The tax season is well and truly upon us. It is time to count the pennies and disclose exactly how much you made, as well as how you earned it.
Calculating the right amount of tax is important. It can also be difficult. With that in mind, I’ve tracked down two Excel tax calculators to ensure you don’t miss a single penny.
I’ve made every effort to ensure these tax calculators work as they should — and they do — but your taxes are your responsibility. We’re just helping you on the way.
Glenn Reeves’ Excel1040
Let’s start with one of the most comprehensive calculators. Tax calculator creator Glenn Reeves has been updating and distributing his custom Excel template for well over a decade — always for free. Reeves meticulously updates the template for each tax year, including all recent changes. Furthermore, Reeves keeps an up-to-date changes list, so you know exactly where the template has changed.
It is comprehensive. The XLSX includes form W-2s, 1099-R, SSA-1099, and 1040. In addition, Reeves has created separate worksheets for almost every calculation, as well as including the numerous tax schedules. Reeves’ meticulous planning and structure win many plaudits.
As you would expect, Reeves protects the workbook sheets to prevent unwanted changes. You can unlock the sheets and tinker if you wish, but this could result in an inaccurate tax return. I would suggest leaving the document protection in place — at least until you’ve made your tax calculations.
Finally, Reeves does all of this — essentially walking you through your federal income tax calculation — for free. However, he does accept donations, which he says “feeds his ego,” encouraging him to continue his “labor of love” for another year. You’ll be pleased to know that Reeves reports all of his donations and even donates some to his local church.
To make use of Excel1040, simply download and open the XLSX file.
Taxvisor’s Income Tax Planning Spreadsheets
Taxvisor has produced a calculator yearly since the 1990s. Strangely, Taxvisor is actually contained in an executable file which, I must admit, made me concerned. However, after first installing the Taxvisor executable in a virtual machine, I can confirm it is legitimate and will cause your system no harm.
Taxvisor has four worksheets: Single Filing, Joint Filing, Married Separate Filing, and Head of Household Filing. The four sheets all feature a list of Federal tax parameters specific to each tax return.
Taxvisor also features a handy legend detailing your income, taxes owed, remaining taxes owed, and of course, your tax summary information. Like Excel1040, Taxvisor’s worksheets are protected to stop unregulated tinkering that could lead to an inaccurate return.
Overall, Taxvisor is easy to use. It doesn’t offer the massive range of additional worksheets and tax schedules included with Excel1040, but the simpler, much cleaner design aids focus. Likewise, there may not be super detailed instructions, but each input has a minute tool-tip quickly detailing what the box use is. But don’t let the simplistic approach fool you. Taxvisor is still a fully featured tax calculator.
Making Your Own
There is always the option of creating your own tax calculator, but you’ll need to be prepared. First, there are a few Excel formulas you need to know:
The linked article explores how you can put each formula to use. For instance, VLOOKUP is perfect for finding and returning values in a tax table, while you can use ISPMT to calculate the amount of interest paid on your outstanding loans.
You also need to take into account the various tax brackets, standard deductions, exemptions, and contributions. They change almost yearly — just to keep you on your toes. The IRS website is the best place to start. Around October each year the IRS release a tax update overview detailing what has changed. You can find the overview here, and the entire update document here [PDF].
However, these only cover tax reforms and structures. If you contribute to a Roth IRA, you need to know the contribution limit for your tax status. The same can be said for student loan payments and interest, and so on. As well as this, individual states have specific tax laws. Double-check local tax specifics using the FindLaw State Tax Law finder.
The IRS provide a comprehensive Tax Topic Index that covers the major questions. The IRS website search function is also pretty useful. As with most things tax, it is highly likely another citizen has had the same question!
Don’t Let Taxes Tax You
Taxes don’t have to be taxing. It happens every year, whether we like it or not, and paying tax is central to a functioning society. Planning ahead is the key to success. Keeping receipts, pay-slips, and statements in a single place will reduce your stress no end come April. And remember, you do have to pay taxes on earnings from sites such as eBay or Craigslist.
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
The two templates provided are extensive. Excel1040 and Taxvisor will turn a tax nightmare into a dream so long as you have the correct information to work from. Please remember that these are only calculators. You still have to file your return!
Can you recommend and templates or strategies that make taxes easier? Let’s hear them in the comments!
Image Credit: echoevg via Shutterstock