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How to Use Excel to File Form 1040 and Related Schedules for 2017

Jan 30th 2018
Spreadsheets and graphs on a desk

Most of the provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act completely change the tax landscape for the 2018 tax year, while some changes retroactively affect the 2017 tax year.

No matter the machinations of Congress, you can still use Microsoft Excel to determine your clients’ tax liability for 2017, as well as plan for 2018. Let's start with the 22nd spreadsheet-based version of Form 1040, formally known as the US Individual Income Tax Return is now available for free at

Note that this year you must first read through a disclaimer before you can download the spreadsheet, so be on the lookout for the Disclaimer link. Glenn Reeves, an electrical engineer from Burlington, Kansas, has been tweaking and improving this spreadsheet-based tax software since the mid-1990s. In December 2016, the personal finance web site The Balance, dubbed Mr. Reeve's spreadsheet their favorite out of 18 software programs.

Mr. Reeves' spreadsheet empowers anyone to prepare their tax return spreadsheet using Excel 2007 and later. Two years ago, he had to abandon a “lite” version that offered broader compatibility with other spreadsheet applications. Increasing complexity in the tax code requires the modern XLSX document format. The elaborate formatting that replicates the dozens of IRS forms and worksheets comprised in this workbook simply overwhelmed the capabilities of the now obsolete XLS document format.

As always, be aware that Mr. Reeves does not offer any assurance that the IRS will accept printed versions of his spreadsheet. He chooses to file his return online after computing his return in Excel.

The spreadsheet can be useful to citizens currently residing outside the country, as the encryption used within traditional tax return software programs often isn't exportable to other countries. Further, he's received feedback that his software has helped taxpayers reduce their liability by identifying deductions that other tax software programs have failed to reveal.

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