Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 3, NO. 10 / FEBRUARY 1985

Income Tax Spreadsheet

by K. W. HARMS

Your Atari with 48K and disk can now take over the unpleasant duty of preparing annual income tax returns.  This template (spreadsheet model) requires SynCalc software and a working knowledge of the program.  A printer is optional.

A spreadsheet is a perfect tool for preparing your own come tax returns-or picking up some extra money by preparing other people's returns.
  Until 1984, the only spreadsheet available for the Atari was an early version of VisiCalc that lacks the IF command-which means it can't really do professional-level income tax preparation.
  But now for less than $69.95, Synapse Software's state-of-the-art SynCalc gives Atari users a spreadsheet that's about 98 percent as quick and powerful as the $495 Lotus 1-2-3 program I use at my office on a $4,000 IBM PC system.
  And SynCalc is a lot easier to learn-count on 40 hours to get the hang of Lotus 1-2-3.  But even if you've never used a spreadsheet before, you should be able to work through the SynCalc manual tutorial in a few hours and understand the program well enough to operate this spreadsheet tax template.
  The template does all necessary math for calculating Federal personal income taxes on the 1040 Long Form.  Naturally, the template recalculates all changes with ease, so you can check out alternative tax reduction strategies to your heart's content.  Sorry, but a spreadsheet cannot explain our tax laws or suggest deductions.

  You will need the 1984 IRS tax instructions and the various 1040 forms close by your side when you use the templates.  And please examine the completed results with great care-if you have any doubts about the accuracy of what the spreadsheet tells you, get advice from a tax professional.  Computer entry mistakes and even programmer errors have been known to occur.  So Antic Publishing and the author disclaim responsibility for any mistakes that might be made in your tax payments as a result of using this template.
  As you start working with the template you will quickly notice that it says 1983.  Unfortunately, as I write this (around Halloween) the 1984 IRS forms haven't been released yet.
  But if you enter the template as it stands, you can test it out on the 1983 forms you filed last year.  Antic will publish the 1984 updates as soon as the IRS comes through -certainly in plenty of time for the April 15 filing deadline.  And I don't expect the 1984 changes to require a great deal of template retyping.

This template is narrow but quite long.  It consists of some 240 rows arranged in four columns.  The template starts with Form 1040.  Then below it are Tax Tables X, Y, & Z, Schedule A (Itemized Expenses), Schedule B (Interest & Dividends), Form 2441 (Child Care Deduction), and Schedule G (Income Averaging).
  All these fit on one spreadsheet, so the totals from any calculation-for instance, income averaging-are automatically included in the 1040 "Tax Due" line.
  You don't have to type in any schedules or forms that you don't actually need-the 1040 will still work.  If you type in sections you later decide not to use, just leave them blank.
  Six additional schedules or forms are available on disk.  These include: Schedule W (Working Married Couple Deduction), Schedule C (Business Income & Expense), Schedule SE (Self Employment Tax), Form 2106 (Employee Business Expenses), Schedule D (Capital Gains), and Schedule E (Rents & Royalties).
  In fact, to make everything easier, the Antic disk contains all 12 forms above - complete with any necessary 1984 updates. (The 1984 information will be available by the time this gets into print.) See the nearby order blank.
  Oh yes, this tax template disk is deductible!

However, if you're typing in the template, let's get started.  Load up your SynCalc and format a blank disk for data. [OPTION] and LOAD/SAVE gets you to the disk FORMAT command.
  Before typing anything, set all column widths to seven except column E-which should be set to nine.  Set the GLOBAL FORMAT to PRECISION 0, COMMA (these get rid of pennies and insert commas).  To speed up data entry, issue the command GLOBAL RECALCULATE MANUAL.  Also set calculation to ROWS.
  To simplify entering the template, I've placed all labels in columns A and B. All figures and calculations are in columns D and E. (Column C holds text overflow.)
  While entering titles in columns A and B, set FORMAT JUSTIFY LEFT.  When entering the numbers and formulas in columns D and E, set FORMAT JUSTIFY RIGHT.
  I'd suggest starting to type at cell Al and working down column A using SynCalc's automatic cursor movement.  Then go to the next column and enter the titles (some titles appear in column A on other forms).
  If a title extends past its column, just type it in-SynCalc's overflow feature handles the long material automatically! (But you do have to erase each overflow cell manually, if you move the title.)
  Reading from the left, each Template Section starts with the SynCalc row number. (Don't type in these row numbers.) Then comes the tax form line number.  You MUST enter all numbers and formulas in the cells shown-otherwise the template just won't work.  However, titles can be changed if you wish.
  A memory conservation tip: SynCalc uses 16 bytes to store every number.  Text entries take only four bytes plus one byte per character.  So, unless you will use a number in a calculation, make it a text entry.  On the 1040, for instance, all those form line numbers should be text (start each entry with a quote).

  The next step is to enter all the zeros and FORMAT $ the indicated cells.  The zeros "hold open" the cells for formulae and values that will come later.  All the zeros are in columns D and E. As you enter them you'll probably want to use this undocumented tip-the command /K toggles automatic cursor movement on and off!
  Now that the template format is set up, type in Listing 1 to enter each cell formula and the remaining titles.  The listing shows each cell address followed by the entry.  Do not type a cell address (such as E169) in the first three or four spaces at left.  Instead, go to that cell and type in the formula.  You'll be typing over the space-holding zeros you entered earlier.  A formula element like E179 is not text-type it as + E179 so that SynCalc will consider it a numeric.
  The six Template Sections all fit on one spreadsheet-but just barely (19K of 21K available memory).  So you may have to save off the file and reload it to free up unused memory.  SynCalc's housekeeping table gets added onto for each cell used.  SAVE/LOAD does the garbage collection to delete unused entries.
  The total cells are FORMAT $ for looks and clarity.  I also recommend putting a protection on every formula.  Use the FORMAT OVERRIDE command.  This will prevent writing over the formulae during data entry.

  Statement E68 likely won't fit if you type spaces between words - eliminate the spaces.  This formula uses SynCalc's absolute address braces [ ] to let advanced users COPY it to cells E71 through E75 and patch up the table references (there wasn't enough space to absolute the LOOKUP table).
  Another shortcut is to type in cells E84 through E90 (or COPY and patch) and then COPY the entire block to E99 and then to E114.  This copying should cut typing time substantially. Just be sure that the copied formulae refer to the correct spaces by moving the cursor to each cell and pressing RETURN to edit.  Would you believe that VisiCalc won't let you edit an entry?  That's right, you must type in the whole thing again.
  The formula in cell E164 illustrates multiple IFs, each with multiple conditions.  SynCalc allows linking many conditions by AND or OR.  Always put the conditions between the IF and the THEN.  Place the next IF after the ELSE, nowhere else.  These linked IFs and conditions give you the logic power needed to handle almost any problem.
  After the complete spreadsheet template is entered, save a blank copy under a name like BLNK1040 before entering any data.  Calling up the blank will let you do multiple returns, saving each with a different filename.
  Another tip: In SynCalc you can move the cursor arrows without holding down [CONTROL].

  SynCalc calculates by rows or columns, so the spreadsheet must be calculated at least four times.  Press [START] four times after changing any figure and before using the results.
  You don't need a printer to benefit from the program. Just copy the figures from the screen to your printed IRS forms.  But if you do use a printer, SynCalc lets you enter control characters in any cell.  This lets you set all sorts of special printout effects such as boldface, underlines, double-width, boxes and arrows, page breaks, etc.
  So, good luck with your '84 taxes and may your refunds be big ones.

Antic Contributing Editor Ken Harms has often appeared in these pages, writing about business applications or Logo educational software.  He is Vice President for Finance and Administration of the American Cancer Society’s California Division.

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