Every year about this time, I fire up my tax program to do my income taxes. With the blessing of the Canada Revenue Agency, we can use technology to file our taxes electronically, to get them filed accurately and to speed up getting any refunds back into my pcoket.
Except, I take it one further. I go a bit crazy from a tech perspective. And, spoiler alert, this is not about making tech simpler!
In this day and age, there are several ways of doing your taxes electronically.
One way involves logging into a website and filling in all your personal and financial data online. If you are security conscious, not the preferred approach, particularly with all the data breaches occurring!
Another one is to go to a tax preparation service and get your return filed through them.
My preferred method is to use a commercial software package such as TurboTax running on a laptop or desktop in your home or office.
Despite my serious(!!) protests, Intuit have dropped support for MacOS X, and only offer the software running under Windows. I don’t own one piece of hardware running Window. Not one. And not likely going to have one any time soon. But this is the approach that I want to use for security reasons.
So what to do?
Every January, I fire up my Linux box that holds the only Windows instance I own.
Using Fedora Core and VirtualBox, I fire up a virtual machine running Windows 7 Pro, apply all the updates to bring it up to date and install the latest version of TurboTax.
I then use remote desktop to login to the Windows “machine” and access the software. I export the files I’m working on to the outside world via dropbox, so I have access for reference purposes when the VM is not running. The response time is good, I can print and file electronically over the LAN, and all is good.
And every May, I back it all up and shut down until the following year.
Virtual Box is an open source software package that runs under a number of platforms and is pretty stable at this point. It’s a great tool to spin up a OS that you only need occasionally, or to allow you to try new software quickly and easily.
This technology is used in Data Centers all over the globe to allow many virtual machines to run on one physical host, reducing costs in hardware and energy. Indeed, this website is running on a virtual host in a manner similar to this.
Is it crazy to do this for my taxes? Yes but it’s fun and it’s possible. And it works quite well. And it’s a great way to learn more about a specific technology.
Try it yourself. Drop me a line if you’re interested in trying this out for your next project.
2017 Update: to be precise, I have started using BootCamp as well for Windows access on my Mac only when needed! So there is one more way.