How to Use OTS:

You can use OTS either from the Graphical User Interface (OTS_GUI), or directly from your command-line in text-mode. This page covers using the graphical method. (Advanced users may refer to Command-Line Usage.)

To use OTS from the GUI, invoke Run_taxsolve_GUI in the top level directory.

The GUI is fairly self-explanatory:

  1. Select a tax program and form-data file (template),
  2. Fill-out the fields,
  3. Save the file to a meaningful name (example "mytaxes.txt"),
  4. Click Compute Taxes,
  5. Print your taxes, and view the filled-in forms.

On the front panel, you first select the form to do, such as Federal-1040, or a State form. Then you click either the Start New Return button or the Open Saved Form button, depending on whether you want to start with a new fresh clean blank form, or to open a form you had previously started making entries on and had saved. (You can also use the Open Saved Form button to look at previously saved working examples that are provided with OTS.)

For first-time users, it is often helpful to check out the examples that come with the package. To open an example, click the Open a Saved Form button, and select the file with the word example in it. This will open the form with example values in the fields. You can then press the Compute button to see the results, and then the Print button to automatically fill-in & view the PDF form with the tax answers. This should give you confidence that the package works properly on your computer. Click the Exit button to exit-out. Re-start by clicking Run_taxsolve_GUI. You will follow the same process when you fill-out your own values.

To begin entering your tax information, first select a form, and then click the Start New Return button. Then select the file with the word template in it, and press OK. (Template means it is a blank form. It has all the line numbers and prompts for the selected form, but all fields are blank for you to fill in.) You will then see the form-pages open up, with text-entry boxes and comments explaining what to enter on each line. Each line is also labeled according to the line number of the form you are doing. For example, line 7 of the the 1040 form is labeled L7. Just enter your numbers on the corresponding lines. Usually many lines will not apply to you. So just leave them blank. If you have any questions about what to enter, consult the instruction booklet corresponding to the form, provided by the respective government. (Instruction booklets can always be found on the Official Forms page.)

For some tax-lines you may have multiple numbers to add into a line. With OTS, you do not need to add them yourself. OTS will add them for you. For example, Line-8 of the Federal form is Interest. If you have multiple bank accounts, you will get 1099-Int's receipts for each account. All the interest numbers must be totaled onto Line-8. You should enter each value separately by pressing the "+" button under a given line. It opens a new entry box for that line. When you later press the Compute button, OTS will add all those entries together and will write the sum on Line-7 of the output form.

You do not need to make all your entries at once. You can save your data, and re-open the file at a later time to complete it. (All your entered data is saved in a simple text file, which you can re-open in the GUI.) After you have filled-in all the lines that apply to you, save your data to a file by clicking the Save button at the bottom left of the window. A file-browser will pop up. Choose a name that is meaningful to you, like my-2017-taxes.txt or whatever (but not template of course). A filled-in form is no longer a template. Then you can always re-open the form again.

After saving your data, click the Compute button to calculate your taxes. In a second or two, you should see a window pop up with results. If everything went well, the window will show all your tax answers. It will also show additional information, like your Refund or Amount Due, tax bracket, effective tax rate, intermediate worksheet calculations, how close you came to penalties, or losing deductions, whether it was best to itemize or take the standard deduction, etc.. Otherwise, if there was an error, you will see an error-message in the window. You will need to go back and fix it, then re-Save, and re-Compute. See How to Fix Error for more information.

If there were no errors, your next step is to print the forms. Click the Print button. You can then choose to print the input file with all your entries on it, and or the output file, which contains all the results for each line of the government tax form, as well as intermediate worksheet calculations. I generally print and keep both. If supported for your the form you are doing, there will also be option an for PDF Auto-Fillout. This will produce a copy of the official government form with all your numbers filled-in on the proper form lines. You should check over this form. There usually are a few additional things for you to fill-out, or check-off, manually, which are presently beyond what OTS handles, such as signing your name.

General Advice:
The Federal form has a field for State taxes paid. So if your State has income tax, you would normally solve your State Taxes first. Then copy the Total State-Tax number to your Federal form, and solve your Federal Taxes second. (That is, (1) Run State-tax first, then (2) Federal-tax second.)

However, the NY, NC and CA forms have a line to read input from your Federal return output file. This means that you must do a 3-step process if you live in one of these states: (1) Preliminarly run your Federal return, (2) Run your State return with the Fed-line pointed to the output file, and then copy your total State-Tax to your Federal return, (3) Run your Federal return a final time with the updated State-tax number in it.

The US Fed 1040, version includes the Schedule-A for itemized deductions, Schedule-B for interest, and Schedule-D for capital gains calculations, as well as the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) worksheet calculations. Schedule-C for business taxes, is also provided as a separate program. Versions for several State Income Taxes are also included. As other forms or states are contributed, they will be posted.

In actual usage, doing taxes is an iterative process. For example, you begin receiving tax receipts (1099-Int's, 1099-Div's, W2's, K-1's, etc.) in mid-February through late March. You might begin entering them into OTS as they come in the mail - to avoid a panicky late night in mid-April. As you enter your data, you might click the Compute button to see what your situation is so far, based on the data you have entered. Often after you think you have entered everything, and have printed your "final" forms, you end up finding one more receipt, or you see an entry error or other mistake. So with OTS, you simply open the form up again, enter or fix the number, then re-Compute and re-Print your forms.

Other situations include when you have various options, such as whether to contribute to an IRA, how much, whether to take a capital gain or loss in a given year, or various other choices about how to file. You can explore the implications of each case, by trying it and re-Computing. You can save each case to a separately named file, so that you can return to them, if needed.

Capital Gains Entries - Federal 1040:
For the US Federal 1040, Capital Gains/Losses are Recorded as:

	buy_cost	date
	sale_value	date
Date is mm-dd-yy, where mm is the two-digit month, dd is the day, and yy is the last two digits of the year. (Yes, this is Y2K proof.)

Example:

        -3658.22        12-15-99        { 100 Shares XOM }
         4209.95         1-25-02
The dates are required to apply the proper short-term or long-term capital gains rates on Federal taxes, but are not required for State tax forms.

Capital Gains Entries - State Forms:
For the State Tax forms that require capital gains details, just enter the buy_cost, and sale_amount, with no dates. The form-comments and GUI will prompt you accordingly. Dates are not required, since the states do not distinguish long-term gains.





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