Obviously too late for people this year, and my tax situation is relatively straightforward so I can't speak to how well it handles edge cases, but the first year I used it I went through the process with both TurboTax and FreeTaxUSA and got the exact same estimated refund.
The last straw with TurboTax was when I needed to get some details from a previous year's tax return and found out that they would not let me access a return I'd paid to file with them unless I upgraded my plan. Absolute scum. I took the opportunity to also close my Mint account (same parent company as TurboTax) which I barely use and has been sending all kinds of transaction data for them to profit from.
My taxes include a multitude of stock sales, losses (from calls and puts), as well as my W2.
It takes a little longer to fill out then Turbo Tax due to the lack of integrations with banks and what not, but I still finished the whole thing in less than an hour. It's free for Federal, and they wanted something like $10 for my state so I did it out of lazyness.
Think Comcast, Verizon, various Android phones, various modern TVs, etc.
I think his point is something like "Who knows, but you can be sure TurboTax is doing it too"
I do like they're at least pretty transparent about their business model:
So you might as well utilize companies that provide an actually good product.
I'll probably try them again next year, but CreditKarma worked out pretty well (they've come a long way since the first version a couple years ago) and doesn't charge for state filing. The big downside is that you have to agree to let them use whatever data they pull in as part of your profile for better marketing etc.
-Of the three options, TurboTax returned the highest amount owed to federal and state govt
-CreditKarma and FTUSA’s federal totals owed were ~$2k less than TT, and a few hundred $ less owed for state
-FTUSA was the least expensive option of the three, at ~$80 less owed than CreditKarma
I’m not sure why the totals were different, but it was absolutely worth it to go through the process three times. Especially to not support Intuit’s lobbying practices.
> It looks like you need to pay first to instantly access your TurboTax returns
> For instructions on how to access your returns, click help in the upper right hand corner of your screen and type “Prior Year Return” into the search box
and when I do that:
> To access your prior year return before you file, you have to:
> Be in an upgraded version of TurboTax (or add PLUS to TurboTax Free Edition).
The fact that it makes you search their help system for the answer to your question is just the icing on the cake...
My original thinking was coming from going through the mortgage application process last year, and I was able to retrieve my previous PDFs mid-year without a problem.
(This sort of thing is why it's a good idea to do just that regardless of which service you're using.)
My response is:
>Nah, you're missing the forest when looking at the trees. Go bigger.
Why are we even having to file our own taxes? The IRS already checks everything. They have all the information that you enter into these systems (in fact, turbo tax has frequently had my W2 before my employer gives it to me, as well as many other documents).
So having us, or some middleman, doing it is double work. Let the IRS do it (because they determine if there is fraud or not), they send you a copy and you send it back either as is or with modifications.
If taxes are done this way who cares how complicated it is? (I'll hedge that in that it is harder to check the IRS's work, but I think less people care about this)
"Government: You owe us money. It’s called taxes.
Me: How much do I owe?
Gov’t: You have to figure that out.
Me: I just pay what I want?
Gov’t: Oh, no we know exactly how much you owe. But you have to guess that number too.
Me: What if I get it wrong?
Gov’t: You go to prison"
Sure, your government could calculate everyone's taxes but I'm guessing those taxes would need to go up...
I guarantee you'll get a discrepancy letter.
Supposedly a political gambit from the right. The idea is if paying your taxes is painless, you will cease to notice them. But the more painful paying them becomes, the more attention you will pay to what you are paying, and then the more you will object & vote to lower your taxes.
- We (R) don't want taxes
- We will make filing taxes the most cumbersome thing possible
- People will hate taxes
They rejected her return because I kicked two of the numbers on the EIN of one of her employers. The rejection was quick too, as we got the email about 20 minutes after submitting the return.
I always knew that the IRS checked your return, but I always figured it was something that eventually happened. I didn't think they checked everything as you submitted it. I don't know why I though that. Guess I pictured the IRS computer as an old IBM S/360 with core memory that did everything in batches.
I think that idea is common. But why wouldn't they automate it with modern(ish) hardware? It saves them money to do that. Just like it saves H&R block by creating a program. In fact I'm more surprised that H&R didn't flag it before you hit submit.
>> Let the IRS do it, they send you a copy and you send it back either as is or with modifications.
That's why you check it.
And to respond to a possible next question, do we trust TurboTax (or others) more?
> Also, if you have other income with no W2 it needs to be reported.
All those other forms that are handed to you are ALSO already handed to the IRS. For example the 1099. The W2 was an easily verifiable example of how they already have this information before you receive it. The gov already has copies of all those forms. So really as tax payers we're paying for the IRS to do our taxes and we're paying for companies like TurboTax to do it as well (assuming you don't do it yourself)
What I don't understand is why we can't have the IRS running their own tax prep website. The government seems to be capable of running other websites just fine.
But, the core problem is that in the US we use the tax system as a method for distributing subsidies for various things. Buy a solar panel? Instead of writing you a check, we give you a tax credit. Have a kid? Tax credit.
You could certainly simplify the act of filing taxes, but HR Block and Intuit lobby heavily against that. As far as moving away from using it as a distribution mechanism for subsidies, that complexity could be removed from the tax code but it will get pushed somewhere else instead. I think most people would prefer getting their child tax credit through taxes than having to apply at a welfare office and get a check.
For example, my tax situation is not terribly complicated. But looking at what I paid my accountant to do, there's precisely 0% chance that I would be able to do what he did and get back as much as we did without spending weeks of my life reading tons of IRS regulations and rules. This is exactly why I pay him to do it for us, and exactly the core of my point - doing it right and getting back the most is not easy at all without assistance whether that be software or an actual licensed professional.
I would bet that the majority of Americans get more back through the standard deduction than with itemized deductions.
Cool. Like what?
He actually just does them for free because my wife has an LLC in her name and we pay him to do the LLC taxes and other stuff. And he said the hardest part is doing the LLC work and we were already paying him for that - so since our returns were actually quite simple he'd just file them for us because the hard part was done (and paid for). Not sure what it normally goes for. I think you're correct that it's around $400, though. And in that case, we definitely net out much more than the $400 we would be paying if we were paying. I'm sure every situation is different, but for us it's a clear win. And if you're wondering - no we aren't funneling losses through the LLC or anything like that. The LLC is profitable and only increases our income which is why we figured we would get screwed like my coworkers with the tax changes, but somehow did not.
EDIT - 0.5% meaning my effective tax rate is 0.5% lower.
I ask because I once did go to a CPA, after first filling out the forms myself. The tax bill he computed was identical to what I came up with, so I concluded he provided no value over doing it myself!
Now of course, once I learned this, Schedule A was a breeze. But it's not something I expect a common person to know, and it's unfair that some of them may be overpaying in taxes due to a (nontrivial) piece of knowledge.
And then I'm always wondering if there are any other deductions I should be aware of.
Thus, no one is simplifying, for their own reasons.
To me it just feels wrong to incentivise living a certain lifestyle by getting a discount at just existing. It is great when it incentivises the things you want, such as hybrid cars or something, but what would happen if someone wanted to give you a discount for purchasing gas cars when they become less common because of relations to the oil and gas industry?
Or maybe tax incentives for purchasing private telecom service if/when municipal networks ever become commonplace?
If you they can lower tax liability for a certain amount why not lower it to the actual level needed across the board instead of keeping some cushion to give away coupons?
Whether or not we can imagine a world where buying a gasoline-powered car or private telecom is considered a social good is less of an issue than whether we want to be able to incentivize those things should they become necessary.
It shouldn't be the IRS's business to reward people. If there is a reward for doing X then there should be a fund specifically for giving money to people in those scenarios completely independent of taxes.
Its much more transparent to say "we have a fund for X, mail us the required proof and we will send you a check", then it is to add layers and layers to the tax code. That also means everyday people are aware of what our representatives are arguing about and the dollar amounts being held responsible for the programs.
Then we get simple taxes without all of the itemizing nonsense.
Would you argue that potato chips shouldn't be taxed, or that produce should be?
If there is some reason you report produce on your tax documents then no, it should not be there.
That and form 8960 (Net Investment Income Tax Individuals, Estates, and Trusts) are both direct contradictions to you assertion.
- The problem of notational vs real gains
- The fact that capital gains are already taxed once at the corporate level
- The fact that taxing capital gains is a tax on savings and we want to encourage savings and investment
- All of the theory on how differentiated taxes on present vs future consumption is a flawed idea
Especially since there are countries that do tax at least some capital gains at the same rate, and they don't seem to be doing appreciably worse than other countries in a similar economic bucket that do not. Indeed, it seems to be more popular among economically liberal countries with flat income taxes.
Perhaps, but the US is not past that point. Every level of income pays a higher rate of taxes than the level below it according to IRS reports.
Separately, none of the issues I listed are hypothetical.
Does their definition of "income" include capital gains for the purpose of those reports? I don't see how this could possibly be true if it does, given that capital gains constitute the largest part of overall income past a certain point on the scale.
I'm not sure where it is today, exactly. But it's easy to see that it's always going to be there, simply by virtue of increasing proportion of capital gains at higher income levels.
I don't know why so many people in this site seem to think this is a trivial thing for the IRS. 100% review after the fact isn't even feasible right now, let alone having the information in January.
Second, the IRS processed 247.8M total returns and 3.59B supporting documents in 2017. While I think the IRS could do a better job (like, well, the entire rest of the US federal government), what other tax system processes anything near that volume?
Also, I'm not buying "just about every other country". Not even close. For starters, I find it hard to believe that more than a handful of African countries manage to do it.
 https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p6292.pdf, page (3)
 https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p6961.pdf, page (4)
The volume doesn't really matter, because it scales linearly with population - a larger country just needs more bureaucrats, but it can afford them because it also collects more taxes from more people. There's nothing unique in that regard in US.
But if you want something in the same ballpark, we can look at, say, Russia (population of 150 million), or even at Nigeria (200 million).
> It would cost the IRS almost nothing to send out pre-filled forms
Enhancing the IRS databases to actually plug in the information used on a typical tax return almost certainly would not cost "almost nothing." Back when it existed, less than 20% of people filed a 1040-EZ (the simplest tax form). That means you need something beyond just "plug in the numbers from the W-2" for the vast majority of tax filers. The IRS almost certainly doesn't have all that machinery already. Some of that data, the IRS doesn't have at all. (How many children live with you for purposes of the EITC?)
The IRS already has W-2s and 1099s, which cover ordinary pay and retirement investments, and enough money has probably been automatically withheld already. Remember that this isn't automatic billing, but automatic filling. They'll send you the form, and you can insert the number of children. If your taxes are much more complicated than that, you can probably afford TurboTax.
In the meantime, the same lobbyists who created this scheme are trying to prohibit IRS from developing its own free filing system:
I think that's a very reasonable approach.
Or it means that lots of people who qualified to use the 1040-EZ didn't know about it.
Or it means that lots of people who qualified to use the 1040-EZ kept on filing 1040s because that's what they were used to doing.
Or it means that lots of people who qualified to use the 1040-EZ were using tax software that just generated a 1040 for everyone, regardless of their eligibility to use the 1040-EZ.
For the record any of the following disallowed someone from using the 1040-EZ
- being over the age of 65
- having any dependents/children
- making over 100k in income
- claiming any deductions at all
- claiming EITC
The statistics I've seen indicate the opposite. But I suppose it depends on how you measure. Perhaps on a per-incident basis, you may be correct. But I don't think you're correct if you measure by the amount of money.
If the poster has meant the amount, they might have said "Lower income people with cash businesses cheat more than wealthy people" (which is ambiguous) or "The IRS loses more money to low income cheaters with cash businesses" (which is unambiguous, and, when you phrase it that way, truly sounds ridiculous given the high level of wealth inequality I would expect one wealthy cheater to cheat the IRS out of more money than all of the other cheaters in the world)
If the goal is culture change, that may be different -- but the IRS is probably the wrong entity to address it.
I will say that I have not noticed that lower-income people have any greater sense of "cheating is OK" than higher-income people. My observations are not necessarily representative of the wider culture, but it looks to me like the percentage of people who think cheating is OK doesn't change based on income.
Sadly this gets muddied in a sea of "representatives" and lobby groups which claim to represent people...
Its good to keep in mind corporations include a large class of entities like public colleges, newspapers, internet providers, charities, political parties, organized religions, public interest groups, and of course for profit businesses. Saying all these entities should have no rights is advocating for the state to have unchecked and arbitrary power over all of them.
I will admit i have not thought long and hard on this. But on the surface it seems like the answer is "Yes".
But the individuals working in those corporations do. So when a journalist submits an article their free speech is protected as an individual rights extended through the corporation. Similarly for property rights...
I think the idea i'm trying to get at is that these corporations shouldnt have influence beyond the voting power they represent, ie the people.
Speaking of ideals, for example a hypothetical single employee business w/ billions in wealth should have 1 unit of political power, whereas a public interest group with a few thousand of dollars but 100 people should have 100 units of political power.
Edit: Corrected my "No" --> "Yes" because the question sentence was confusing
It is immaterial whether the increased corruption was an incidental side effect, or the whole point. From the perspective of the individual citizens being exploited, it doesn't matter whether it was the government exploiting them or a corporation exploiting them after having bought the franchise from the government.
I would argue that so long as corporations continue to exist they require a minimum amount of rights, such as a right to due process, or else they just become tools for the state to act without any of the restraints our current system has developed.
The idea is, should corporations have all the same free speech rights as individuals, or can we limit them? I can think of at least one reason why maybe we should limit them: accountability. If I yell fire in a crowded theater I can be charged with a crime. A corporation can be as well, but in practice enforcement is problematic. There is also the question of moral accountability. If I write an Op Ed saying kids should smoke cigarettes I have to live with it. If a company runs an ad campaign it's hard to know who really is responsible.
But I understand why people disagree. This isn't a simple issue.
That's absolutely true. Neither a corporation nor an individual can engage in libel, some types of obscenity, true threats, etc. Furthermore, there are indeed cases where corporate entities are treated differently than individuals, and no one seriously argues that it's inappropriate to do so (there's no corporate right to bear arms, for instance, and corporations don't cast votes in elections). On the other hand, there are obviously very important situations where a corporation must be treated as a legal "person" (to sue and be sued, to own property, etc.)
The crux of the argument that won in Citizen's United is that, among all types of speech, it's political speech that must be jealously protected. Even though there are serious arguments against allowing corporations to participate in campaign-related speech, it was found that there was not enough of a compelling government interest to overcome the strict constitutional scrutiny that is required when the government seeks to limit political participation. As corporations are just groups of people who form an entity to pool resources and share in ownership, those groups of people do not lose their rights because they pick one social and legal structure over another (for instance, a school, non-profit, or a church). The important example was of a corporate entity producing a video that was critical of Hillary Clinton within some amount of time before an election.
The "you cannot yell 'fire' in a crowded theater" argument makes it seem as if others are denying that the government can regulate any speech, but that is not true, people understand the current state of the law.
I think I can rephrase your argument as: "I cannot shout 'fire' in a crowded theater, so obviously some speech can be prohibited. Therefore, since we're only talking about where to draw the line, it can be drawn over here where I'm advocating it be drawn." This ignores distinctions between situations that have been acknowledged for a long time. You cannot shout "fire" (falsely) in a crowded theater because it would be illegal to say something false when you know it is likely to cause immediate harm. It is also illegal to do other things that are kinda-sort-of free speech related if you look at them the right way -- you can't lie for financial gain, you can't lie to obstruct an investigation, you can't lie under oath, you can't file a false police report, etc. etc. Because these are all true, it doesn't mean that in a different situation speech can necessarily be regulated because we've already crossed the line out of absolutism and into situationally-dependent regulation.
Reading your post helped me think of a more concise way to say this. So thank you. And again.. I am not really sure and I see both sides.
In the case of Intuit, the government opts out of providing a service so that a corporation can seek rent.
A corporate entity has rights and powers that ordinary people do not, so they are more than "just groups of people". They are independent entities all their own.
Further, they can only exist because the government grants them that privilege, and the government can technically place any restrictions they like on them. In the past, the government used to require that the corporation serve the public good as part of the conditions for their existence.
I don't think it's right or accurate to characterize corporations as just "groups of people" and therefore they should have the rights of people. The law and the courts don't think so, either, which is why corporations are treated differently (with fewer rights) than people are.
> The responsible corporate officer (RCO) doctrine holds that a corporate officer is indirectly liable for a subordinate's criminal conduct when the officer is in a position of responsibility. The officer can be prosecuted if he has the authority and the ability to stop the offense and yet fails to act.
The RCO doctrine does not require proof that the officer either participated in or authorized the crime.
The ACLU, Sierra Club, etc., are all corporations. They need to be corporations in order to enable their fund-raising and nationwide scope of activities. Nobody really thinks the ACLU shouldn't have the right to free speech. (Note: The ACLU was on the winning side in Citizens United.) What people are opposed to is the content of the speech that some people speak when acting through the corporate form. (Citizens United was about a movie critical of Hilary Clinton.) But if free speech means anything, it means you can't single out speech based on content.
In reality, the law and the courts do not really consider corporations to be the equivalent of people generally.
This is not actually the case. Corporations are entities separate and independent from their "owners". That fact is why there's such a thing as a corporate shield that mostly prevents the owners from being held responsible for the misbehavior of the corporation.
Corporations are proxies for some combination of their shareholders, their management, and their chartering government, but not simple proxies for any of the three.
Now why our tax code needs to be so complex that it requires software like Turbo Tax is certainly a fair question.
I see literally no reason to think the IRS would do a worse job of it than the commercial services.
But regardless of that, there's no reason why the IRS couldn't provide services alongside the commercial services. It's not an either-or.
But return free filing is honestly the goal for most people and it already exists in many countries.
Some people are selected by some other people, neither representative of society as a whole.
What if you don't live in the country?
I clicked through and found that this deduction wouldn't actually save me any money. I then couldn't find a way to get back to the free plan (they only charge you after you file, so this should be possible).
After struggling for a while, I called Turbotax support, which had me download screen-sharing software and kept telling me to press some button to cancel the paid plan, and it wouldn't work, telling me that it wasn't possible to switch back. He couldn't figure it out, couldn't switch it off on his end, and eventually told me I would have to create a new Turbotax account and start over.
Oh, and for the icing on the cake, he never stopped the screen-sharing session, and saw me input my SSN when I recreated my account. (Yes, I'm aware that I'm a fool for not closing it out myself, but I was really stressed, and it would've been professional to end the screen-sharing after we ended the call.)
I started doing my taxes in turbo tax this year. After a few screens I got the upgrade option for extra deductions and saving money. I clicked ok and got upgraded. I followed through the entire taxes and my return didn’t change. NO WAY to downgrade. Clearly, they got theirs.
I opened up Taxact and filled up their forms and my returns were the same without upgrading (to their equivalent option). I filed with TaxAct and removed my info from TurboTax. I will definitely use them to compare my taxes if I ever have to but I will not file using TurboTax. POS.
I guess my question is, if you know the standard deduction is the right choice, can you just not input the tax forms that you don't need for that?
I couldn’t import shit from many things anyway so last couple of years I’ve just used excel and the fillable PDFs.
You never have to pay to file taxes. Like the forms are free on IRS.gov. You can fill in the information and mail it in with any money you owe too. There are help guides that step your through the process of filling out the forms as well, like worksheets to calculate deductibles if you need it.
It's very important that you go to IRS.gov and look at your options before you ever pay someone to do your taxes. https://www.irs.gov/forms-instructions
It's good to have free software and keep forms fillable, but we as a society NEED to know how to perform taxes and that the process DOES NOT COST MONEY. You most likely can do it yourself.
The reason we're in the mess now is because people have been so willing to believe that taxes are too hard and impossible for the individual. Who's telling you that you shouldn't do taxes on your own? Look at their motivations.
But I have a new & deep appreciation for how complicated taxes can get. If you have W-2's and 1099's, it's pretty easy. But holy cow, I ran a rental property and there is a huge step function in complexity when you venture beyond the W-2 & 1099. And that was only just dipping my toes in the pool of business taxes.
So a hired accountant, or a software-accountant (turbotax, h&r block), really can help you out where you might otherwise have to pour over IRS documents every weeknight for months.
Did you work remotely for an out-of-state employer? Now you get to worry about the interplay of taxes in multiple states. Did you change health insurers mid-year? Now you're working out how to prove you were ACA-compliant at all times. Did you have some obscure deduction like rent payment deductions from state taxes? Several people I know lost hundreds of dollars this year by simply not knowing that deduction existed.
Obviously, filing with a paid service instead of simply getting a bill in the mail has a cost. But working out what one owes under the current system also has a pretty significant cost, both in hours spent and potentially in dollars.
I have no doubt that it's technically possible for anyone to do their own taxes. But if you're inexperienced, it's fraught with peril. And my situation was one that most people would call pretty simple.
And as you said - those people were formula-happy programmers with simple W-2 income from one job. It's the absolute lowest level of complexity available, and it's still easy to get wrong.
The reason Intuit has been able to make so much money is that no one wants to waste hours poring over verbose IRS instruction publications, which are not trivial for a layperson to fill out correctly.
And because Intuit spends a lot of money lobbying to ensure that the IRS won't make things any easier.
Recently I paid a small business $20 to wash my car. It probably saved me an hour out of my day.
Why is the second business's services more valid than the first? I know how to wash my car, i know how to do my taxes, but I also value my time.
My buddy has to report expenses of a certain kind, and it's complicated to do that even with turbo tax too.
Haven't even gotten started on people with crypto-investments, freelancing, multiple jobs, dependants, etc.
Yes you can totally learn that stuff on your own, but there's 0 chance you can expect the general population to be capable of doing their own taxes without messing stuff up.
But, doing it that way every year is not a practical option for anyone who doesn't already qualify for the free filing options anyway.
It might not be the best choice for everyone, but I found that despite all these tax services' low cognitive load, they ask so many questions with so many steps that the actual time that it takes to file with TurboTax wasn't actually any faster than just biting the bullet and reading some instructions.
Again, I think it's not a great choice for many people but it's the one I'll be using moving forward.
This is the actual direct link to the site in case you actually haven't been able to find what you're supposed to use:
But the good part is you can decline that, and the rest of the time they stick to the task at hand. Now they do have separate pricing tiers based on your needs but I don't find that dishonest. In fact they have a quick selector to help you identify which tier you need to get based on your situation.
If it's just regular filing, that's something like $70, and the IRS pays the refund in about a week. TurboTax claims they vouche for the validity of the filing, so there's little risk of it not coming through, and even if it does, they can just say, "oops, we can't file for you until you do XYZ" and boom, they didn't finish providing the service.
So, that's a $40 loan on $70 of principle, or 57% for that week. Annualized -- to make it commensurate with other interest rates -- that's (1.57)^52 = a f---ing lot.
R_n = (1 + R_0)(1 + R_1)...(1 + R_n) - 1
It's easier to just use log return:
r_n = r_0 + r_1 ... r_n
r = log (1 + R)
Anyhow, compounded returns aren't the best way to think about this. It's not like they could extend the period and realize the compounded returns.
Payday loans are a similar situation, it seems exploitative to many/most people. But those people who think it's exploitative are the ones who don't need the service in the first place. If you can avoid it, you should never ever get a payday loan. But if it's between a payday loan and missing a rent payment and living on the street, it's a pretty attractive and rational proposition.
Would it be better that a certain segment of the population not have any access to credit? Or is it better that they have access to expensive credit? Moreover, if they want some (expensive) credit, it's pretty paternal and condescending (and sometimes racist) to say that they aren't rational enough actors to deserve it.
In fairness, I may have missed something more obvious in the UX.
You didn't. It's phrased on purpose to not make it sound like you're paying for this "service". And the lettering does not stand out (compare to say all their annoying ads to make you upgrade).
This kind of condescending flow is exactly why I stopped using TurboTax about 10 years ago. Apparently it got even worse since then.
Protip: some of the forms do the math for you, but some don't. Also, there are no worksheets available. So, I use a spreadsheet to do the math and calculate the worksheets.
Disclaimer: I work there but not on tax
I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, though.
The solution probably entails making it illegal for them to upsell folks below the income bar, and require them to provide the free filing option based on the forms entered.
In the current environment where they appear to have enough political influence to block the IRS from allowing people to file their taxes online, it seems unlikely that any constraints will be imposed on their pursuit of profits.
The hardest part for me - by far - of filing income tax is and remains filing my US taxes, which unsurprisingly becomes extra complicated and burdensome as an overseas citizen.
We can only dream of the day when the bizarro hydra that forms the anti-tax-reform lobby is somehow defeated, but that realistically feels like a not-in-my-lifetime kind of deal.
One year I was curious about my refund (thought I was paying more than I should) and brought my return in to an actual brick & mortar H & R Block office, and they told me that my return just about perfect, but they urged me to increase my monthly withholdings to avoid paying taxes at tax season, which turned out to be good advice for the next year (would have had to pay much, much more than the previous year, my withholdings were WAY too low).
It's always best to try and get a $0 refund with $0 owed. Big refunds may seem cool but you are really just making an interest-free loan to the government.
Not that I appreciate government websites, since the quality is pretty shoddy, but when a company has no incentive to handle any smaller markets how is this a good system?
Of course, that is being very generous, because they are also directly influencing the policy makers that establish the incentive structures for Intuit.
In particular, every piece of tax software I've used has had trouble with figuring out what I owe on scholarships and stipends, and letting me enter it in the software. After four hours fighting H&R Block's "free" software one time, I swore I would never do it again and just do my own taxes now. Far easier, and faster.
Plus since I'm a California resident filing state taxes is as easy as reading numbers off the 1040 to put into the FTB website.
The free version does very little error checking prior to submission. It won't even check for things like empty fields that are required for everyone (e.g. the field for your birthday on the state health care form).
The state paid for the free version with tax money and it lacks fundamental usability.
* Doesn't perform basic validation
* Doesn't calculate fields that can be automatically calculated (though there is a button you can press which will fill some of them)
* Takes 24-48 hours for "processing" after submission before you are notified of acceptance. In actuality, this tended to be 4-15 hours, but still... it's just doing basic validation. I got rejections for empty fields and miscalculated fields (ones that I shouldn't even have to enter at all.)
* Reports errors in a obscure manner, which makes it a chore to determine what is wrong (violates "Business Rule F1-1025", etc.)
* Amounts to an electronic version of the paper form, where it only really does exactly what you put on it... add incorrectly: won't be detected, skip a line: no problem
* I could go on, but you get the idea
The product built for the state could just be a really poorly written and managed contract, but knowing the way Intuit behaves generally, I doubt that is all that's going on.
The dark patterns are bad... but I really have no reason to look elsewhere?
Well except passing bank login credentials. That was uncomfortable, but hey, just change them immediately after as it’s a one time service.
TurboTax actively lobbies the government to make filing taxes difficult. So one reason to look elsewhere is simply to avoid giving money to a company that behaves that way.
I realize it's hard because the number of complications that can come up in filing taxes is difficult to enumerate and customers may not know their exact status.... Even so, I'd say the current setup that these companies use is very scammy and unethical.
Intuit has the perfect scam.
However it's not true. You can file via TurboTax without paying. Then directly go to the 3-4 IRS authorized payment providers who will let you pay via card for less.