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March 06, 1992 - Image 55

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

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


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

Can Make
A Hard Job

TothoTa...e Persce
Vervon 9 0 . Fe

• F,slat.Ee.

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


Special to The Jewish News


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
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


At its best, tax prep soft-
ware can be a big boon — a
time- and money-saving aid
for the homeowner and small
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
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-

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



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