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by HowardSoft® "Professional software at personal prices." Fall 2000

It's time!

You must place an order NOW to be assured of receiving your update within days of its release because we ship updates in the order that paid orders are received. Use the Order Form at the end of this newsletter to order by fax, mail, or phone, or order on-line at

And feel free to call if you have any questions about our new order form.

In this issue …

FAQs about our new Windows version. A preview of how our new Windows version will operate, in question and answer format.

Changes in IRS Forms. A preview of the new forms based on advance drafts from the IRS.

What about DOS and Apple II? A review of our policy of continued support, plus a few good reasons to switch anyway.

FAQs about our new Windows version

We’re quite excited about our introduction of a full-fledged 32-bit Windows version of Tax Preparer for the upcoming tax season, but we’ve received several questions about the new product. Some of you express a fear of too much change while others express a concern for not enough change. The following answers to your Frequently Asked Questions will show how we expect to meet both concerns.

  • What version of Windows is required? Our new Windows version requires Windows 95 or a subsequent release from Microsoft. This includes Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, and Windows ME.
  • What about Windows 3.1? It is NOT compatible with Windows 3.1. However, we offer a DOS-related version for Windows 3.1 again this year.
  • How do I tell what version of Windows I have? Windows 95 and later versions put a "My Computer" icon on your desktop that cannot be removed. Therefore, if your computer has no such icon, you do not have a compatible version of Windows. (If you DO have Windows 95 or later, you can tell the precise version by a right click on "My Computer," then a left click on "Properties," and, finally, a left click on the tab labeled "General." Information about your system then appears, including the version of Microsoft Windows you are using and its release date.)
  • What printers are compatible? Any printer that works with your Windows system will also work with Tax Preparer. However, for graphic printouts generated by our Standard Update (main form only) and Premium Update (all forms) to be acceptable to the IRS for filing, your printer must (1) have good graphic quality and (2) be capable of printing with margins as narrow as ½ inch on all four sides. Ink jet, laser, and 24-pin dot-matrix printers meet the first requirement. However, some printers cannot print with a narrow bottom margin (although manufacturers can sometimes eliminate the problem with a new print driver).
  • How do I control the printer settings? Your printer is controlled by your Windows Settings for Printers. Your default Windows printer will therefore be used for printouts unless you select a different printer before the printing starts.
  • Will the file management system change? We are dropping the volume structure that we have used for decades in favor of the standard Windows filing system. This means that the name you give to a return (which is no longer restricted to 26 characters) becomes the name of the file on the disk, and is automatically seen in alphabetical order with all other returns in the same Windows folder.
  • What if I prefer the former structure of 15 clients per volume? With the new system you are free to organize returns in any way you choose, including our former volume method. You can precede the name you give a return with a volume and client number, and Windows will order the names by volume and number instead of the alphabet. (You could also store returns in separate Windows folders, using a separate folder for each volume. However, client lists and mailing labels would then have to be generated separately for each volume.)
  • Will the data format change? Yes, the data format is changing in two ways: information formerly in separate disk files is being merged into a single file for each separate return, and the format for numbers is being expanded to eliminate the traditional problem with precision of very large monetary amounts.
  • Will the Windows program be able to read data for returns stored in the prior DOS format? Yes, the translate function of Tax Preparer will handle the conversion automatically.
  • Will the DOS program be able to read data for returns stored in the new Windows format? No, the Windows format will only be readable by the Windows program.
  • Can I use Custom Settings to set colors as I have in the past? No, the Custom Settings program will not exist in the Windows version. Instead, your Windows Settings for Display will control the look and feel of the program. The colors of the window and its contents will be automatically consistent with the settings you have already chosen for your desktop. However, you can change the colors at will from your Windows Control Panel.
  • How do I control the size of the window and its display? Your Windows setting for display resolution determines the size of the window and its contents because our program automatically uses a type size that is consistent with your settings. If you find the typeface too small, you can increase it by reducing the screen area in your Settings for Display in the Windows Control Panel. For example, a setting of 640 X 480 pixels will result in a size that makes the Tax Preparer window completely fill the width of your screen.

Changes in IRS forms

A review of advance drafts from the IRS reveals that most of the changes in the IRS forms are minor this year. Here’s a quick review:

  • Form 1040. The standard deduction, exemption and phaseout amounts, earned income credit, and tax tables are all indexed with inflation in accordance with the tables on page 1-10 of your prior Tax Forms Guide. Less predictably, the line for reporting the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) has moved into the regular tax section of the form. This is a welcome change because its relation to the regular tax is more obvious and calculations for credits allowed against the minimum tax are simpler. There are also two changes in the signature area at the bottom of page 2: the word "optional" has been dropped from the request for the taxpayer’s daytime phone number, and a checkbox has been added to give the IRS permission to talk directly with the paid preparer without contacting the taxpayer.
  • Schedules A, B, C, C-EZ, D, E, F, H, R, and SE. All changes in these schedules are either label changes or the result of indexing with inflation.
  • Schedule EIC. The line for child social security numbers has moved from line 5 to line 1.
  • Forms 2106 and 2106-EZ. Last year was an aberation for these forms because there were two standard mileage rates. This year there is only one rate: 32.5 cents per mile. These forms therefore revert to the simpler look of the past. In addition, the special meal allowance for employees subject to DOT hours of service limits is raised from 55% to 60% of the actual expense. The allowance for everyone else remains at 50%.
  • Forms 3468 and 3800. Because the limitation on these credits depends on the amount of tax including the AMT, and the AMT line has been moved on Form 1040, the lines in Part II of these forms are greatly rearranged.
  • Form 4562. The maximum dollar limitation on section 179 deductions is now $20,000 (up from $19,000) as reflected in line 1 of the form.
  • Form 6251. The amounts shown on the label for line 18 have been indexed with inflation, and the minimum exemption amount for line 22 for a child under age 14 has been raised from $5,100 to $5,200. Page 2 of the form has a new look because of double spacing of lines that were formerly single-spaced, but the logic of the form is unchanged.
  • Form 8829. The entry for line 5 is 8,784 hours instead of 8,760 hours because year 2000 was a leap year.
  • Form 1040-X. The exemption instructions for line 30 have changed to include year 2000 and drop year 1996.
  • Forms 2441, 4684, 4797, 4835, 5329, 8582, 8606, 8615, 8812, and 8814. There are no significant changes in these forms.

What about DOS and Apple II?

Yes, we still support them. Although we’re excited about our new Windows version, and we encourage everyone who can to switch to it, we remain sympathetic to those who can’t. That’s why we still offer DOS and Apple II versions of our products. In fact, we will continue to update those versions annually as long as there are still customers who want them.

But… there are good reasons to switch. Switching to a new computer may be easier than you think, and the advantages once you switch may be greater than you realize. Here are some facts to consider:

  • Windows computers are many times faster than older DOS and Apple II systems. If you use a computer so limited in its memory and architecture that you cannot install the newer versions of Windows, your computer is inherently much slower than the current breed of computers. The combination of high clock speed, parallel processing, 32-bit addressing, and high-speed hard disks allow today’s computers to run Tax Preparer as much as 1,000 times faster than the DOS and Apple II systems of yesteryear.
  • Windows computers adequate for Tax Preparer are inexpensive. If you use your computer only for Tax Preparer and word-processing software, there is no need to buy the very latest technology in computers. By settling for a little less speed you can buy a new computer for just a few hundred dollars and it will still make computations seem instantaneous.
  • Our Windows version has a more flexible filing system. You can name tax returns with any long names you want, and those names are all visible to you in alphabetical order, with no restriction to a volume structure of 15 clients per volume.
  • Our Windows version can read prior DOS data. There is no need to enter your prior data manually, because our software automatically converts DOS-created tax data into the new Windows format through our translate feature. There is no loss of information from your previously created tax returns.
  • Windows allows graphic printing with non-laser printers. The Windows versions of our Premium Updates include graphic printing of all tax forms without a laser printer. All that is required is a quality Windows-compatible printer. (See page 1 of this newsletter for more information.)