File Extension Tax

Files bearing the extension .tax are tax returns created by Intuit Turbo Tax. This tax preparation software is a full package including forms, instructions, and the ability to eFile returns. Intuit developers have made a change in the file extension beginning with the 2008 edition, adding the year at the end (.tax2008). The file format has changed slightly, but no details have been made known. If the changes are minor it should be possible, in theory, for a user to append the extension name, removing the year, and still have no problems loading and editing the return. Turbo tax will also scan .tax files from previous years and pull out pertinent information to be used in the current year's return. Turbo Tax software is available for Windows and Mac.


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The .tax file format is proprietary to the Turbo Tax software and cannot be effectively opened by an other software. The data can be viewed using a standard text editor, but it will be displayed as garbled text and symbols. Files can be transferred to multiple machines an opened as long as each machine has the correct version of Turbo Tax installed. Users can also transfer the data from previous versions to the Online version (except for the free edition) using the Turbo Tax website. According to the Intuit website .tax files should always be opened from within the Turbo Tax software, never by double clicking the file. No reason is given for this statement.

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More Info Regarding File Extension Tax

Turbo Tax .tax files are strictly data files so errors are rare, but they do occur from time to time. The most common error produces a message stating something similar to "Error 539: Can't open tax file". This is caused by using the incorrect version of Turbo Tax to open the file. Due to the ever changing nature of tax law and the corresponding forms, the same version of Turbo Tax used to create the file must be used to open it. Intuit offers some older versions for sale but does not make all previous versions available. For this reason it is suggested that users do one of three things:
1.Print a hard copy or a .pdf version of the return.
2.Save all original installation disks for future use if needed.
3.If the software was downloaded, burn a copy of the .exe file to CD or save it to a flash drive.

Another rare but serious error can occur if a Windows system locks up or crashes while using Turbo Tax. If this happens, it is possible for Turbo Tax to lose all the data in the return, so that upon restart none of the forms repopulate the data. Intuit offers no explanation or fix for this problem. It it recommended that users save their return at regular intervals, saving the original and a back up copy of the file.

Kiplinger's TaxCut software allows for importing tax information from the previous year's return created by Turbo Tax. The import is no different than importing the data from a previous year's return prepared by TaxCut. All that will be imported is the information pertinent to the current year's return (names, addresses, soc. sec. numbers, employer info, etc.). Users will not be able to open and review the .tax file in full. There are reports that TaxAct also supports importing data from a .tax file, but this is unconfirmed. A look at the company's website yielded no claims of this alleged import feature.

The Quicken accounting software can import .tax and .tax2008 data for use in its environment, but there are many reports of Quicken displaying an "unable to open" error when trying to import. Inuit has addressed this issue and produced a patch to correct it. Quicken users only need upgrade their software to have support for importing .tax and .tax2008 files.

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