Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
tax man cometh... and here comes the Taxman
by Alan German
time of year. Once again, you have to dig out all those
slips and receipts, spread out a raft of paper forms over
the kitchen table, sharpen your pencil, and dig into the
preparation of your tax return. Well, of course, nobody
actually uses pencil and paper any more do they?
everyone uses the computer. But, it still irks to
have to pay out good money for a commercial tax package
just so you can send even more of your hard earned cash
to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Of course, you could create your own tax forms in a
spreadsheet program. But, it turns out that you can never
use the same spreadsheet twice. CRA, in their wisdom,
change the tax structure every year, not only modifying
things like the levels of taxable income (which can be
efficiently dealt with using specific cells for data
input in the spreadsheet, and appropriate although
mind-blowingly complex formulae), but also changing the
way in which some tax items are calculated. Now, if you
only do one or two tax returns, typically yours and that
of your spouse, it can take much longer to re-program the
spreadsheet to handle the new structure of a tax item
than to calculate the amount payable manually. And, you
can guarantee, that there won't be just one such change
in any given year!
So, rolling out your own tax
program isn't a particularly appealing option. But,
neither is shelling out more and more dollars each year
for a commercial program that offers less and less in the
way of functionality. There's a reason for those 29
versions of your favourite tax software package
it's to separate you from more of your cash just so that
you can complete the number of returns that you require!
So, is there
any help available in the form of freeware? Well, yes,
there is. You need Taxman a Canadian specific tax
program developed by G. Thompson of Victoria, BC.
program's author states I make a humble living
using my own software (since 1995) to knock out T1
General tax returns for Canadian residents. Using my own
customers as guinea pigs, I've tested and bulletproofed
and souped up this baby to the point where now she's just
wasted on the likes of me. For some strange reason I like
writing software, and so I've now got 28,000 lines of
code buried in over 80 forms, and every time-saving trick
I can think of. Maybe you can use a tool like this?
Now, one limitation is that Taxman doesn't support net
filing, so you have to print out and mail in the
completed forms. But, if you don't use Netfile, the
program offers a simple yet powerful mechanism to
complete your tax return. There is no limit to the number
of returns that you can produce and you can easily link
your return to that of your spouse to facilitate various
forms of revenue sharing. And, best of all, it really is
completely free. The author has a tongue-in-cheek
indication that he will (if forced) accept donations but
promises ...to spend the money only on Scotch and
At the time of writing (January, 2009), only a
preliminary version of the program is available for
downloading from the web, and this in the form of an
update to an existing version. So, if you are a first
time user, you will need to download the full package
from a previous year and then add on the update for the
2008 tax year. I would recommend that you first install
Taxman2007 Version 1.6 (if you run Vista, you will need
this version anyway) and then add in the latest update
for 2008 (currently Taxman2008 Upgrade Version 1.2).
Once you have the program
installed, and run the application for the first time,
it's necessary to establish an entry for a tax payer
using the menu item Records New Person/Record. The
data entry form requires the information that goes on
page 1 of the T1 General form, i.e. name, address, social
insurance number, etc.
Now, you can
use the Open T1 General tab to provide access to a set of
electronic forms, with pages 1 through 4 of the T1
General form, plus the associated schedules and
supplementary forms. The nice feature is that, while
these look just like the paper forms, you enter data into
the appropriate fields and the program takes care of all
the maths! There are also automatic controls on the data
that can be entered, and error checking, in order to
avoid erroneous entries. Another fail-safe feature is
that Taxman won't let you hit the big red X to exit from
the program. You must use the Quit Taxman menu item to
ensure that any changes you have made to the system are
saved before exiting.
Eventually, when you have
completed all of the data entry, the bottom line on page
4 of your T1 General form will tell you the good news
about your tax refund or the bad news about the
amount payable (boo, hiss!)
that's left to do is to print out the forms, put them in
an envelope, add a stamp, mail in your completed tax
return and wait for the postman to deliver your
refund to spend on scotch and cigars!
G. Thompson, Victoria, BC
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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON K2G 1S6
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