TurboTax

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TurboTax
TurboTax Logo.png
Developer(s)Intuit, Inc.
Initial release2001; 18 years ago (2001)
Operating systemWindows/Mac/Android
TypeTax software
LicenseProprietary
Websiteturbotax.intuit.com
Intuit Consumer Tax Group headquarters in San Diego (where TurboTax is developed)

TurboTax is an American tax preparation software package developed by Michael A. Chipman of Chipsoft in the mid-1980s.[1] Intuit acquired Chipsoft (now known as Intuit Consumer Tax Group), based in San Diego, in 1993.[2] TurboTax for the Mac was originally named MacinTax, and was developed by SoftView.[3] SoftView was in turn purchased by Chipsoft.[4] TurboTax is one of the most commonly used income tax preparation software packages in the United States, along with its main competitors, H&R Block at Home and TaxAct.[5]

Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has lobbied extensively against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) creating its own online system of tax filing.[6][7] As part of an agreement with the IRS, TurboTax allows individuals making less than $66,000 a year to use a free version of TurboTax; a 2019 ProPublica investigation revealed that TurboTax deliberately makes this version hard to find and that it deceptively steers individuals who search for the free version to TurboTax versions that cost.[8] TurboTax has tricked military service members to pay to use the filing software by creating and promoting a "military discount" and by making the free version hard to find when many service members are in fact eligible to use the software for free.[9] Intuit is reportedly under investigation by New York’s Department of Financial Services.[10]

Overview[edit]

Intuit Consumer Tax Group is based in San Diego, California.[11] Intuit Corporation, which owns Intuit, is headquartered in Mountain View, California.[12]

There are a number of different versions, including TurboTax Deluxe, TurboTax Premier, etc. TurboTax is available for both federal and state income tax returns. The software is designed to guide users through their tax returns step-by-step. The TurboTax software provides taxpayers additional support for their self-prepared returns by offering Audit Defense from TaxResources, Inc.[13]

Typically, TurboTax federal software is released late in the year and the state software is released mid-January to mid-February.[14] TurboTax normally releases its new versions as soon as the IRS completes revisions to the forms and approves the TurboTax versions, usually late in the tax year. The process is similar for states that collect income taxes.

In 2001, TurboTax saved financial institution passwords entered by users to servers at Intuit and the home computer.[15] The programming error was reportedly fixed, but as of 2012 TurboTax offers no option to download a data file directly from the financial institution. Instead, it prompts the user for their login name and password at the financial institution or permits the data to be entered by hand.[16]

In 2003, Intuit faced vocal criticism for its TurboTax activation scheme.[17] The company responded by removing the product activation scheme from its product. In 2005 TurboTax extended its offering by allowing any taxpayer to use a basic version of its federal product for free as part of the Free File Alliance. By 2006 that offer has been limited to free federal online tax preparation and e-file for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is $28,500 or less (or $52,000 for those in the military) and those 50 or under. TurboTax has received a number of complaints regarding its advertising of the free version. For filers who use this basic version of the software, federal filing is free. However, state tax filing is not free, and the cost of using TurboTax to file state returns is not presented to the user until they've already completed entering their information for federal returns.

In 2008, Intuit raised the price of TurboTax for desktop customers by $15 and included a free e-filing for the first return prepared.[18] The company's new "Pay Per Return" policy was criticized for adding a $9.95 fee to print or e-file each additional return after the first, including returns prepared for members of the same household. On December 12, 2008 the company announced that it had rescinded the new policy.[19]

On January 21, 2009, TurboTax received considerable public attention at the Senate confirmation hearing of Timothy F. Geithner to be the United States Secretary of Treasury. Geithner had testified that he used TurboTax to prepare his tax returns for the years 2001 to 2004 but had incorrectly handled the self-employment taxes due as a result of his being employed by the International Monetary Fund. Geithner made it clear that he took responsibility for the error, which was discovered in a subsequent IRS audit, and did not blame TurboTax. Geithner paid $42,702 in back taxes. Intuit responded by releasing a statement saying "TurboTax, and all software and in-person tax preparation services, base their calculations on the information users provide when completing their returns."[20]

In 2014 the Times of San Diego reported that 48% of Americans are not aware they must report their health insurance status on their 2014 tax returns, This report was based on a TurboTax survey conducted by Harris Poll.[21]

International versions[edit]

Intuit also addresses Canadian tax returns with an entirely separate product also named TurboTax, but previously called QuickTax. The French version has retained its original name ImpôtRapide until 2017, when it was renamed to TurboImpôt.

Controversies[edit]

Blocking search engines from indexing it's "free file program" page[edit]

Citizens of the US that make less than $66,000 per year are eligible for free preparation and filing of tax forms[22]. However, Turbotax's "free file program" page (https://turbotax.intuit.com/taxfreedom/) contains specific HTML tags (noindex,nofollow) which block search engines from indexing it.[23]. Turbotax has been deceiving customers which were eligible for the free submission into signing up for their commercial product [24].

Writing to the boot track[edit]

The 2003 version of the TurboTax software contained digital rights management that tracked whether it had previously been installed on a computer by writing to sector 33 on the hard drive. This allowed it to track if it was on a computer previously, even through reinstalling the operating system. This also caused it to conflict with some boot loaders that store data there, rendering those computers unbootable.[25]

Opposition to return-free filing[edit]

Intuit, the owner of TurboTax, spent more than $11 million on federal lobbying between 2008 and 2012. Intuit "opposes IRS government tax preparation," particularly allowing taxpayers to file pre-filled returns for free, in a system similar to the established ReadyReturn service in California. The company also lobbied on bills in 2007 and 2011 that would have barred the Treasury Department, which includes the IRS, from initiating return-free filing. An Intuit spokeswoman said in early 2013 that "Like many other companies, Intuit actively participates in the political process." She said that return-free filing had "implications for accuracy and fairness in taxation."[26][27] This led journalist Dylan Matthews to propose a boycott of the company in 2017.[28][29]

In its 2012 Form 10-K, Intuit said that "We anticipate that governmental encroachment at both the federal and state levels may present a continued competitive threat to our business for the foreseeable future."[26]

Repositioning of versions[edit]

In January 2015 it became known that the Deluxe version no longer supports IRS Schedules C, D, E, and F in interview mode. Although the Deluxe version still allows entry into those schedules by means of "form mode", doing so may result in the loss of the ability to file electronically. In addition, the Premium version no longer supports Schedule C or F in interview mode. Intuit was widely criticized for these changes and responded with short-term mitigation, although it has not reversed the decision.[30] On February 5, 2015 Intuit sent a second email apology to current and former customers regarding the decision to remove specific schedules from the Deluxe and Premium versions. Intuit also apologized for their poorly received initial apology sent on January 27. In the February 5 message Intuit announced that they would reverse course in their 2015 Deluxe and Premium versions, including the schedules that were historically included in the software.[31]

Fraudulent return claims[edit]

In an article by Brian Krebs on February 15, 2015 it was reported that Intuit Inc. temporarily suspended the transmission of state e-filed tax returns due to a surge in complaints from consumers about refunds already claimed in their name.[32]

In a later article on February 22, 2015, Krebs reported that it was alleged by two former employees that Intuit knowingly allowed fraudulent returns to be processed on a massive scale as part of a revenue boosting scheme. Both employees, former security team members for the company, stated that the company had ignored repeated warnings and suggestions on how to prevent fraud. One of the employees was reported to have filed a whistleblower complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.[33]

Reception[edit]

BYTE in 1989 listed MacInTax as among the "Distinction" winners of the BYTE Awards, stating that "several of us have found [it] to be our favorite ... a must if you're doing your own taxes".[34]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Michael Chipman". People. Forbes. April 18, 2012. Archived from the original on May 16, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  2. ^ Groves, Martha (September 2, 1993). "Intuit, Chipsoft Agree to Merge in $225-Million Deal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  3. ^ Groth, Nancy (January 13, 1986). "Tax Package for Macintosh Announced". InfoWorld. p. 51. Retrieved December 12, 2013 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Jaroslovsky, Rich (March 1, 1992). "MacInTax: the one and only. (Chipsoft Inc.'s MacInTax Personal 1040 tax preparation software)". Computer Shopper. Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2013 – via HighBeam.
  5. ^ Gray, Tim (February 11, 2012). "Taking Tax Software for a Walk". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Elliott, Justin (April 9, 2019). "Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax". ProPublica. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  7. ^ Day, Liz (March 26, 2013). "How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing". ProPublica. Retrieved April 9, 2019.
  8. ^ Justin Elliott, Lucas Waldron (April 22, 2019). "Here's How TurboTax Just Tricked You Into Paying to File Your Taxes". ProPublica. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  9. ^ Justin Elliott, Kengo Tsutsumi (May 23, 2019). "TurboTax Uses A "Military Discount" to Trick Troops Into Paying to File Their Taxes". ProPublica. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  10. ^ Elliott, Justin (May 10, 2019). "New York Regulator Launches Investigation Into TurboTax Maker Intuit and H&R Block". ProPublica. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  11. ^ Horn, Jonathan (November 9, 2014). "Intuit: An atmosphere to excel". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  12. ^ "Corporate Profile". Intuit. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  13. ^ "TurboTax Support: Audit Defense". Intuit. December 6, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  14. ^ "Intuit TurboTax Order Status FAQs (2009)". Intuit. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  15. ^ "TurboTax Security Glitch May Force 150,000 Investors to Alter Passwords". Los Angeles Times. April 6, 2001. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  16. ^ "Importing Your W-2, 1099, and 1098 Forms". Intuit. September 9, 2013. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  17. ^ Metz, Cade (October 1, 2003). "Intuit's TurboTax Activation Scheme Irks Users". PC Magazine. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  18. ^ "Why has the price of TurboTax increased by $15 this year?". Intuit. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  19. ^ Elmblad, Shelly (November 25, 2008). "TurboTax Removes E-file Fees". About.com. Retrieved December 3, 2008.
  20. ^ Ahrens, Frank (January 22, 2009). "Treasury Pick Misfiled Using Off-the-Shelf Tax Software". The Washington Post. p. D1.
  21. ^ Jennewein, Chris (December 3, 2014). "TurboTax: Americans Unaware of Obamacare's Tax Impact". Times of San Diego. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  22. ^ https://www.irs.gov/e-file-providers/about-the-free-file-program
  23. ^ https://imgur.com/gallery/ErWicdl
  24. ^ https://www.propublica.org/article/turbotax-just-tricked-you-into-paying-to-file-your-taxes
  25. ^ Becker, David (January 6, 2003). "Intuit pours oil on TurboTax troubles". CNET.
  26. ^ a b Day, Liz (March 26, 2013). "How the Maker of TurboTax Fought Free, Simple Tax Filing". ProPublica.
  27. ^ Burman, Len (April 15, 2013). "The Tax Complexity Lobby". Forbes.
  28. ^ Matthews, Dylan. "Why I'm boycotting TurboTax this year". Vox. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  29. ^ "The Call for Boycotting TurboTax". Institute for Policy Studies. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  30. ^ Novack, Janet (January 22, 2015). "Intuit Offers $25 Refund To TurboTax Deluxe Users Hurt By Software Changes". Forbes.
  31. ^ "Intuit Cries Uncle, Will Reverse TurboTax Deluxe Changes". Forbes. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  32. ^ "Citing Tax Fraud Spike, TurboTax Suspends State E-Filings". Krebs on Security. February 6, 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  33. ^ "TurboTax's Anti-Fraud Efforts Under Scrutiny". Krebs on Security. February 22, 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  34. ^ "The BYTE Awards". Byte. January 1989. p. 327.

External links[edit]