clarifications and corrections

Following are clarifications and corrections for the article "Tax Software Buyers Guide" (JofA, Sept.97):

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  • In the review of Arthur Andersens A-Plus-Tax, we inadvertently failed to mention that the product is available in Windows 95/NT and DOS, not Windows 3.x.

  • In the review of Computer Language Researchs GoSystem for Windows, we reported the program misstated a foreign tax credit by a small margin. The companys technical support people said that when they ran the exercise, they came up with essentially the correct tax figure.

  • In the review of Lacerte software, we said the program allowed us to report rental income from a second home that had been rented for fewer than 14 days. Lacerte, while conceding that statement, maintained that the "error" would have been picked up had we run its built-in diagnostic program—a point we readily concede.

    Lacerte also disagreed with our criticism that the program allowed three exemptions for the taxpayer and the spouse. We acknowledge we entered contradictory information: We checked two boxes—one saying the husband and wife were filing a joint return and another that the husband was electing to take an exemption for his wife, who was filing a married-filing-separately return. Consequently, the program allowed two exemptions for the husband and one for the wife. While we concede our input error, we believe the software should never have allowed more than two exemptions—regardless of user input. Lacerte grants that, if its diagnostic tool had been run, it would not have picked up the input error; but the company explains that it considers the input error so rare as to "not warrant an automatic diagnostic report" in such a case.

  • In the review of MicroVisions Tax Relief, we failed to mention that, in addition to its Windows 3.1 version, a DOS package is available.

    Also, we cited the program for mishandling suspended passive losses from two passive activities, which were not allowed even though the disposition of a third passive activity generated sufficient passive income to absorb these losses. During our review, we called the companys technical support and explained the problem. We were told the program had a bug and, to correct the problem, we should enter the suspended passive losses as active losses on the K1. Subsequently, the company informed us the earlier correction itself was incorrect. After following new instructions, we found the program correctly handled the passive activity losses.

    And for clarification on our comments on how Tax Relief handles an excess IRA contribution, see the UltraTax section below.

  • In the review of Laser Systems TaxWorks, we cited the program for mishandling a health insurance expense. On further examination, we determined our criticism was not warranted. On another issue, in which we said the program erred in computing the depreciation adjustment for the taxpayers home office, Laser Systems claims the resulting alternative minimum tax was correctly figured; we have been unable to determine the cause of the problem and therefore acknowledge the software handles the tax correctly.

  • In the review of Creative Solutions UltraTax, we criticized the program for failing to automatically compute the excess individual retirement account contribution and the corresponding tax. While Creative Solutions agrees our statement is technically correct, it claims the criticism is misleading. When faced with an excess IRA contribution, the company explains, a taxpayer has the choice of paying the additional tax or withdrawing the excess IRA contribution and the corresponding deduction. The company maintains that forcing the taxpayer to make a "conscious decision" is a better approach. We agree that its a judgment call, and in light of the fact that at least one other tax program (Tax Relief) works that way, we defer to the issue and withdraw our criticism.

In addition, we inadvertently failed to indicate that, in addition to having a Windows 95/NT version, UltraTax also has a DOS version.

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