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What to do if you're affected by TurboTax changes

TurboTax has changed the features on its downloadable software and CD-Roms, effectively boosting the price significantly to complete certain IRS schedules, and causing a small firestorm among customers. The changes:

  • TurboTax Basic (downloadable without state tax forms on Amazon for $9.99) no longer includes IRS Schedule A, which covers itemized deductions like home mortgages. They’ll have to buy TurboTax Deluxe (downloadable from Amazon for $38.69).

  • TurboTax Deluxe no longer supports Schedules D, which covers capital gains and losses, or Schedule E, which covers supplemental income and loss. Customers will have to purchase TurboTax Premier (downloadable with state tax forms from Amazon for $74.99).

  • Folks who need Schedule C, which covers self-employment income, will have to use TurboTax Home & Business (downloadable with state tax forms at Amazon for $84.99).

Contact TurboTax at www.turbotax.com/support and ask for a refund. When I asked a spokeswoman whether customers could get a refund, she said: “We’re working with customers who contact us on a one-on-one basis to resolve their unique situation to their satisfaction. And we always stand behind our 100% satisfaction guarantee if a customer requests a refund.”

Switch to H&R Block’s tax software. Block is offering free tax prep and filing using comparable H&R Block software to disgruntled TurboTax clients.

Other options:

Use a free online provider such as TaxACT. The federal portion of TaxACT is always free, and supportsSchedules C, D and E. You’ll have to pay to file your state tax form, but TaxACT’s state pricing is quite competitive: $9.99 for the version that accompanies its free edition. As with all online tax-prep products, you can try it out for free; you’ll only pay for the state version of TaxACT when you’re ready to file.

Fill out the TurboTax forms without guidance (not recommended). You can override the TurboTax software and fill in the tax forms yourself without the guided tour; TurboTax Deluxe, Premier and Home & Business all will allow you to do that, but you’ll then have to print and mail your return, which defeats the purpose of guided tax software and gives you none of the benefits of electronic filing.

Consumer Reports' Income Tax Guide provides news and advice to help you save the most on your federal and state taxes.

Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, defends its changes by noting that it merely puts its software offerings in line with what it offers to online customers, who make up the bulk of its business. This year, the spokesperson noted, customers who purchase Premier or Home & Business will get free, personalized, “expert answers to your toughest tax questions,” by CPAs and enrolled agents. Those experts are available via phone and chat.

An Intuit representative told me a couple of months ago that very few people buy TurboTax downloads or CDs anymore. The spokeswoman’s statement today suggested to me that Intuit would like to move toward a totally online service: “As more customers move from TurboTax desktop to Online to mobile solutions, this change creates a more consistent experience across TurboTax products and platforms,” she said.*

—Tobie Stanger

*The TurboTax spokeswoman responded to this post with the following: "It's certainly true that desktop sales have been basically flat for several years and all the growth we see is online. But that certainly doesn’t imply we’re moving away from desktop."



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