Do Not Use TurboTax

Here is a little encouragement for tax season for those who would rather not support TurboTax's (Intuit) monopoly any further.

Using LibreCalc to do my Taxes.

I chose not to use Turbo Tax this year, because they (Intuit) use their
profits to lobby against free and simple tax services --
https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-maker-of-turbotax-fought-free-simple-tax-filing

Yeah, so I looked at last year's taxes and made an intricate spreadsheet
with LibreOffice to do the math for me. Now I have a spreadsheet I can
use for my taxes from year to year. :)

What made me do this?

  1. Turbo Tax is proprietary software, which puts its company in control of your computing. As you will read below, last year I avoided using TurboTax by using TaxSimple instead (also proprietary). To be honest I was tempted to use it again this year, but the company that provided TaxSimple went out of business and therefore its software is no longer under development. (read more in the letter below)
  2. I read Richard Stallman's comment that made the astute observation that the most difficult part of doing taxes is doing the accounting to know one's income accurately. (https://stallman.org/archives/2016-jan-apr.html#9_April_2016_%28Lobbying_by_proprietary_software_maker%29) Even when I used to use TurboTax, I spent most of my time in a spreadsheet and looking over receipts and other records to make sure that the information I was inputting was correct.

Did I also file my state taxes by hand?

No. The massachussets website for filing taxes (probably similar to what Turbo Tax is fighting against -- http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2016/04/13/3768924/warren-sanders-tax-returns/) does not require citizens to 1. go through a 3rd party (company) or 2. run much, if any, proprietary software (can someone please check this for me--the website worked with javascripts blocked, which is the default on one of my browsers. There website policy can be found HERE). It is also absolutely COST-FREE!

I hope that this experience helps others!

Devin

Tax Simple has gone out of Business and is inaccessible.

(Everything above this line is CC-BY-ND -- Feel free to share it with attribution, but do not alter its content since it is just my personal opinion/experience.)

Lastly, I inserted a comment with my taxes to raise awareness to the issue (below): (everything below is CC-BY-SA; feel free to use and build upon it.)

To:
[Comments]
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 37008
Hartford, CT. 06176-7008

Dear Department of Treasury,

On page 98 of 1040 Instructions it says that comments are welcome.
  This year, I chose not to use proprietary software to do my taxes. I would not mind to use software for my taxes if it were free/libre software [1]. Free/libre software puts its users in control, while proprietary software puts companies in control over its users. [2]
Here are some ways in which this threat has manifested itself:

  • Turbo Tax, which is proprietary software [3], uses its unjust control over users to maintain a monopoly on its system of tax services while lobbying against free simple tax filing that U.S. citizens support. [4]
  • Last year, I used TaxSimple [5], which is also proprietary software [6]. However, the company has gone out of business, and since the software code that ran the service is proprietary no one has the freedoms they need to modify and redistribute it for future tax years. If I had been wise, I would have used free/libre software to do my taxes last year as well.

  This year, I created a spreadsheet that calculates the amounts for me using LibreOffice [7], which is free/libre software. Even if the groups that contribute to LibreOffice's development were to dissolve, its users would still have what they need to maintain the software and, therefore, will continue to access and use their files (such as their accounting and tax related work). I truly believe that free/libre software is superior—and is what the U.S. government should be using and promoting.
  I wish that the U.S. government would distribute free/libre software that would help its citizens to do their taxes. This would avoid the current problems raised above as well as others (i.e. potential for personal data to be mishandled). To its credit, the U.S. government is starting to notice this issue [8], but I believe the issue is urgent and must be expedited while recognizing that the real issue is the freedom of its citizen's [9].

[1] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.en
[2] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html
[3] https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/license/desktop.jsp and https://turbotax.intuit.com/corp/license/online.jsp
[4] https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-maker-of-turbotax-fought-free-simple-tax-filing
[5] http://taxsimple.com/
[6] http://taxsimple.com/company/terms.aspx
[7] https://www.libreoffice.org/
[8] https://github.com/WhiteHouse/source-code-policy
[9] https://github.com/WhiteHouse/source-code-policy/pull/78
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