Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 5, NO. 12 / APRIL 1987

Antic's third annual SynCalc 1040 template

'86 Federal Income Tax Spreadsheet


Antic's two previous Federal Income Tax Spreadsheet Templates have been among our most popular annual features. Now you can do your l986 federal income taxes on your 8-bit Atari. (ST Owners will find a VIP Professional template for calculating their l986federal taxes in the Spring 1987 issue of STart.) Requirements for running the 8-bit Atari template are minimum 48K memory a disk drive and SynCalc spreadsheet software ($49.95) from Broderbund. A printer is optional, but you'll need your official Internal Revenue Service 1986 tax instructions and forms.

It's "that time" again-time to get out your shoeboxes full of receipts, cancelled checks, etc., sit down with your Atari 8-bit computer and calculate your income tax forms. This still won't be much fun, but at least it's a lot less hassle when your Atari and the SynCalc spreadsheet ($49.95, Broderbund Software) do the number crunching- and make it easy for you to experiment with various alternative "what if' strategies for minimizing the taxes you owe.

The Third Annual Antic Federal Income Tax Spreadsheet Template includes:

   1986 IRS 1040 Long Form

Schedule A (Itemized Expenses)

Schedule B (Interest and Dividends)

Schedule C (Business Income and Expenses)

Schedule G (Income Averaging)

Schedule W(Working Couples)

Form 2441 (Child Care Deduction)

   We use SynCalc software for the Antic tax templates because SynCalc is still the most popular spreadsheet for 8-bit Atari computers. If you don't have a printer, you can just hand-copy the figures from the screen to your printed IRS forms.

Even if you've never used SynCalc before, you should be able to work through the well-written manual in a few hours and learn enough to use this tax template. But you're leaving yourself open for unnecessary aggravation if you try to start working on the tax template without taking enough time to become adequately familiar with SynCalc.

Please, if you need help with SynCalc, phone Broderbund's Customer Service at (415) 479-1170, not Antic! However, if any last-minute fixes are needed in the template itself, the in-formation will be on CompuServe's ANTIC ONLINE. (Type GO ANTIC when you log onto CompuServe. Then choose the Mailbox selection from the main menu and go to the Error Log section.)

Yes, your online time-charges for accessing tax preparation information are still tax deductible. So is this issue of Antic and the monthly disk. Even the cost of your computer and SynCaIc will be tax-deductible-if you purchased them last year. But all this changes on next year's returns, sorry.

Please be careful: if you doubt the accuracy of the template findings, check with a registered tax preparer. User and programmer errors are always a possibility. Antic can't take responsibility for any mistakes made in your tax return as a result of using this template.

Spreadsheet programs are an ideal tool for preparing tax returns. You type in personal data such as income and deduction amounts, and customized formulas tell the spreadsheet how to compute the tax obligation from your data. Each data element or formula is entered in a "cell" with an address-similar to the lines and columns on the tax form. As your data changes (if you find another receipt, for example), just go to the proper cell, type in that number and press [START]. Your entire tax return will begin to recalculate.

Important: please remember that SynCalc calculates by rows or columns-so this template must be calculated at least five times. Press [START] five times after changing any figure.

You'll need the official 1986 Internal Revenue Service tax instructions and forms nearby. There isn't enough Atari memory to duplicate the forms exactly, so abbreviations are used wherever possible. But the template follows IRS line numbers, so you won't get lost.

After you enter the information into the spreadsheet, it calculates every line except the actual tax you owe. Putting all the tax tables into the template would chew up memory and typing time. So when you determine your Net Taxable Income on the template, look up the matching tax obligation in the Tax Table or Tax Schedule in your IRS instruction booklet.

The spreadsheet template can be reused for many different 1986 tax returns if you retain a blank version on disk. Entering a taxpayer's personal data should take about an hour. Save each completed tax template under a different filename.

This long, narrow template consists of some 235 rows (out of a possible 255) by seven columns. You don't need to type in any schedules or forms that you won't use-the 1040 form will work without them. If you type in template sections that you later decide not to use, just leave those sections blank and they won't become part of the overall calculations for the return.

Antic Disk owners will find this template on the monthly disk under the filename TAX1040.SC. You'll need to boot SynCalc before loading TAX1040.SC.

For the purposes of this article, I must assume that you're familiar with SynCalc. For instance, you should know that pressing [OPTION] starts a command sequence, how to move around within the spreadsheet, etc. Keep your SynCalc manual handy

Format a blank disk for data. Before typing anything in, set all column widths to seven. Set GLOBAL FORMAT to PRECISION 0 (to round off cents to the nearest dollar) and COMMA (to insert commas in numbers like 1,000). To speed up data entry, issue the command GLOBAL RECALCULATE MANUAL. Also, set calculation to ROWS.

To simplify template entry, the IRS form line numbers are in column A and the text descriptions are in column C, with overflow to columns D and E. The actual figures and formulas are in columns F and G. While entering titles in columns A and C, set FORMAT JUSTIFY LEFT. When entering the numbers and formulas in columns F and G, set FORMAT JUSTIFY RIGHT.

The template is separated into six sections, one for each tax form or schedule. Each section has two parts. Part A is the format set-up: titles, labels, etc.-with zeros (0) temporarily standing in for your actual number and formula locations. Part B contains the formulas. I'd suggest starting at cell Al and working down column A using SynCalc's automatic cursor movement. Then go to column C and enter the titles. If a title exceeds seven characters, type it in anyway- SynCalc's overflow feature handles the over-long material automatically. (But you need to erase each overflow cell manually if you move the title.)

You might consider typing in and testing each section before proceeding to next one. Part A of each section starts with the SynCalc row number. Don't type in these row numbers. The tax form line numbers are under the dashes for column A. You must enter all numbers and formulas in the exact cells shown, or else the template won't work.

Here's a data compression tip: SynCalc uses 16 bytes to store every number. Text entries take only four bytes, plus one byte per character. Unless you use a number in a calculation, enter it as text. In fact, all form line numbers must be text. Start each entry with quotation marks or you'll run out of memory.

The last step in Part A is to enter all the zeros. The zeros "hold open" the cells for formulas and values to come later. Most zeros are in columns F and G. As you enter them, use this undocumented tip: the /K command toggles automatic cursor movement on and off. Also, you can move the cursor arrows in a menu without holding down [CONTROL].

Now that the template format is typed in, use Part B of each section for cell formulas. The listing shows each cell address, followed by the entry. Don't type the cell addresses (such as G169) shown in the first three or four spaces at the left. Instead, go to that cell and type in the formula, typing over the space-holding zeros entered earlier. A formula element like E179 is not text-type it as "+E179" so that SynCalc will know it's a numeric entry As you enter each formula, protect it with a /FO (FORMULA PROTECT ENTRY) so you won't accidentally write over it.

Because this template pushes SynCalc to its limits, you'll need to use some advanced spreadsheet operation techniques in order to get everything working properly The six template sections barely fit onto a single spreadsheet. Since SynCalc occasionally wastes a few cells, if you get the famous ERROR 100 NOT ENOUGH MEMORY message, save the file immediately Now erase the file in memory with the /E command and then reload the file from disk. This save/ erase/load process deletes unnecessary entries.

To squeeze in long cell formulas, don't type spaces between words. Even more importantly when you first type in the formulas, leave out words like THEN, ELSE or LOOKUP. Then press [RETURN]. You'll get a SYNTAX ERROR message because of the missing words, but go back and enter those words with the [CONTROL] [INSERT] keys. This lets you put an "illegal" amount of characters into a cell. The final characters will be pushed off the screen, but they're still in memory. (There are limits, of course-don't insert more characters than you need to.)

After you correctly type in the complete spreadsheet template, remember to save a blank copy under a name like BLNK1040 before entering any taxpayer data. Loading that blank file lets you do returns for many different taxpayers-just save each return with a different filename.

Broderbund Software
P.O. Box 12947
San Rafael, CA 94913
(415) 479-1185
$49.95, 48K disk

Tom Chandler has a degree in finance and is employed in the accounting department of Antic Publishing Inc., where he does a lot of his work on an ST with the VIP Professional spreadheet.

Listing 1   TAX1040.SC