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Truffle: Finds business deductions in your personal spending history (gotruffle.com)
201 points by tyre on Mar 2, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 104 comments

Is it just me or is anyone else bothered by Plaid privacy policy on the information they collect? I want to use this app but reading through that privacy policy is the stuff of potential nightmares. "collect information including: account numbers, routing numbers, names, balances, history, loan info etc etc..." pretty much everything. Umm no thank you.

I'm generally bothered by giving access to my anything to some random 3rd party websites. I am clearly not in a target market, but why would you trust this or anything similar to act in your best interest after you've allowed them to connect to your bank, email, etc. Especially after a year or two when their balance sheet begins to be on the red.

Would make an interesting experiment to create a website that would 'promise' cash-money based on whatever in exchange of user connecting their email and other accounts. This hoax could then siphon the passwords and accounts directly to Troy Hunt [0] and warn user like SECs fake ICO site[1] does. ;-)

[0] https://haveibeenpwned.com/ [1] https://www.howeycoins.com/

edit: grammar

Just like with any of these data grabbing cloud services I don't believe anyone is in the target market, long term speaking. You just learned your lesson sooner rather than later.

Yes, I'm bothered, but then again I'm bothered by pretty much the entire cloud trend. Its not a matter of if shit hits the fan; the question is when. We recently saw one of the many examples of this with Facebook. When is enough enough?

The example of this application seems just like it wouldn't be too hard to implement with proper accounting (and tagging) of expenses.

You can easily self-host Firefly III in Docker [1], or use GNUCash [2].

I'm going to experiment with the former in the next months.

[1] https://hub.docker.com/r/jc5x/firefly-iii

[2] https://www.gnucash.org/

Don't they need that info to perform the basic functions of the service? Or are you concerned about it being stored long-term?

>Don't they need that info to perform the basic functions of the service?

That is a limitation of the OFX version 1 protocol that is used by banks to exchange that data. OFX v2 does away with real account numbers in the api in exchange for account identifiers. The problem is that not all banks have switched to the new api, which was only finalized back in 2006, so give the big FIs a little time to get with the program.

The point is precisely that using a service which needs that info might not be such a good idea...

Every time my daughter wants a new app, I take a look at the PP and Terms - then I try (and try hard) to let her know why this app is app is a bad idea. Hopefully, she'll get it as she grows and won't do something stupid with an app or a device.

You are correct. That's way too much trust to put in a company. I can export CSV files from my bank. I'd use the service if I could upload CSV files for my accounts for a given year, and run the data through their algorithm.

yeah not a chance in hell

Great idea. I personally just hate the stereotypical "customer" (in this case, Karen T.) with a quote that is probably fake. Even if it's not fake, I hate the "category" so much that I end up disliking the service on that front. Note that I might be rather peculiar in my hate for these "business quotes", and please take this feedback with a grain of salt :)

I agree. I'm so used to seeing those type of testimonials on garbage products that "speed up your computer", or on TV shop etc. that it only makes me suspicious of the product.

Can you elaborate here? Testimonials, case studies, reviews, and other forms of social proof definitely have a huge impact on conversions, so I’m curious about how it can be done better in your view, or if the entire idea is anathema to you.

For me personally (and probably NOT for customers in general), seeing a $FIRSTNAME $LASTNAME.charAt(0) is a negative (e.g. Laura T., Tom B., Frank S., etc), and seeing something that looks like a stock photo is also a negative.

These two things combined together make me doubt that the customer reference might be fake (and nobody is ever going to challenge it!).

Instead, tell me something like "$RealFirstName $RealLastName, VP Product, $RealCompany", and I immediately believe you.

The vast majority of people are dumb, so doing things that smart people hate is necessary for business success

Great idea. Any hints on what a typical freelancer is forgetting to expense? $13K sounds crazy high.

I'm a freelance software consultant working remotely and there isn't much I can expense as far as I know (working from home costs, hardware, software, insurance, accountancy fees, mobile bill).

This app looks like it could get alot of people into trouble if they interpret it as giving them some kind of permission to expense all their travel, meals, etc.

You're only supposed to expense the items which were actually for business purposes, and no app can figure that out for you if your record-keeping throughout the year was sloppy. I don't think it will fly when you're sitting down uncomfortably with an IRS auditor if your defense is that some app told you to do it.

Agree with this. Unless you're frequently traveling for business or making big work-related purchases, I'm finding it hard to believe that you could provide a compelling argument to the IRS that you have $13k in expenses. "Meals" is not a deductible expense, that's a personal expense and the IRS will nail you for it.

I guess that depends on the country.

I live in NL and (I checked with my accountant), I can deduct the cost of coffee I get at the cafe where I work, provided that I drink it while working.

In the UK, it's along the lines of you can only expense food and drink if it's an expense that occurs while traveling away from your normal place of work for business purposes.

Without travel expenses, purchasing lots of hardware or online service costs for running a project, I'd be interested in what people are expensing if their expenses are above say £5K a year.

actually you can deduct meals. not sure for sole-proprietorships, but corporations and llc's most certainly can. (in the USA).

However in case you get audited, make sure you keep reciepts (not just record of payment) and can justify it as being a food-while-working or bizdev expense.

I helped make Truffle. Here to answer any questions and thanks for stopping by!

What's the basis for "the average freelancer finds $12,931 of business deductions"? That sounds mighty generous; I'd like to hear how that breaks down. Do people really spend thousands on flights and hotels and then forget about them?

The wording is "finds $12,931", not "finds $12,931 * more*".

Don't people normally just use separate credit cards / bank accounts for business vs personal expenses?

> Don't people normally just use separate credit cards / bank accounts for business vs personal expenses?

Every year my accountant tells me to do this. And every year I lose cards and get distracted by promos.

right I have two cards, but hey I misplaced one card whatever am I to do with this necessary expense right now?!

My personal card has much better travel rewards and free travel insurance, so I use my personal card for travel. Then I have to remember to deduct it at the end of the year. Usually it's not too hard to find the travel though.

I'll still be signing up for this just to see how it does.

Yeah, that's what I do.

Can you speak a bit more to the privacy policy? If I import my data, pay you $40, print out my report and then say “delete,” will you delete everything?

Yes. We will delete everything.

You mention that you use the Plaid API to get the transaction data. You might delete _your_ copy of the user's transactions, but won't the user's transactions still exist somewhere at Plaid?

It feels very dishonest to say that you delete the user's data, while handing it over to a third-party ...

Plaid is really just a centralized API layer for all the different bank accounts and bank systems which all have different specifications and data formats. Plaid just makes it easy for to get it in a clean JSON response. They don't store the transaction data themselves, they're just a middleman.

I work at a company that is one of Plaid's largest customers and have chatted with their engineers before at a meetup in San Francisco. They were very open that they store the data themselves, and even shared this blog post with me about how they poll for data: https://blog.plaid.com/distributed-duplicate-detective/.

For what it's worth, I actually like Plaid's API compared to Yodlee, but have serious concerns about privacy. There's no way to determine if they are _just_ collecting transactions when you request the user's transactions as a dev. The user is handing over their user/pass/MFA and Plaid could be doing god knows what with that.

How do you know that?

Can you prove it?

> Can you prove it?

Beyond audit by a third party, how would one go about proving they deleted something and absolutely no other copy remains?

What do you want to hear more about? Glad to answer any questions.

He asked a pretty specific question.

Sorry. The answer is yes, we will delete everything.

I skimmed the question and answered in haste. My apologies.

I expect it doesn’t work in non-US countries, correct?

Any plans to expand to other countries? I know it’s hard, tax is a different mess everywhere, but I could really use it here in UK...

Would you ever open it up to past years? I would love to go back to see if I missed anything in a past year. I could then maybe refile and get back some money.

I’ve wondered when someone would do this. Great idea

How does it work?

Thanks for your kind words. I love your writings.

Connect your personal spending accounts, and we'll find all potential business deductions and categorize them for you.

If something isn't actually a deduction / business-related, you may remove it. If we got a categorization wrong, you can fix it.

Would I gain any benefit from Truffle by connecting my business account instead of my personal account? I already keep all my business expenses separated. Isn't that what other freelancers typically do?

There's a lot of classes of people that can be considered "freelancer" in this context, from those who basically run as a 1-person agency to someone who just picks up a 3-month contract instead of a permanent role

Not all of those classes will have or even need a full business separation setup

Try it and let us know!

How does it know what’s business related?

It is maximally inclusive. It is up to you to remove what is not.

I know that doesn't cover all use-cases, but it is what we started out with.

this is the best way to do it IMO. algorithms aren't as smart as me at everything. they're going to miss some things. even facebook with all their resources still can't figure out an algorithm that actually shows me posts from all the people that I want to see. And honestly it's easy enough for me to go through a list of potentially business-related expenses and say "nope, not business-related".

Facebook does that intentionally, the more you spend scrolling through crap with the occasional thing you actually want to see the more time you'll be looking at advertisements. They don't make money by being more useful, they just make money from showing you ads.

Presumably the same reason for the recent reddit redesign, and snapchat's awful UI changes.

what I mean is that there are some friends that I never see posts from, even though I want to. Ads aside. Facebook will never show me posts from some people that I'm facebook friends with. I could have 500 facebook friends that I want to see posts from, and even though I view thousands of ads I'll only ever see posts from the same 100 people.

Is this powered by Plaid? What's the user experience when you can't pull a full year+ of transactions?

Instead of exporting to Excel, will you support exporting to TurboTax?

We will look into that. If it’s not some arcane format we will get it done ASAP.

It used to be a very arcane format but I haven't looked at it in quite a few years.

Is that just for the sake of having it alongside your other financial info for the year? I thought the tax filing itself just needed the total

Well yes and no. On the actual tax form you just put a total, but TurboTax asks you to break it down, one so that you get it right, and two because if you get audited you have to provide broken down info, so you can't use their audit defense product unless you break it down.

Already did my taxes this year but saving this link for next year. I spent a good amount of time this week categorizing expenses for my taxes.

Unfortunately, I also used HSBC last year which sucks at integrating with places, but I just switched to Azlo which is supported well.

FWIW, my feedback - I need a way to filter larger amounts of transactions at a time. I just connected all my credit cards. 100% of my uber and hotel usage is personal - it looks like as is I'd have to select each one instead of being able to search "uber" and check all to remove them.

Thanks for the kind words, friend.

And the feedback as well!

Your site looks just as beautiful with NoScript on! Thanks.

Looks like a cool app.

But what is stopping an application like Mint or Truebill to offer this?

In the case of Mint, Mint is stopping Mint. They've essentially been on life-support and have added no new features in that last ~decade, afaik.

in terms of the features that are there now, what would you recommend using which has more active development? Mint's UI is hot garbage, but it does what I need it to do...

You can use it as a Mint replacement without any of their Wealth Management offerings? How do they make money? What are the hidden costs?

The aggregator is a loss leader. You do not need to use their wealth management offerings. There is no cost.

I’ve tried to give them money just because the aggregator is so good, and they said no thanks.

Disclaimer: Just a happy user of a financial tool.

They require a phone number for 2FA and they call you trying to sell you financial services.

It's a shame that this doesn't work in Canada :(

Seconding PC, it’s fantastic.

Except the fact that almost none of the imports actually work.

Literally all of my ~20 accounts work, and the only reason I switched from Mint was because they couldn't connect to 5 of them. PC is light-years ahead of Mint in terms of reliability.


I believe Pocketsmith use Yodlee for their bank feeds. While the NZ government prevaricates I doubt there will be any useful bank APIs here any time soon. At least there is some progress in Australia.

Second this. As a New Zealander there’s not a lot of options available.

I don’t think Plaid works with ANZ. I’ve tried to authenticate my account with Truffle but it kept erroring out.


If they built it - great! We are all for consumers being better off.

Seems like finding employee expenses that were missed (where you could recover 100% instead of your marginal rate) is another use case here.

If I miss a few Ubers and a few airport meals that I should have filed expense reports for, that's real savings to me as well. That might be a harder use case (separating the fly shit from the pepper in terms of personal vs business).

Actually our first user used it for exactly that. The free version should suffice to help you filter for this type of stuff.

Does your employer allow you to reimburse these items without receipts?

Ubers have receipts. AirBnB has receipts. Amazon (tech/book/Kindle) purchases have invoices. NewEgg purchases have invoices. Hotels and Flights can always re-generate invoices or be looked up online. Items under $25 don't need receipts by our policy. Meals I probably have a photo of the receipt on my phone.

There's a lot that can be captured and recovered after the fact if a system can surface "hey, this is 75% likely to be a business expense; have a look!"

I have a business CC available for most of my expenses. It's enough of a hassle if I accidentally put a personal expense on the business card relative to the converse that many business expenses end up on my personal card. (This is typically where I use stored payment methods on the same vendor for personal and business charges [Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, Paypal, NewEgg, Monoprice, Delta].)

Definitely true. It really affects what the ideal product is.

If Truffle operates like KeeperTax (https://keepertax.com/), you can set the ground truth to the CC statements; the user only needs to augment this CC statements with occasional meta-data (what was the business reason for the meal?), etc. -- fundamentally the user can work completely in the tax app.

If you need to submit expenses, working with your statements is a much worse model, because of the need for the user to associate receipts. Receipts are the model the employee should work with; statements are for validation.

A few Ubers? That's going to make the difference between taking the standard deduction and itemizing for you? Interesting...

Also for the meals it doesn't really help much unless you already keep every receipt.

Scenario I posted was: As a W-2 employee, I may have failed to file an expense report for a company-related Uber trip (where I need to file an expense report to get all of it back).

I generally have iPhone snaps of any receipt that is a business expense. I just don't always get around to doing the paperwork afterwards...

You don't have to have a receipt to take a deduction. In case of an audit, your bank statement or cc statement indicating the amount and who it was paid to is sufficient.

But in the case of meals, you would definitely need some documentation like notes on the purpose of the meal.

I have my (rather messy) taxes done by a professional accountant every year, and he saves me a ton of money by doing things like this. I'll have to see if this report can help him with a more accurate picture of my expenses.

First thought is I wish there was a way to bulk edit transaction.

I also have my rent which it picks up as a "utility," and which should be partially deductible as a home office. Doesn't seem to be able to handle that slightly more complex use case yet.

Taxes are complicated…

This is great feedback. We'll add bulk edits soon!

Assuming this doesn’t work for Canadians?

No, it does't yet... Sorry.

So has anyone used it ? It seems like a great, well thought out idea. I just want to make sure before I drop $40 and give save a few hours of accountants costs.

If you’re not satisfied we will refund you.

Great idea! However, there wasn't a whole lot in my account's analysis. I can't seem to find the delete button. How do I delete my account?

Just send us a message on chat.

I've been wondering.... Are bank records like this good enough to replace receipts? Or do you still need to know how to get the actual receipts?

Great brand BTW

It looks like bank statements are sufficient but I’d check with your accountant: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employe...

No, it doesn't look like that to me at all. Bank statements do not usually contain nearly enough information on what was purchased. They are proof of payment. That's why they are listed on that page among other supporting documents like invoices.

Love how readable your Privacy Policy is.

The website looks like got ruffle, but this looks cool!

haha that's funny! Now that you say it, I can't unsee.

This idea is amazing. I always use my personal credit card to make business purchases. I’ll try this before tax season!

Definitely using this during tax season this year!

Love it!!! Saving so much money, as a engineer I pay way too much in taxes!

This is why I find Mint so terrible! It had such potential to enable things like this, but just never did anything after being bought by Intuit. This is also another reason why I think Bitcoin / crypto will be huge, because a company like Truffle could get implemented without needing crazy integrations with every existing financial institution. It could just use open-protocols. I already use a product in the same space called http://cointracker.io/ which I'm able to give my public keys to and it can do my taxes.

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