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Customer Review

386 of 422 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't fall for TurboTax's deceptive price increase on e-file and multiple returns!, November 21, 2008
By 
This review is from: TurboTax Premier Federal + State + eFile 2008 [OLD VERSION] (CD-ROM)
UPDATE: Intuit has tried to correct for this year's price-grab (as detailed below in my original post) by reversing themselves and including 5 free e-files and removing restrictions on the number of returns that can be created and printed with a single copy of TurboTax. For that, I am raising my rating to two stars. However, as smart consumers, we should note when they did this and infer what motivated them. During the period while the controversy of their restrictions and extra charges was raging, Intuit and its representatives did nothing but try to justify their position, but this did nothing but inflame their (former) customers more.

However, the controversy did catch the attention of Intuit TurboTax's primary competitor, the Tax Cut product from H&R Block, who then moved to take advantage by first pointing out that they did not raise their price this year (even when including e-file as TurboTax did) and were not restricting the number of returns that could be done with a single copy of TaxCut. Then, more importantly, decided to offer 5 free e-files with the TaxCut product.

Only then did Intuit realize that they were not going to sneak this price-grab by consumers, because if the two products were side by side and only one of them (TaxCut) was advertising 5 free e-files and no limits on printing, they were going to lose sales big time. They then reversed their decision and have now matched TaxCut's offer.

So what does that mean for us consumers? In one sense, it is a victory, because we are getting what we wanted in the first place: to pay a reasonable price for a product that we can use to meet our family's needs. However, while I applaud Intuit's decision to reverse a bad decision, I can also see that it wasn't because they were listening and responding to their customers, but only countering their competition (who was listening to consumers and responded to take advantage).

More importantly, H&R Block's actions with TaxCut demonstrated a certain corporate character: first, they did not try to price-gouge customers this year by raising prices when they included "free" e-file. Free equals free. Second, they did not try to get extra money for printed returns (software as service) when the customer has already paid for the product. Third, they could have just trumpeted the fact that they do not charge for extra printed returns, but they raised the bar by including more free e-files. This is compared to Intuit's corporate character of greed and selfishness, which has been demonstrated this year by price increases, user restrictions, and extra charges. A few years ago, they also showed their true colors by including damaging Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) in TurboTax to prevent it from being installed on more than one computer, preventing legitimate customers from working on their return on a work computer and finishing it on their home computer, and then preventing them from uninstalling it. Then, as with this year, they only listened and gave in when it was already clear they are going to lose. Intuit needs to learn how to balance their profit expectations with respect for their customers and it will take time before they earn our respect back.

So for me, I will give credit where it is due and purchase TaxCut instead of TurboTax this year.

ORIGINAL REVIEW BELOW:

Intuit is trying to pull a fast one on consumers this year by including e-filing "at no extra charge."

Intuit is promoting that they are including one free e-file with its software for tax year 2008, but has also increased the price of its products by about $15. In previous years, they would charge $15 extra to e-file, but you could send in a rebate to get that $15 back, which made it effectively free. This year, they charge you $15 upfront, whether you use the e-file or not, which means EVERYBODY PAYS MORE.

In addition, they have changed their product's license from allowing a purchaser of TurboTax to prepare up to five tax returns within the household in the 2007 version to allowing only one tax return (with included e-file) and then charging $9.95 for each additional return prepared, WHETHER THOSE ADDITIONAL RETURNS ARE PRINTED OR E-FILED in the 2008 version. The additional charges for additional e-file submissions would be fair, but not for additional preparations and printed returns. So what this means is that, under the guise of providing free e-file, Intuit will charge up to $54.80 ($15 + 4 * 9.95) MORE to consumers to receive the equivalent of what was provided with the 2007 version. Keep in mind, they are charging even if you prepare and print more than one return without e-filing, which means there is NO COST TO THEM, but they want to charge you for it anyway.

This doesn't sound free to me.

This will affect many users who prepare one main return, and then a few more simple ones for children or parents, etc. Even if you only do one return, you should avoid this year's TurboTax on principle. The core issue is that Intuit is trying to change TurboTax from a tool-based product model to a service-based model. However, they have not changed the pricing to reflect this change. The problem is, they want to continue pricing the product like they did before, when it was a tool that could be used multiple times, yet restrict it like a service where you pay for every use.

If you object to the one return policy, Intuit will just say, "Use TurboTax Online, it's free for simple returns!", but this suggestion is just a distraction in this discussion. What they are saying is like this: Suppose I bought a nice brand-name toolset for full price and used it on one project. I've now setup all the tools in the box just like I like it and become totally familiar with the tools and how they can be used, so much that I can just reach in the box without looking and find the tool I need and once I get it out I know just how hard to hit with that hammer. I finish the project and close up my toolbox for the day. The next day, my mom wants me to fix something so I get the toolbox but I now find that it is locked and has a security sticker on it saying that I'll have to pay $10 extra to open the toolbox for each additional project. Or, I can pack up my mom's item and drive it to the hardware store where they will let me borrow some simple tools to try and fix the item but if it gets too complicated over there, they'll start charging me to rent additional tools. Not to mention that I have to throw away all the learning that I've already developed with the great toolset that I already bought and learn another whole set of rental tools at the hardware store. If I wanted to rent tools, then I wouldn't have bought the toolbox in the first place (which was probably what the hardware store really wanted when they came up with this scheme).

Here is the problem people have with this scenario:

Last year, the toolbox included 5 uses. This year the toolbox costs $15 more but only allows a single use. Ok, it adds a "free" service that used to cost $15 but we may or may not want to use that service and if we did, we could send in a rebate for to get the $15 back, making it effectively free. But "Free service" aside, what happened to the value of those unlimited uses? The price of the toolbox stayed the same, but the functionality went down because we can only use it once. Maybe it would be more ok if there was a big sign at the store that said: "SAVE ON THIS TOOLBOX! YOU CAN ONLY USE IT ONCE BUT IT'S CHEAPER!" Or at have the decency to post a very big warning: "THIS TOOLBOX COSTS THE SAME AS LAST YEAR, BUT YOU CAN ONLY USE IT ONCE!"

Don't let them get away this price increase that has no basis in common sense. Avoid TurboTax this year until they change this ridiculous policy, even if you only prepare a single return with it. If you buy it, they'll use your sales data to justify this unreasonable change, then who knows what else they will try to charge us for next for doing nothing on their part.

Looking at the big picture, what Intuit probably wants in the long term is to move people away from the boxed product and over onto the online product and then kill off the boxed product. This would eliminate the costs of physical production and distribution and the bandwidth costs of distributing software updates. It would also eliminate the slice of the profits given to retailers that sell their boxed product and kill off any promotional pricing or freebies. With no retailer competition, Intuit could charge whatever they want for their online service. It would also increase customer lock-in since their data would be purely stored on their own company servers.
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Showing 1-10 of 23 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 21, 2008, 10:40:51 AM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 22, 2008, 8:48:07 AM PST
Mark Bailey says:
Thank you for the warning. I was going to buy this but not now. Unfortunately, I hate TaxCut (the other tax preparation software). Now I guess I will do my taxes with a pencil and a calculator.
Why can't someone make tax software that is not so bloated and cumbersome as these two companies?

Posted on Nov 22, 2008, 9:06:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 22, 2008, 9:09:38 AM PST
perstare says:
This is a very articulate and comprehensive criticism. I've been using TurboTax since the early 1990s, and I am very glad that Collin K. Ong took the time to compose this review. It is true that he concentrated his review on the new and unreasonable cost structure, but I believe this to be very important because I prepare tax returns for members of my own family, and that is FOUR returns! If I understand this properly, I must now pay roughly $130 to do my family's returns, and NO, I won't charge my family members the additional cost.
I think that Collin K. Ong did me a big favor by writing that review. I may write a letter to Intuit, using the thoughts and facts brought out in this review.
BTW, I can't efile and neither can my family members. The free efile availability doesn't help me at all.

Posted on Nov 25, 2008, 10:13:04 AM PST
Sierra nomad says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Nov 25, 2008, 6:48:03 PM PST
Roy says:
Thank you Mr. Ong. I confirmed with TT that you are correct about having to pay for each printed return. As I prepare returns for my kids I will now shop for other software. As a previously loyal TT customer, this is very disappointing. If anyone is aware of quality tax preperation software similar to TT please post.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2008, 1:04:36 PM PST
nuwestm says:
based on Tax cut description of their product, it will import all the info from turbotax into their system.

Posted on Dec 14, 2008, 12:09:15 PM PST
G. J. Byrne says:
Like many others I've been using TT for I can't remember how long but after reading Mr. Ong's critique of the new version I, too, will not be purchasing TT this year. Also, I will not use their online version, ever; if it doesn't run from my hard drive I'm not buying it. Looks like I'll be pulling out my pencil, paper and ol' slide rule to do my taxes this year!

Too bad, another great product bites the dust!

Posted on Dec 16, 2008, 11:02:30 AM PST
The Vice President of Turbo Tax has just posted a notice that Turbo Tax heard and listened to complaints on this site, and they have changed their product to allow processing multiple returns. Thanks for bringing this change to the attention of many long-time users of TT and also the "powers that be" at Turbo Tax. I now feel comfortable in purchasing the product. Thanks again.

Posted on Dec 17, 2008, 3:56:34 PM PST
Abu Binat says:
I agree!! and once TT becomes a service I will not longer buy it. For years i used the stubby pencil. Sometime low tech.

Posted on Dec 22, 2008, 12:05:39 PM PST
Mr. Ong,
Your comments are well thought out, and you have a point. However, It is my belief that these reviews are meant more for how the product functions, so that customers, like myself, can make educated choices. I have never liked TaxCut. I tried it once, and as a Mac user, it did not work. I have used Turbotax, and its predecessor, MacinTax for years. I will do so this year as well. The program has been well written in the past and as someone who prepares my own taxes, it is very helpful. If you have used it, I would have preferred to have your opinions as to its functionality.

I have found that Intuit is responsive to its customers complaints and suggestions. Since it appears they have reversed the multi-return charge policy, you have succeeded in your task! But I also believe that most companies will push towards the online model (look at how CD's are being replaced by online downloads!). I do not begrudge Intuit, or any company for that matter, for making a fair profit for their work.
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