck offered by these programs is unbeatable, and I've never seen any comparable software for Unix.
  • Does anybody know anything about Linux software for the German tax system? I think it must be even harder, when you look how awfully complicated our tax system is. :-(

    - Stephan.

    Carpe diem!

  • by Somnus (46089) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @02:58AM (#1450345)
    I have trouble filling out tax forms. I think I'm a reasonably intelligent guy. The tax forms are several orders of magnitude easier to parse through than the actual tax code, because the myriad formulas have been digested into line-based arithmetic calculations by bright accountants. The federal tax code is easily 1000 pages long, and weighs several pounds; the state codes, especially in states with strong Democratic Party support, are hardly better.

    If this is to be a free software project, which most Linux software packages are, it would need CPAs on its staff, arguably 53 of them (50 states, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, federal) in order for the project to stay up-to-date. I have found precisely one Linux tax project, PTax98 [arborway.net], and it only partially does federal 1040EZ. My suggestions:

    • Explore electronic, or WWW-based filing. A number of states and the feds have employed it for the more popular tax schedules. They all use SSL for security. They do the math for you server side, and you get a calculated copy in PDF format for your own records.
    • Don't rely on Wine to do something critical like your taxes -- use VMWare and run Windows, or dual boot.
    • Ask a CPA to do your taxes. If you have investment accounts or worse, offshore bank accounts, it's worth every penny they charge. Of course, privacy is an issue ...
    • Move to Alaska -- they pay you to live there, with a revenue check ~$1000/year from the oil pipeline. Also, Internet access is pretty damn good in the Anchorage area. If you're a coder, and you like nature, it's not a bad deal. You'll still have to pay federal though ...
    • Wait for Linux to have a huge user base so companies that develop tax software will port their wares.

    I apologize if my libertarian tendencies are thinly veiled.


    *** Proven iconoclast, aspiring epicurean ***

  • Will not help,
    Generic spreadsheet functionality is not enough, you need to do some confitionals. These are usually done with the excell macrolanguage or VBA. Both cases do not work under SOffice (it does not chew excell macros at all).
  • It might be interesting to write a piece of crossplatform software that can do everything needed to process taxes and a program to generate the data files w/ this years rules and such. If that is publiclly available IMO it'd be good to contact your congress man to try to get a law passed stating the IRS had to provide the data files themselves as their electric filing plan wasted so much of our money and bombed (the big project, they did luckily make some small improvments).. also if you could email them in I'd be glad. I always lose envelopes and papers I'm supposed to fax before they make it there. :)
  • by russb (28470) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @03:10AM (#1450349) Homepage
    No!!! Anything but that. We just can't start taxing free software. How would such a system be implemented. In my opinion this would be the sharp downfall of all progress that has been made in the Linux / Open Source Community!
  • by Some guy named Chris (9720) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @03:12AM (#1450350) Journal

    Last year I used www.webturbotax.com [webturbotax.com]. It's a web/java based version of TurboTax by Intuit.

    Last year it was free if you didn't want to file electronically. You went through the program with your browser, and when you were done, you download a .pdf file with your completed forms already filled out, complete with all the relevant attachments.

    I of course filed electronically, which was (I think) $19.95. It was a deal for me.

    Some guy named Chris

  • The Linux operating system is new to some individuals. Some are people who would not mind writing many of the business applications that are out for other OS's. I personally would not mind writing or help in writing the software for a tax program specifically for Linux. If an individual really would like to have any particular software and not have to write it, they should go to software forums to see if it has already been done.

    I thought Linux was an OS for hackers, nerds, and others alike who want a system they can mold to their liking and not be afraid to write what they don't have for it.

    Tax software is not really as popular and likely to readily written as device drivers, games, or utilities would be. Give it time and your post here is a good start at finding what you want.
  • Last year we (wife and I) did our taxes via the online Quicken Tax. It worked great, and explained a lot of the really hard things quite nicely.

    Though we did it using IE on a Win95 machine, I don't recall there being any ActiveX controls, maybe a little Java/JavaScripting, and Cookies too (I think)...

    Chris Means

    -
    Sigs are bad for your health.
    -
  • I believe that one of the main reasons that we have not seen much good financial software for Linux is the commercial cost factor. Traditionally, good financial software cost an arm and a leg, and the companies who developed it made good money out of doing so. I think a lot of these companies have been scared off by the 'Free' aspect of Linux and not wanted to go to all the effort of porting / developing software with no solid financial reward on the table. Another prohibiting factor is the fact that almost all countries that I know of have different tax / accounting laws, meaning that developers have to write multiple versions or you need more developers in more countries working on this. The Gimp works everywhere. Most accounting packages only work in their country of origin.
  • by Stiletto (12066) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @03:31AM (#1450357)
    There are some good WWW-based tax programs that are pretty good. Most work with Linux's browsers. Last year I used http://www.securetax.com/
    ________________________________
  • by cruise (111380) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @03:33AM (#1450358) Homepage
    Fro9m what I've seen round here, many of the folks here were not born yet or too young to have had to endure this piece of crap :) Consider yourselves lucky!

    Also consider yourself lucky that tv now plays comercials every 10 minutes or so, back then we had to endure shitty shows for a good 30 minutes before a comercial came on. Then, we could walk 10 miles in the snow (uphill [both ways]) to use the outhouse and hurry back (in 60 seconds) to resume watching TV. (AND WE LIKED IT!)


  • Let me guess: You've never done filed a US tax return. I've done both and my opinion is that the US system is worse than the German tax system.
  • by Greg Merchan (64308) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @03:41AM (#1450360)
    Change the tax laws!
    Ideally, we just get rid of them all.
    'Impossible!', you say?
    'The gov't need funding for *!', you say?
    'No one would volunteer time or money to secure the blessings of liberty!', you say?

    I say, 'Look at free software.'

    Besides, the gov't could also raise revenue by charging per service. 'Simple' example: Notary services. The validation of contracts is an essential service that should be provided by our government. All credit activities (not just credit cards) are contract based. (M)|(B)|(Tr)illions of dollars move around on the basis of credit daily; it is an economic necessity. By charging for credit contract security as a ratio of the dollar amount, the government could surely raise enough revenue to perform its necessary functions. This would also discourage frivolous credit use by consumers.

    Live free or die.
  • PTax98 computes the 1998 Federal 1040EZ. No other tax form is supported at present.


    In other words, the search continues considering the 1998 Federal 1040EZ is useless in 1999.
  • If we had some variant of the Hong Kong flat tax, there would be less of a need for this software (though of course we need accounting software)
  • Has anyone inquired about this? These two things (accounting and tax programs - not necessarily Intuit's) really seem like killer apps for getting Linux onto alot more desktops.

    you would think that a company would pour money into something that would for sure make money. With the recent surge in backing behind Linux in both the home and corporate realms, you would think that Intuit would see the need and would feel the desire to put something out for Linux.

    I know nothing about cross-platform programming, but w/WineLib and stuff, isn't it realitively easy and cost-effective to port it from Windows to Linux?
  • I tried that last year and it wouldn't work. The thing kept insisting that I had to be running Windows or Mac which I never could understand since I was on the web....sounds like the fox.com thing all over again.

    I sent Intuit some mail about that experience and never heard back. The called twice last year to offer me the Windows upgrade for Quicken and I told them no but call me when the Linux or Solaris versions are released and haven't heard from them since.
  • Open source tax software is doable, but only with the right team. Here's the structure. The app is *real* generic, with very little data in the binary. Forms and rules live in datafiles (maybe XML), while data for a single instance of a form lives in it's own file. Build the app first and make it bullet proof.

    Bazaar-mode comes into play with the data files. The key is, as stated in a previous post, testing the rules. This is where bazaar-mode shines, with lots of eyes looking at lots of pet test cases. But these eyes have to belong to folks who know what they're looking at (CPA's, preparers, maybe even auditors). The forms and rules have to be set up so that non-developers can make changes and sumbit fixes. Project leadership has to be able to turn around releases in nanosececonds. Time presure with tax software is real, and deadlines (April 15) are hard.

    My bet is that independent professional accountants who do a moderate number of returns for clients would be the people to particpate in/benfit from a project like this the most. The question is "How do we get them on board?"

    BTW, I work on a financial reporting product *very* similar to tax software, so I have pondered getting this package into an open-source model for some time. My company is not ready to take the plunge yet. But if another company, or just a group of hackers can make a project like this work, I believe it would set the stage for many other projects/products to move to Linux.

  • Maybe (if you feel like it), try again this tax year, and start early!

    It's possible you can get the same change in TurboTax.com that should be occuring over at Fox.com about now.

    It doesn't make sense for them (Inuit) to 'block' a potential revenue stream.

    Good luck.
  • The IRS code is GPLed ...

    It is? Awesome! I hereby announce my intention to take the tax code and fork a new project off it. I think I can convince quite a few folks to join up. :-)

    I'll start by adding in a contribution to the ``poor coders' relief fund''. This will neither increase your tax nor decrease your refund, of course. :-)

  • What about running the DOS emulator under Linux? My dad, whom is (was) an accountent, runs ALOT of DOS based Tax software.

    Also what about vmware? I heard that it is ALOT more stable then Wine. Truefully I think even the Wine developers consider Wine alpha or beta quality. No disrespect to the Wine community, I totally support, respect and honor their efforts in this project. The fact reminds, they still need to work a couple things out with it, and I think that they would even admit that, so it's not like I am bad mouthing of FUDing them, I am just saying...

    Anyway, what is the deal, you guys can do a little book keeping without a computer. Do your taxes like a man, a peice of paper and a pen. No dam calucators either, get a bit of scrap papper, you dam lazy wusses : ) just ripping on ya... I get a discount for getting my taxes do. Have someone else do em dammit : )
  • Granted, doing your taxes should be a simple matter for a spreadsheet. However, unless you file the EZ form the glut of rules and exceptions that a software package must account for is unbelievable. Several issues exist for anyone trying to write a software package, that lead me to believe no one will ever develop one for an open source OS unless they expect large volume sales. Notably: 1. By the IRS's own admission even their own telephone support personnel give frequently incorrect information. 2. The need to account for the literaly thousands of tax code changes every year. 3. People like Quicken maintain an extensive staff of CPAs and tax attorneys to assist in writing the rules for the software. 4. Liability. Commercial tax firms guarantee the correctness of your return (assuming you have correctly and accurately entered all of the relevant data), and will pay all penalties a customer incurs if its found their software made a mistake. How hard can it be? The problem isn't the complexity of the software, its the complexity of our tax system.
  • TurboTax 98 works with WINE-991031. I don't know about TurboTax 99.
  • I would prefer a small national sales tax.

    This way the 'rich' pay more in taxes because they buy more goods.
    The poor pay less in taxes because they buy less goods.
    Fair. No holes, tricks or slight of hand.

    It will never happen however and this is why :

    By having the tax code so god awfully complicated,
    two things are achieved.

    1) americans pay more taxes than they legally should have to.

    2) special interest groups and pet projects of our representitives can get tax breaks hidden within the complex code.

    #1 makes the members of govt happy since they have more money to play with.

    #2 makes the members of govt happy since it gives them LOTS of power.

    A small, equal national sales tax would eliminate both of those reasons, which is why it will never happen.

    Politics has historically attracted the worst of the worst of the human race. ( with notable exceptions of course )

    Cheers!
    ebw
  • I'm not sure if you mean have the IRS write the software, or just make a common set of "data files" available with whatever variations in taxes from year to year represented. If you want them to spend your tax money developing software, you're still paying for it one way or the other.

    Personally, I'd rather get my tax software from a company motivated by profit. Things tend to be done a lot better than when we ask the government to do it for us.
  • Normlly, I would just snag the evaluation copy of whichever Win9x product appeals to me (i.e., lowest cost).

    But if you used it to do your taxes, you did register it, right?

    Right?

  • Do a search on the LeTax project... we had a presentation at CFUG [cfug.org] back in June by one of the developers.... I wish I could get you the URL for the project right now, but my notes from that meeting are at home and I'm at work....



    This is my opinion and my opinion only. Incidentally, IANAL.
  • by hatless (8275) on Thursday December 23, 1999 @04:15AM (#1450377)
    I used Web Turbotax under Windows. When I attempted to use it with Netscape on Linux, it blocked me for not using a browser on an appropriate OS. I didn't pursue setting up a proxy to pass a fake Win32 user agent. I suspect it function properly. They didn't do anything too crazy.. it seemed to be straight HTML, safe javascript and AWT Java applets.

    I'm going to try a bit (a bit) harder this time and see how it goes, out of curiosity.

    Of course, Web Turbotax means placing your tax info, including worksheets and calculations, on Intuit's servers. Privacy sentimentalists probably won't go for that, so a locally-executed tax package for *nix--or pure Java--still probably has a niche.

    Not sure this would work well as a Free Software project, though. The research involved and the complexity of a lot of the rules might be prohibitive, especially given the undiminished amount of effort that would have to go into updates every subsequent year. To say nothing of the horror of getting the state tax forms taken care of.

    I humbly suggest that the core logic of such a project be done as a set of javabeans without the aid of a relational database, so that standalone, web, client-server and other interfaces can be built on top of it, and make it comfortably cross-platform. The Unix/Linux community probably doesn't have enough programming-literate tax accountants to get this done. If it's platform-independent, there would be a better chance of something like this coming together.
  • Dosemu is now pretty stable, and should be able to run most well-behaved dos applications. As long as they don't do much direct hardware access or need fancy graphical modes, dosemu should work fine for almost all older dos based programs, and even a few games.
  • Yeah, I've used SecureTax for the past couple of years and it's pretty sweet. They've never griped at me for using Netscape in Linux. You just plug your numbers in and go, and they've got up-to-date forms for an assortment of situations. It's well worth the few bucks they charge to file electronically, too.
  • Actually, there are about 10 states without state income taxes -- among them (last time I checked) are Florida, Washington, Nevada and Texas. New Hampshire only taxes interest income (again, YMMV), and Rhode Island says "your state tax obligation is precisely 27.5% of your federal tax obligation" (once again, YMMV). So really, you should only need about 42 CPAs *g*. That number could even go down if you pick the right CPAs (there's probably at least one in Waukegan who can do both Illinois and Wisconsin, etc.).



    This is my opinion and my opinion only. Incidentally, IANAL.
  • Sometimes it is very, very, very hard. Sometimes it is very, very, very easy. If you have low income from one job, live at home, and have no spouse/children and never give to charity, it's simple. I could do my taxes while in college in about 10 minutes.

    That is the simplest case.

    OTOH, each additional 'thing' adds more complexity than you would expect. I got married. So you have to decide whether to file jointly or separately. I bought a house, so I can deduct the interest from my mortgage from my taxes. Each of these require several pieces of paper. In addition, I need to run the entire thing twice to decide whether my taxes are lower filing jointly or separately (not sure about this, but given the byzantine nature of our tax forms, it's worth checking).

    My wife is partially blind and partially deaf. A couple of more forms, and a few doctors' notes. More paper. My wife is a teacher, so she can deduct certain expenses for school supplies. More paper.

    Next year, we should finally be starting to invest. Add at least one form for each account. And probably some papers in addition to the forms.

    The year after that, we start having children. Add in another form, and proof of a social security number for the child.

    Then we start saving for child number one's college. More investment, more forms, more bank papers. Repeat these past two steps for each child.

    My parents are getting older. By the time I've got a couple of kids, maybe my father has a heart attack, and I either need to take care of him, or pay someone to do that. More forms, more papers, (plus, I may have to pay social security for anyone I hire to watch him).

    As other's have posted, investments and holdings outside the US increase the number and type of documents yet again.

    So, seems not too bad, right? Just a couple dozen forms and proof of [XYZ] to be shipped off. Wrong! The forms are written by lawyers and accountants. Therefore, they are entirely incomprehensible. There are instruction books, but they use terminology and phraseology that are usually not easily understood by the general populace. There is no definitive explanation or glossary or dictionary.

    So, it's a little worse. So you make a few mistakes. It was all honest, and you follow the directions. Nothing bad will happen. Wrong. You are liable not to what it says on the forms, but what it says in the tax code. Again, this code is thousands of pages long, written by politicians.

    Fine, I'll get an accountant to do it. Doesn't matter. You are still liable for what goes on your form. I haven't seen any cases regarding this particular point, but I would imagine that the legal community will back the accountants.

    But wait, there is that IRS help number that you can call. Again, check out the fine print. They can answer your questions all day long, but they assume no liability, and do not warrant the accuracy of the answers.

    So, a US citizen is required to be fluent in a 1000+ page tax document that changes annually to prepare a form that could go from one page to hundreds of pages. And this is just the federal government. I live in Maryland, which has a lengthy tax code. They used to base taxes almost directly on a percentage of your federal tax. But now you have to fill out a form and provide documentation that is as long as the federal code. Unfortunately, they use slightly different interpretations of certain phrases, and use different methods to calculate different parts of your tax liability.

    I'm not sure, but I think that in some areas, you may have to fill out yet another set of forms for city/local taxes. Luckily, I just have to multiply my state tax by a factor to get my combined state/local tax.

    In summary, it's not the math. It's the countless inconsistent forms. It's the fact that there is no definitive assistance (also forgot to mention that IRS acts above the law in many ways, so don't count on the courts to help you either) It's the fact that you have to provide seriously asinine proof of the most blatant things (My wife is blind, why the fsck do you need to have a new doctor's note EVERY SINGLE YEAR!!!)

    So, yes, while it isn't necessarily the best thing in the world, I'd favor scrapping the current income tax system in the US in favor of a VAT. You eliminate the problem of internet taxation. You eliminate an absurd income tax system. You promote savings and investment. You favor conservation of goods. Hey, it's not perfect, but it's better than what we've got.

    I hope this wasn't wildly inaccurate (it's mostly an observation of what I have to go through) and that it helped you understand some of us Americans and our bitching about taxes.
  • by Greyfox (87712)
    With the current XML revolution, it should be possible for the IRS to come up with an XML variant to define the flow and structure of tax forms. I'd think that with a bit of work, they could set it up so that all you need to do your taxes would be an XML-enabled web browser.
  • Actually, this would sound like a really good open source project to do "bazaar" [tuxedo.org] style. After all, more eyes make all bugs shallow.

    Anyone with any thoughts on this?

  • by Arno (13264)
    Vmware is absolutely brilliant for this sort of thing. I usually run Linux all the time on my work machine too, but some people just have to send stuff like VISIO files.

    Solution: start VMware with NT4 inside. View/print/convert item. Save back to Linux.. Shut down VMware/NT. Done.

    No reboots required.

    Heaven.. Sigh..

    Bye, Arno.
  • You had an outhouse?!

    Spoiled brat...
  • Trust someone who is not an accountant to write Tax Software? the big problem here is that accountants and the consultants that help these companies write these products are Windows creatures. I would however think that one of these companies would write a linux/bsd version (maybe use Twine to compile it? make it easy for them?) just to capture this part of the market. But I'm sure it wouldn't be free, or even close to GPL'd =)
  • > If this is to be a free software project, which most Linux software packages are, it would need CPAs on its staff, arguably 53 of them (50 states, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, federal)

    I think you can reduce the complexity by an order of magnitude by only covering the Federal tax. I don't know how other states are, but here in NY, I use TurboTax to fill out the Federal tax, and then just copy the numbers over to the state form by hand. About 80% of the state form is, "now, copy the figure from line 92a on the Federal form to this box..."

    When it comes down to it, the REAL advantage of using Income Tax software is the ability to file electronicaly! I've done this the last couple of years, and it greatly speeds up how fast you get your return!

  • Please read the story again... I think you are misinterpreting what's being discussed.
  • We need to keep in mind that tax software is the ultimate antithesis to operating software. (The Magic Cauldron for details.) The requirements change -- dramatically -- every year. Unlike operating software, there's very little accumulated value over time. This means that in effect the only thing you're buying with tax software is a service, and the s/w is just the delivery vehicle for that service.
  • That seems backwards to me.

    It'll never happen because it's not really fair, just like the flat-tax.

    Using the purchase of "goods" to base tax burden is just not a good idea. It blatantly favors the rich.

    A sales tax burdens the poor much more than the rich because a much, much larger percentage of income for the poor is spent on goods that are taxed (food, clothes, energy). They have no savings, no investments.

    For the 'rich', most of their income is NOT spent on goods that are taxed. Even if you make millions a year, you still only "need" $100,000 a year to live "well". So, they roll-over their investments, never paying taxes, getting richer, all the while we would call if fair because everyone is only paying taxes on what they "purchase". Well, for poor and lower middle class, most of what they "purchase" is necessary to have a minimum standard of living in this country. The national sales tax then ends up taxing MOST of their income!

    If you want to make it fair, determine a baseline amount of consumables (maybe durables, too) that is necessary to have a moderate standard of living. If lobbyists for the rich don't get in the way and define moderate standard of living as having a box on street corner then we could credit everyone the amount of tax equivalent to these purchases. Pay tax on all the rest.

    You still must define what gets taxed or not, and that's what has led in large part to the current tax code.

    A national sales tax may eliminate the two things you mentioned while putting all that power into an already wealthy upper class (1% of the population has over 90% of the wealth in the USA). Most of the money they save out of this plan will go straight back into government to pay for legislation that only benefits themselves. This already happens, it would just be easier. All under the guise of "fairness". Sure.
  • As another poster said, it's easy if you're single and childless (ie. a student).

    In addition to a normal job, I have my own corporation. This is a special (small, privately held) corporation, so the taxes for the corporation are actually tied into my personal taxes.

    So, I pay monthly employment taxes (for myself: i am the only employee), quarterly income taxes (federal and state), unemployment taxes, etc..

    The entire year, I must estimate and adjust the amounts of monthly and quarterly taxes I pay, trying to make sure I don't overpay too much or underpay too much. If I underpay, I could get stuck with a fine. If I overpay, the IRS gets to hold my money until April.

    It's an insane amount of work. And in the end, I lose very close to 50% of what I make to the government.

    The tax code is outrageous. "You are in a maze of twisty little regulations, all unintelligible."
  • and writing a bazaar-based tax package for the FEDS and one for each state, and getting them APPROVED by both the FEDS and each state EACH year prior to Jan 1 would be a monunmental task. It would require efforts from a team of programmers that would number over 50 (the tax packages of states with low populations are just as complicated as those from large population states and would require an equal programming effort). The would have time for coding this and NOTHING ELSE the entire year (so they better make money to feed their spouse and kids). So, would you make a FED program only or add only a few of the states with the larger populations? This isn't a "one size fits all" app.
  • I am the author of that PTax98 script. Yes, I know it does just one tax form which you could easily do by hand.

    But I wrote it as a demonstration. Remember the first tax programs for DOS? They were shareware programs; they didn't contain every form and schedule, just the most common ones; they didn't print something the IRS would accept, so you copied the output onto your IRS form. But they were still a great improvement over doing taxes by hand, and they led to the fancy commercial programs available now for certain other OS's.

    A tax form is an algorithm already! It's not so hard to turn it into code. And we don't have to clone TurboTax on the first try; a simpler program could still be useful for lots of people. If a GUI is too much to write, how about a command-line script? You can look at PTax to see how to generate those tax tables without typing them all in -- tax rates are piecewise linear, with roundoffs, that's all.

    I'm not a "real" programmer. PTax was my first Perl/Tk script. And I don't have time to do a big project on my own. But I'd love to contribute what I can to the cause. Anybody want a great open souce software project?

  • Are you fucking retarded?

    Sorry for being harsh, but he was joking. That post was based on the assumption that he only read the headline, which (by itself) might lend one to think that we were talking about "Taxing Software for Linux". Geeeeeez!

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • The Unix/Linux community probably doesn't have enough programming-literate tax accountants to get this done. If it's platform-independent, there would be a better chance of something like this coming together.

    I think the major problem is that tax legislation is very time-dependent. I'm not sure a group could form and redesign the software each year. In some years, tax laws are applied retroactively-- so you can never be totally certain. Since the federal budget is enacted in late October (even later, if there is a veto threat), that makes things very time-dependent.

    Another problem is liability-- if something goes wrong, your entire user base is affected-- and would have to pay a penalty. Using commercial software, you have some level of protection (IIRC, Intuit's license actually gives the consumer some protections).

    Finally, tax legislation is just plain complicated. Frankly, I'd love people to get a first-hand view of exactly what hoops we have to jump though, but if you think the source to Word is a mess, you should see the tax code.

  • A uniform sales tax amounts to a tax on two groups of people:

    1) People who buy goods that are not sensitive to price changes.

    2) People who produce goods that are sensitive to price changes.

    This happens because either 1) the sellers let the buyers eat the cost of the tax to reduce seller cost, or 2) the sellers absorb the cost of the tax to increase revenue on volume.

    Basically it burdens everyone because everyone buys commodities (not sensitive) and it reduces the standard of living by discouraging the production of luxuries (sensitive).

    Of course, IANAE(conomist).

    Another problem is that it is not a just tax. Charging for services is similar to free trade; you pay for what you get. A sales tax is not a trade; you pay for nothing in return.

    I do agree with your assessment of complex tax codes. But I have to wonder if our gov't officials consciously conspire against us, or if they're just strange attactors in the chaos.
  • I'm sure that Intuit is probably watching Linux pretty closely, but honostly I don't think that the actual *home market* for Linux is big enough for them to make a big return on their investment.

    Linux for the home desktop is growing, and there might be more people who are playing with it at home, but it's a long way from making a dent in the Windows/Mac world.

    For a company like Intuit it's a numbers game, if the Linux numbers get big enough then they might make a move.
  • How much do people value their time?

    Come tax time every year, you see a multitude of people spending at least a dozen hours working on their taxes. Computer software or not, filing your own taxes takes a lot of time.

    My solution? Simply find a public accounting firm, drop off your records, pay them a small fee, and you're done. I don't know how much TurboTax costs but in my part of the world, people are only charged $CDN 200 - 500 for a personal tax return.

    No hassle, no worries. A few hundred dollars is easily worth it to me, when the other alternative is spending a couple weeks on it. (To say nothing about how much more fun it would be to do your own taxes should you be self-employed and/or incorporated and/or run a small to medium sized business.)

    ------
    1. People like ESR, Linus, Alan Cox, RMS, Larry Wall etc. enjoy coding. You'd be lucky to find anyone who enjoys emptying your bins as much.
    2. The economics of software are different because it's cheap to redistribute, and you can give it away without losing your own copy. Building roads, keeping schools in good repair, policing -- all these things do not work like software.


    Maybe it would be possible to run a country by charging for services (hey, you Yanks have to pay for hospital care, don't you?) but there is no parallel to be made with Free Software.
    --
  • Bazaar style only works when error conditions are verifiable (ie, when people agree that something is wrong and what that error generally is). Consumer Reports did a test where they called in to the IRS helpline, and 66% of the answers they received were wrong.

    So we wouldn't know the bugs when we saw them. And we'd face the same problem every year. I suspect that this could be one of those cases where expert commercial ventures are better than a volunteer project.

  • Or you could try Bochs [bochs.com] Its slow but it works, even on non-Intel hardware
  • Linux might be better, though, for quickbooks pro or something similar. Small business tax software would be great for Linux, since it is such a healthy server market. You have a million 5 man operations running apache and making money, and so this would be a real boon to them.

  • Accourding to http://www.SecureTax.com, SecureTax has been bought out by Intuit. They now re-direct you to the online version of TurboTax. As others have posted, in past years, TurboTax Online required that you be running either Windows or Mac. I haven't tried this out to see if the same still applies this year.
  • Hey, don't call Windows a virus.... At least a virus DOES something

    Windows crashes... does that count?

  • I have liked Secure Tax: http://www.securetax.com/ [securetax.com]. It is an online tax program, so all you need is netscape. (It is better if you also have truetype fonts.) Then you can use ANY O.S.

    It does it all; printed tax return (as a P.D.F. file), electronic returns (both federal and state). It is free to use it, but you have to pay about $15 to print it out. But the electronic filing is then no extra charge.

    Oh, oh - I just looked at their web page, and they have been bought by Intuit. So I don't know what it will be like this year. The last two years it has been superb.

  • way back in 1998 somebody posted this article:
    http://slashdot.org/articles/98 /09/27/1847255.shtml [slashdot.org]

    I'm a windows user at home for the most part, so I haven't tried GNUCash [gnucash.org] Has anybody? Seems like it could be a nice alternative to Quicken/Quickbooks on a VM (Free or otherwise).

  • Could GNU cash be extended with tax specific functionality in a similar way to Quicken's tax package?

    According to http://www.gnucash.org [gnucash.org] (an excellent site) there is a scheme-based API for writing extensions to the package. Possibly this could allow for modules for specific tax systems...

    I've recently installed v1.3 and found it easy enough for a non-financially-aware geek like me to get organised pretty quickly. Excellent for personal finance, but probably not in the race for professional requirements just yet.

  • Uh, actually I think that some tax software (Turbo Tax?) was among the most purchased software last year in the US. You mean "popular" in the sense of "technically interesting or challenging," I suppose. Tax software may not be glamorous, but it is a surefire way to attract millions of users, at least in the US. There are a couple of posts here by folks who specifically loaded Windows (or Wine, VMWare, etc.) in order to run Tax Software. It is one of those killer categories for US businesses and consultants. I don't know whether there is such a need in other parts of the world, but it would be a major contribution to the cause.
  • Two G's, if you were wondering.

    Tax free software at 200% of the cost.
    the taxman is happy, because he is making twice what it cost you rather than some silly low percentage.
    You're happy because it's still free (0 x 200% is still 0).

    Everybody wins!
  • The project you would want to do would be something that sucked the algorithm out of an existing spreadsheet-based tax form, and then produced a Linux-compatible implementation of this same algorithm. This would allow any manufacturer to quickly and easily port their existing (proprietary) tax software to Linux.

    Any attempt to have coders doing tax work, or to induce accountants and lawyers to write code, or for that matter to try to get tax advice on the cheap is probably doomed.

    Intuit is not really a software company -- it only looks like one. It's a tax advice practice, which uses Windows software as a delivery channel. The role that the free software community could play would be to give them a way to use Linux as a delivery channel.

    jsm
  • I think you are only talking about individual income tax solutions, right?

    For enterprise level income tax software, BSI had ported their BSI Tax Factory to Linux.

    http://www.bsihq.com/

    It doesn't help those of us who just want to print out a 1040, but it might be of use to some of the IT profesionals out their that are trying to push Linux into their enterprise environments.
  • lobby congress to have only the top 1% of the population's income taxed. Then just create a 4-5% national sales tax. I can't speak for everyone, but I wouldn't mind replacing income tax with a national sales tax. Here in VA we pay only 4.5% sales tax compared to states like CA which pay around 7% I believe.
  • The narrow timeframe for getting this done every year means an effort to do this successfully would require a way of making contribution to the rulesets very easy and accessible to as many tax experts as possible.

    I like a post somewhere down there that proposes XML-based rulesets. It lets fragments be broken off easily and worked on independently. It lets non-programmers contrinbute in a way that doesn't require double entry when logic is added. It offers a tree sturcuture that can follow the section numbering of the tax codes themselves. Use XML elements for expressing labels, instructions and field specs. Use Xlink to point to field and rule dependencies, and use ECMAscript for the math and much of the logic.
  • Geez, in my diatribe of problems with the tax system, I completely forgot that there is a small business I'd like to start. For various reasons, I'd prefer to not have my personal finances so directly tied to the company, but the tax code essentially prevents this, as you've pointed out so well.

    Let me throw another log on the fire of the BS tax system in the US: corporate profits. I work for a small company (annual gross $4 million per year) that spent about two years sending out more than we take in. Finally, we come close to only spending what we took in this year. No problem, right? Wrong. Last year, we had (and these numbers are just for example) $50,000 in back debts. This FY, it was down to $12,500. We didn't have any more money in the bank (it was about the same this FY as last) but we were able to save on a supplier here, get a little more money there, and basically pay up back bills. That is counted as profit!! So even though we have no more money in the bank, we have to come up with roughly $10,000 in cash to pay the tax burden because we lowered our debts. It would make more sense from a tax perspective to buy goods from the next FY and backdate the due date on the bills to the current FY, thereby lowering our 'profit'. Repeat ad nauseum.

    While I disagree with the idea of taxing corporate profits, I understand that that is how we do things in the US. Fine. But let's use a real world definition of profit, not some BS invented by lawyers and accountants. Let's call profit either the money in the bank and/or money paid to the stockholders in the form of dividends (Yeah, I know that these are also taxed, but why add in the stupidity of my lower accounts payable?)

    What a crock of shit. This stuff really chaps my ass. Sure, maybe it is 'fair', and maybe it provides one less loophole for GM, M$, etc., but what about the small businesses who don't have the money for the accountants and are are not abusing the system? Last time I checked, the vast majority of job growth in the US in the current financial expansion has been as a result not of M$, GM, and other Fortune 500's, but of all the mom and pops out there (yeah, we are a little bigger than that, but we are certainly far from the Fortune 500, and are in an industry with very narrow profit margins).

    (BTW, I can't complain about the IRS but so much. My father-in-law is an agent, and is actually a decent guy (for an in-law:). FWIW, he complains quite a bit about the tax system as well. It really doesn't seem as though the agents and the agency are especially fond of the system. At least not as much as the pols who set it up.)
  • Why not just go to a flat tax? We need a government for plenty of things: education, national defense, laws and law enforcement, etc. Just look at Niven's "Cloak of Anarchy" for an idea of the simple things we rely on from our government.

    Steve Forbes has one proposal out there. There was also the Armey-Shelby [house.gov] plan. The idea is that it subtracts a constant from your income, then takes a percentage. For most plans, it is designed to virtually eliminate the median family's taxes. The effect is that the percentage tax you pay is a rising, continuous function of your income. You can play with the percentage and constants to make the tax harder on the rich or poor, or to raise or lower total revenue gathered.

    The point of that system is no loopholes for anyone. Politicians can't use the system to manipulate people, only to raise revenue. There are only two or three numbers to argue over, so everyone understands the debate pretty well. Also, you don't have the government differentiating between groups-- so you have one set of rules for everyone.

    I think Armey-Shelby is phased in over a few years, during which you can choose which system you pay with.

  • All this gets me to thinking, why doesn't the IRS offer the forms in XML or some standard format? The already write instructions and forms in english, how hard would it be for them to hire a few programmers to convert the forms into XML. Then open source and commercial programs can use the same set of data from which to produce their app.
  • An interesting assesment.
    And in a way, right.

    The 'fairness' I'm talking about is that which would eliminate loopholes in the law.

    True fairness in taxes would be for citizens to pay for services they receive. For example: I drive to work, so I would pay for road maintenence service. Everyone pays for the service that the armed forces provide in terms of national protection... etc etc.

    Of course this invokes a knee jerk reaction from most people claiming that it's not fair. The reason for that is simple.

    The 'fairness' that most people talk about is that the rich should pay more in taxes than the poor do.

    How is that fair?

    In terms of services provided, I would argue that the poor get far more value from government ( in terms of value received vs. taxes paid ) than the rich or middle class do.

    Why should people who succeed be penalized? Why should I be forced into making charitable donations to various government programs? By making those with more money pay more than those with less money, we are rewarding those who do not work as hard, and punishing those who do.

    *That* is backwards.

    By using a tax system where people pay for the services that they truly receive, and where people have the *option* of giving charitable donations to government ( or private! ) programs, we eliminate the immoral extortion of money from those that have succeeded financially.

    Of course this is considered to be *really* radical, so as a compromise I usually promote the flat sales tax system. There those still pay more for the same service, but it's less blatant, and less open to corruption than the progressive tax we have now.

    It boils down to the fact that I don't blindly accept the assumption that people with more money should pay more than people with less money for the same service.

    To the extent possible, we treat governments as we would buisnesses. When taxes are raised, ask 'Where is the increase in value that I will receive?' or 'Wouldn't this be better handled privately?'

    Then again, some think I'm completely insane.
    ebw
  • Looks like they finally fixed it. The flash pages work just fine under Linux (with the right plugin of course). ;-)
  • I just ran through the tax estimator at the web site. Seemed fine to me. I also did my taxes online last year. I will be sorely dissapointed if I am unable to do them again this year.
  • There are plenty of practical reasons why installing Windows to get more full-featured software is not worth it. First of all, you need to buy a copy of Windows. That's, what, like $100 bucks now? It will probably continue to get more expensive in the future, as Microsoft continues its price squeeze. Then there's the opportunity cost of re-partitioning your hard drive, installing Windows, re-installing Linux, and restoring all your files from backups. If you don't want to go through that hassle, you can buy a hard drive, but that costs money, too. Then you need to pay for the tax software. Finally, you have to deal with the everyday maintenance of Windows, defragging your hard drive, rebooting when it crashes and probably losing data from the tax program, et cetera.

    In short, the total cost in time and money is probably higher than the benefit you get from the more full-featured application.

    Despite what Microsoft wants you to think, the total cost of ownership of Windows can easily become higher than that of Linux.

    Cheers,

    Vovida, OS VoIP
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • by afeman (50192)
    For a second there I though the subject was whether to tax linux software!
  • Right on!
    I easily make my fees to the accountant up in what he saved me last year, and I bought a new pc :)

    If it's not that big of an expense,just fork out the money. But find a good one first, that's the important bit.
  • ...is very complex.

    I work for a company that produces tax (and accounting) software for practicing accountants (Not schmucks like us). And we employ HUNDREDS of programmers, HUNDREDS of CPAs, and all the rest of the people who go into making software a "product". (caveat: we also do 1065s, 1120s, and a whole boatload of smaller entity types).

    On top of the need for vast amounts of (relatively low skilled) programmer hours, most of all the calculation work is simply "not fun". You certainly would never want to code it to challenge yourself. Tax calculation also is very fragmented from state to state, and it is very difficult to share code across state functional units. This is not to say that you don't need highly skilled "architects" to bring things together into a common platform, or deal with things like state to state transfers, etc.

    And when you're all done. Get ready to do it again next year.

    All that said, you could make the project a lot easier by eliminating states, removing things like passive calculations, at risk limitations, AMT, etc. But at that point, I would recommend just pringing the forms out (they are available in PDF format from the various taxing authorities), and filling them out yourself.

    I guess the main thing I am getting at is that the problem that is being solved doesn't lend itself to the open source design philosophy.
  • I've been using Quicktax with WINE for years now and have always gotten a large return.

    Seriously though, everything works nicely. The only problem I had was printing since I don't own a printer. So I saved the file, emailed it to my mom (she got a printer:) and printed my return from there.

  • It's more frequently than that. I used to work for a place whose contracts administrator was a CPA that did tax work on the side. The IRS sent him a BOX (not some measly little envelope) of changes to the tax code at least every quarter. This amounted to, usually, hundreds of pages that he had to replace in his tax manuals. (And I used to complain about the 1-2 dozen pages of corrections to the DEC manuals that I'd get from time to time.)

    I'd truly hate to be writing tax software. Talk about trying to hit a moving target.

  • A good part of this discussion reminds me of that "Time Magazine/Amazon.com" issue discussed a few days ago. The average understanding was that journalists are in general pretty ignorant on tech matters. Fair, you were in your element, they weren't.

    Now I see lots of people posting their views on how a tax system should work. While I support free speech, I must point out that:
    • This is way off topic, the guy is asking about what software is available for Linux.

      Most opinions on taxation (calling for regressive consumption-based taxes) seem to be as well informed as the average CNN reporter's on how to configure a firewall.

    For those of you interested in what are the goals and consequences of a tax system, I suggest this book [barnesandnoble.com]. There are a many others, but this one is not U.S. intensive.

    As for the guy asking about what software there would be, I don't know of any, but I strongly advice him not to rely on anything that is not liable, it may not be worth the savings.


    -------------------------

  • Last year, I used the Siag spreadsheet from the free Siag Office suite [stockholm.se] to prepare my taxes on my NetBSD machine. I coded Form 1040 and Schedule A. It was't too hard. Write to me if you want a copy to use at your own risk.
  • We also pay for trash pickup.

    Then again, so do people in every other country, it's just that trash pickup isn't buried where you can't see what you're paying here. You still can't really tell whether you're getting the shaft on health care, because with insurance, the stated cost of having a doctor take your blood pressure is more than the yearly cost of the health insurance, so who knows what it would cost without all the regulation.
  • Two years ago, Intuit's TurboTax wouldn't run under Windows NT4.0 -- you know, the OS that has enough password protection to keep even MY kids out of my records? I can't imagine what UI feature they were trying to make use of that tied them to Win95, or what QA process let it out without the ability to run under NT and import data from Quicken.

    So, if it was that messed up (last year was better), I could see it being a problem to port to any other OS or toolkit.
  • Yes I have begun work on a tax project called LeTax. It has a homepage [letax.org] of course. At this point is is mostly bluster and posturing. However, I recommend anyone interested in this project start by reading IRS publication 17 [irs.gov] available at also in PDF form from http://www.irs.gov/

    Tax code is a maze of twisty passages, all alike. Developing this software is some of the most unfun programming I have ever done. Others are correct in pointing out that this is a huge task. However, I especially like the way that tax software code can reverse-engineer the legal system. Please read the homepage if you want to hear my rants. In a more perfect world, the IRS would be spending its resources developing this kind of software; instead they post the Tax Tables as GIFs. Feh.

    I am continuing to work on this project and would greatly appreciate additional developer support. Please contact me if you are interested at coordinator@letax.org

    In any case, do not play on using LeTax for the '99 tax year!

    Jeff

  • Offshore bank accounts?? LOL. What are you, a drug dealer?
  • I think the previous poster was correct in saying that the rich do buy more goods. Not only more, but more expensive goods which would therefore increase the amount of sales tax they would pay. Think of all the expensive cars rich people own and would have to pay sales tax on. Imagine what Bill Gates had to pay in sales tax on his 45m mansion; if he paid it at all...
  • Jerry explained that to write tax software and get it approved each year for all states and for the fed'rul boys would be a syssiphisian (sorry, sp.) task.

    He's right!

    This is a good reason to be in favor of massive, radical revision of the tax code -- that is, the fact that it is so complicated that converting it to an electronic form is impossible without such a huge team.

    Some magazine (Fortune? Money? Forbes) used to show each year how even tax *professionals* don't understand (or, nicer, "have different interpretations of") the tax code they deal with for a living. They would send identical (hypothetical) tax informtion, like income, investments, capitcal gains, various deductions, marital status, etc., and get wildy different results in some cases from their various test-cases.

    I read an interesting book a little while ago, the title of which I think was "Why we must abolish the Income Tax and the IRS." The proposal in this book (which I agree with, as I have not seen any better ideas) was for a national sales tax. I like this idea as it is egalitarian (earn more, spend more, pay more tax; earn less, spend less, pay less tax) and encourages investment rather than short-term purchases. I don't want to get into a discussion of what sort of taxes are fairest, as that's sort of like what sort of cancer is nicest to die from, but

    I think most Americans and most people in other places in the world too would agree that taxes are ... ahem! ... not as fair or simple as they ought to be.

    So that's it ...

    timothy

  • I would argue that the poor get far more value from government ( in terms of value received vs. taxes paid ) than the rich or middle class do.
    Horse hockey.

    The rich stay rich because government guns protect their stuff.

    The rich (generally) get rich through creating or investing in government-chartered corporations (and many of the most profitable of these corporations rake in hauge contracts or other forms of welfare from the government), or through government-created ownership of land, natural resources, and "intellectual property" (patents and copyrights).

  • It's in the government's best interest to design and create the software which determines how much revenue it will collect. That the IRS has not already done so is beyond the comprehension ...bloop... of my tiny ...bloop... fish-brain. The revenues ...glug... at stake are ...bloop... enormous.
    If I were Joe Legislator, I'd pass a law to do the following things...


    And if I were Joe Consumer, I would stay far, far away from any software designed by the same organization that rewards their auditors based on the number of seizures performed. Think about it: the irs exists to maximuze the amount of revenue collected. It would be pretty convenient if their software happened to 'overlook' some large deductions. I guess "fish-brains" aren't good for much...
  • Stud Zeppelin wrote with some info about states' tax policies, specifically about those with no income tax or a very simple one (RI).

    Add Tennesee to that list of states without a state income tax. THe current governor, who ran on a "No State Income Tax" platform, is not all-a-sudden enlightened otherwise, and is fighting for one in that state, which (to my pleasure) appears to be harming his political health. I think there is some property tax, or maybe it's on interest, but it's not an income tax ...

    (My dad lives there, I don't, but this info gathered from a road trip through Tennesee several weeks ago.)

    timothy
  • As long as you pick a mature baseline, say 4.08 or higher, or even better 4.51 or higher, making an app targeted to Netscape with HTML, its limited HTML extensions, Java and Javascript is going to need little if any work to run properly across all platforms.. Aged and anemic as the Netscape 4.x series is these days, it's admirably consistent across platforms. You have to push it to its limits and do some obscure things to run into a feature that doesn't work the same between Win32, MacOS and *nix.

    Internet Explorer, on the other hand, is full of nifty functionality, but there are major points of divergence between the feature sets and behavior of the Win32, MacOS, and commercial-Unix versions of IE. It should be mentioned that the Solaris/HP-UX version of IE is more closely related to the Win32 version than the Mac version. For all intents and purposes, the Mac IE, while a nice browser, is a product unrelated to the WIndows browser of the same name.
  • Now, that's an interesting point! I wonder if that would work. I'm almost tempted to install Windows just to find out. Nah, then the government would have to give money to Microsoft. ;)

    This reminds me of something I read on the GNU site. Under their list of ways you can help the FSF, they mention making tax-free donations. Because the FSF is part of the United Way, you can get many employers to donate matching funds if you "give at the office". The page added (paraphrased), "We especially appreciate matching funds from Microsoft employees." ;)

    Vovida, OS VoIP
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • Aaaaw, it hardly needs saying, but I'll say it anyway. In the case of health care, you only pay for it (through taxes) if you can afford to. If you're penniless, other people fund your healthcare through income tax. That, to me, is fair.

    It's even more fair in the case of rubbish collection, since your neighbour might decide they'd rather let the rubbish mount up in the street. Pay for it through taxes, and becoming a public nuicance in this way suddenly becomes less tempting.

    There are unfair ways to tax, but I don't think income tax is one of them. I choose to live in a country with a (admittedly crumbling) National Health Service (I don't believe many countries would deny me a work permit if I chose to move) and I opt out of my employer's private medicine plan, because I feel it is a small token of support for the NHS infrastructure (the more people have health insurance, the more statistics politicians have to support cutting NHS funds).

    What alternative way do we have of supporting the less fortunate (because fortune has a great part to play -- I despise the "if they're poor they should buck up and earn themselves some money" rhetoric) ? Charity? I say no. I say the state has a duty to protect every citizen.

    BTW we're talking about a closed(ish) system. You do appreciate that growth in one place is accompanied by depression elsewhere? The "free market" is what encourages companies to pay Mexian orphans to stitch footballs for pennies a day.
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  • The thing is, they can't really guarantee it. They can "guarantee" that their program is written correctly and will produce the correct results, but they have to work under the assumption that the operating system itself is working correctly.

    We all remember the Pentium math errors of quite a while back. Who's to say that the OS will fail to add numbers correctly in a certain situation? What if you run their program under a heavily hacked copy of 'wine' and it ends up spitting out negative numbers erroneously? No software manufacturer can guarantee against these types of unknowns, so no software maker will guarantee that their product functions correctly.

If you think the system is working, ask someone who's waiting for a prompt.

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