Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hidden TurboTax charges have users screaming

TurboTax users off to an early start on their tax returns are fuming in online reviews that the popular software has added a series of charges to use certain tax forms. And on Tuesday a consumer advocate amplified the complaints by slamming the company for not being more upfront about the new charges.
The $59.99 TurboTax Deluxe edition, made by Intuit (INTU), no longer includes questions you need to answer to fill in sections that include self-employment information, investments and rental income (Schedule C, D, and E), according to Edgar Dworsky, who runs and was formerly in charge of consumer education for the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.
"What a clever ploy. Yank out key parts of the program that people have used for years, and then charge them more money to get back the missing pieces," he said in a statement. "Imagine the reaction of perhaps millions of regular TurboTax users who may learn partway through doing their taxes that they have to pay an upgrade fee just to get the same functionality they've always enjoyed. They are not going to be happy."
Upgrading will cost $30-$40 more if done while doing your taxes. Otherwise, to use TurboTax with those functions will mean buying versions that list for $89.99 or $99.99.
"I have been a loyal TurboTax customer since sometime in the 90's," one reviewer wrote on Amazon (AMZN). "I am angry about the deliberate disabling of critical features in TurboTax Deluxe ... Raising the price is something I would object to but it's just a price increase. It's the disingenuous explanation that shows such contempt for the intelligence of customers which prompts me to give a one star rating, only because it's not possible to give zero stars."
Dworsky said it would have made a big difference if TurboTax came with some sort of notice that explained the changes rather than to surprise users as they work on their returns. He noted that some users who complained have been given free upgrades.
TurboTax Vice President Bob Meighan posted this statement in response to the mounting negative reviews:
The decision to change our product functionality was not an easy one. We understand this change is not popular, especially when it affects you. Taking something away is always tough, but we had to make this change at some point to provide consistent product functionality across our desktop, Online and mobile TurboTax solutions. Last year almost 10 million of our customers (out of 28M) prepared their return using multiple TurboTax solutions, which for some caused confusion and frustration as a result of the different functionality. We put off this change for over 5 years, but couldn't defer it any longer. The changes we implemented this year on desktop were already part of the other TurboTax platforms. While this may be irrelevant to you, it will become an issue for many others in the future as most customers will eventually prepare their return on multiple devices (prepare on one device, review on another and maybe even file from another). I'm sure we can help you out if you contact us at 800-445-1875 (8am - 8pm EST M-F).