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March 06, 1992 - Image 55

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-03-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BUSINESS

For do-it-yourselfers come tax time,
MacinTax and TurboTax can alleviate
some headaches.

Software
Can Make
A Hard Job
Easier

TothoTa...e Persce
Vervon 9 0 . Fe
Ficsa

Toe'DoTez
Veessor:
• F,slat.Ee.

Tax returns can be less taxing with
the help of your personal computer.

JAY LECHTMAN

Special to The Jewish News

M

ore than 50 percent
of Americans file
their own federal
tax returns, says the Inter-
nal Revenue Service, es-
chewing accountants and
paid tax preparers to go
through the annual agony at
home.
But that doesn't mean
they're not looking for a lit-
tle help.
In 1992, more than a mil-
lion of them are expected
to turn to their home com-
puters, and to a wide array of
tax packages — a big increase
over previous years — say
computer software industry
sources.

.

At its best, tax prep soft-
ware can be a big boon — a
time- and money-saving aid
for the homeowner and small
businessperson.
They can organize the
most scattered shoeboxes of
receipts, telling you exactly
where on a form the infor-
mation should go, and even
which forms you will need.
(Most, ranging from around
$50 to more than $250, carry
all but the most exotic fed-
eral forms and many offer a
growing range of state tax
returns as well, for an extra
charge.)
All do the tedious job of
calculating taxes and totals,
and they can transfer num-
bers from one part of a form
to another, or even to other
forms, saving you from the

repetitive and often mis-
take-inducing task of reco-
pying figures.
And if you use one of
many popular spreadsheets
or other financial programs
to track monthly home or
business expenses, you can
transfer the information —
be it income, deductions,
whatever — directly into
most of the available tax
programs without printing
and retyping.
At their worst, their
cheery manuals and easy
question-and-answer ses-
sions can lull you into a false
sense of security, providing
little information or, even

worse — the wrong advice —
if you're not well-versed in
current tax law.
And they don't handle
special or extremely com-
plex situations very well:
(Using one of the popular
tax programs for the Macin-
tosh computer last year, I
couldn't find a way on the
state income tax form to
explain to the state treas-
urer about my mid-year
move from California. I end-
ed up overestimating my re-
fund by, gulp, several hun-
dred dollars.)
Beyond general features
they share, there are many
individual strengths and
weaknesses in the various
offerings out there.
Some come with comfor-
ting,
financial-friendly

names like J.K. Lasser and
Andrew Tobias. Others, like
TurboTax, hint at the new-
found speed with which you
will tear through your 1040.
Two of the most popular
programs for the most popu-
lar PCs — IBMs and com-
patibles and the Apple
Macintosh — are made by
the same company, San
Diego-based Chipsoft, Inc.
The two offerings, Tur-
boTax and MacinTax, are
designed with the relative
novice in mind. It can al-
most play accountant for
you, asking you questions
about your financial situa-
tion and then suggesting
which forms you will need to
fill out.

• Both provide a "logical next
step" function, to lead

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

55

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