April 2, 2008
Of the two inevitabilities in life, Linux can't do much about death. Can it do anything to help you with your taxes?Until recently, the answer generally was no: Most desktop tax-preparation packages are compatible only with Windows and (more recently) Mac systems. As a recent Linux.com article points out, however, this is beginning to change:
"Filling out tax returns has traditionally been an area where Linux comes up short compared to the proprietary platforms, but you actually have several options for using commercial income tax products on a Linux platform. Here's a quick look at three commercial tax offerings I found that work just fine using Ubuntu 7.10 and Firefox 220.127.116.11, even though two of the three vendors warn Linux users they are not supported. Translation: Don't look for vendor help if you run into problems."
The three tax-preparation packages reviewed in the article -- H&R Block's Tango, TurboTax Deluxe, and TaxAct -- are all available as online, browser-based applications. While many users are getting more comfortable with online apps that handle sensitive financial data of this sort, many others are still wary of this approach. The reviewer, however, also ran the Windows desktop version of TaxAct on a Linux system, using Wine, which apparently worked just fine.
If your company, like most, retains an accountant or uses a third-party tax preparation service, then of course this isn't an issue for you anyway. Many smaller SOHO-based businesses, however, file their own tax returns -- and it is clear that if you use desktop Linux in your small business, you still don't have the same tax-prep software options that are available to Windows and Mac users. Fortunately, as this review article shows, the situation is improving. As online tax-prep services become more popular, and as OS virtualization/emulation technology gets easier to use, doing your taxes on a desktop Linux system -- using whatever software you want to use -- could become just as easy as doing your taxes on Windows or MacOS. Now, if we can just find some software that makes us live longer, instead of giving us all heart attacks from time to time.
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