Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: For the US Federal Returns, does OTS do the 1040-EZ, 1040-A, or regular 1040, or any of them according to my situation ?
    A: The EZ and A versions are just subsets of the regular 1040, which is the super-set of all of them. Therefore, OTS does the regular 1040 -- also called the "Long Form" for obvious reasons. So the regular 1040, and hence OTS, can be used by everyone regardless of your situation.

  • Q: I downloaded the OpenTaxSolver2010_8.03.tgz release, but then I noticed that within the US1040.c program, the variable "thisversion = 8.01". Shouldn't it be set to 8.03 ?
    A: The version numbers of the overall release may differ from the version number on an individual tax program. At the beginning of the year, they all start out the same. Each time a change is made in a given program, its number gets incremented. And each time there is a new package released, the package number gets incremented. But the version numbers of the contained programs which did not change, do not get incremented on each release. For 2010, there was one change for the federal program, and two other releases fixed changes in state programs, but the US1040.c program held stable -- explaining why its version number is lower than the package version.

  • Q: From within the OTS GUI, I see how to add a new entry for a given line. But how do I remove an entry line that I no longer need ?
    A: There are several ways: You could simply delete any value in the box, and leave it blank. You do not need to do anything else. If you don't like seeing the empty box, then just save and re-open the file. It will be gone. Another way would be to open the file in a text editor and delete it. (If editing the file on your own, then be careful not to delete the ";" which terminates the entries for a given line.)

    We may add more functions like this to the GUI in the future, if really needed.

  • Q: Does OTS do E-filing ?
    A: No. Not yet anyway. Just print your forms, sign them, and mail them in.

  • Q: I volunteer for a group in an urban community that helps residents do their taxes on Saturday afternoons. We had tried to use some commercial tax software, but the license restricted it to only personal use, unless we purchased more expensive professional versions. Is it OK for us to use OTS to do many people's returns ?
    A: Yes. You may use OTS to do any number of returns - quickly!

  • Q: Can I use OTS to do quick "what-if's" throughout the year ? For example, I would like to understand the tax consequences of selling some mutual funds, working extra hours, or deferring income in a 401K or IRA ?
    A: Yes. You can enter tentative values in any of the lines, save to a file name that reflects your experiment, like "1040_more_hours.txt". Run the solver and compare your taxes before and after. Even better, you could write a script that sweeps certain values, such as income or capital gains or loses, and runs the solver on each case. Then you can plot the results. (You probably cannot do that very easily, if at all, with any of the commercial packages.) You may find that your tax situation is rather non-linear. It helps to be aware of the inflection points during the year, while you can still do something about it.

  • Q: Why is OTS so much quicker and easier to use than [commercial tax product] ?
    A: Commercial packages tend to default to the interview-method, which asks for numbers in its own sequence. This forces you to shuffle through all your paperwork to find a given number - repeatedly - over and over again. In contrast, with OTS's direct-entry method, you go through your paperwork once. For each tax receipt (W2, 1098, 1099, etc.), you just click on a line and enter the number directly. That's it. You're done.
    Alternatively, with OTS you could quickly enter numbers as your tax receipts arrive through February and March. Then you do not need to find the receipts and enter them all at once. But this would be awkward for interview programs, because you would need to keep going through all the interview pages, just to enter a number each day you receive a receipt.
    Interview-method is good for the first year of people who have never done their taxes before. But since most people do taxes for several decades, that is not many people.

  • Q: How secure is OTS ?
    A: Well compared to commercial packages, all of OTS's code is open, which means you can view it and compile it yourself. And you can be assured that a community of others have done this. In comparison with closed-commercial software, you have no way of reviewing what they do with your data. (Are they storing it in a vulnerable way or place where hackers could exploit it ? Are they sending your data to a cloud or their company site for any reason ?) Unfortunately, it is well known that industry's record of protecting your data has not been stellar - to put it mildly.

    OTS does not do any web transactions, or phone home, like commercial packages do. All your data stays on your machine. (In a place where only you can access, delete or encrypt it.) Also, you do not need to enter personally identifiable information into OTS, such as your name, address, Social Security numbers, birth dates, bank accounts, etc., like other packages force you to do. --- Therefore you are not relying on strangers to protect your valuable personal information.

  • Q: I am unable to Save my form. Or: I get an error message when I try to save my form ?
    A: It could be either the file name you picked, or one of the folder names above the folder you are trying to write to, has disallowed characters in it. Generally punctuation characters, except for . and _ will cause problems in folder- or file- names. Check in the OTS log window for the full path of file name it is trying to write to. You may see that OTS has attempted to replace a special character with an underscore, making it no longer match the actual path. A quick remedy is to create a new folder near the top-level, such as C:\MyTaxes and save your file there. Generally, characters to avoid in file and folder names are: *, &, !, #, $, /, \, ", %, ?, =, (, ), [, ], <, >, :, ;, and ~. Best to stick with letters, numbers, . or _ in file and folder names.

  • Q: How to edit, adjust, or add other entries to the generated PDF files ?
    A: You can open the PDF files in LibreOffice Draw. (On many Linux platforms LibreOffice is already installed by default. On Mac or MS-Windows, you can get Libre-Draw for free from the above link, if you do not already have it.)

    You just need to make sure you are opening the PDF document using LibreOffice's Draw application. After you make any edits, you can save or print the file.

  • Q: I think this is a worthy effort. Can I help ?
    A: Yes, we always need volunteers. Email, and please state your skills and preferences. In the beginning of each year, we need coders to update each of the form programs. Shortly after that, we need volunteers to check all the updates. We split the work by assigning a given form to a subset of the checkers. So each person focuses on a single form or two. Checking is probably the most important part, and can be done by almost anyone, regardless of experience. It is also a good way to learn about programming, if you are interested. You simply compare the lines of code with what the given tax booklet says - add, subtract, etc..

    Also, even non-technical uses can help by visiting the fund-drive recently started under Please-Fund-Us to support continued updates and improvements at: Please-Fund-US Virtually no donation amount is too small. But every bit will help.

    The other way everyone can help, if you like OTS, then tell people about it. Like us on Face-Book, write articles or mention OTS in discussion groups, and vote for our You-Tube videos. We need help getting the word out.

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