My wife is the one who does our income tax returns every year (God bless her!). It usually takes her about an hour or so and it’s done. Up through 2011 she’d been using TurboTax on our ancient G4 Power PC Mac that I bought in 2002.
Since then I put the old Mac in storage (the kids had been using it) and replaced it with a not-as-old computer running Linux. When this January rolled around I was wondering what we should use to prepare our taxes. The Mac uses OS 10.4, which is too old for the new 2012 edition of TurboTax to run on. Unfortunately, TurboTax still does not offer a Linux version of their software. And since we use Linux-based operating systems for everything else, I wanted to find a Linux tax return application that would be comparable to TurboTax.
This proved to be a much more difficult task than I would have imagined!
The first alternative application that was recommended to me was Open Tax Solver. The website was updated January 7th of this year and states that the new tax forms aren’t ready yet , and that the new version of the software for this year should be available by the last week of January. However, as of this writing there is still no new version to download.
Another thought I had was installing WINE or VirtualBox and running a Windows version of TurboTax in Linux. But that seemed overly complicated and I haven’t used emulation software because I’ve never had any need to run Windows or Mac software. There had to be a better option!
The other application that seemed like the best Linux alternative is TaxACT, which can be installed to your computer and has Linux, Mac and Windows versions. However, for some reason I was a little hesitant to try it since my wife is used to using TurboTax. Now, TurboTax, like H&R Block and other Tax preparation sites, has the option to file your returns online. This did not initially seem like a wise thing to do. But the more I searched about online, the more I discovered that the majority of Americans seem to be filing online these days.
I did more searching which led me to Ubuntu and other Linux forums, and it seems like most Linux users are doing it on the web! When going to the TurboTax website, the documentation says you need a web browser running in a Windows or Mac environment, but this is not exactly accurate. I found THIS page from the TurboTax forum. Click on the link in that article and it takes you to the webpage that will allow most users to access TurboTax online with a Linux operating system. If that doesn’t work for you, there is also a User Agent Switcher extension for Firefox and Chrome/Chromium that makes a website think you’re using a Windows or Mac browser.
Why Linux-based web browsers are blocked from some sites to begin with really pisses me off, but that’s a discussion for a different place!
But I finally got the TurboTax website to let us log in and my wife had our returns done in no time! It certainly is easy to do your taxes online. I hope time will tell that it’s also safe enough, considering how many people are doing it these days.