Tax season has come and gone, but many of us are still feeling its effects deep in our pocketbooks. Putting together receipts and bills is tedious and time consuming, and doing so just to pay more money to the government almost feels like a slap in the face.
That's when people turn to tax preparation solutions like CPAs and automated tax software. Sadly, these methods aren't free, and can end up costing as much as a tax bill for some. Surprisingly, one of the most popular tax preparation apps in the country is under fire for misleading customers about their prices and plans. After so many complaints emerged, the company is starting to issue refunds for their services -- and you may be able to qualify!
Intuit's Turbotax software regularly ranks as a top choice for Americans during tax season, but a number of deceptive practices by the company have pushed ordinary people into paying for solutions they didn't need. We have the latest info on how they did it, as well as how you can potentially claim a refund for your losses.
How did TurboTax trick taxpayers into paying for services
TurboTax, at its core, is designed as a paid program to help users put their income, deductions, and breaks in one place. However, individuals who made less than $34,000 are technically eligible for TurboTax's free filing program. This means that they could have filed their taxes to the IRS with no additional charges except the money they owed the government.
According to this story by ProPublica, what ended up happening was entirely different and entirely unethical. Using a twofold pattern of deception, TurboTax prevented users from accessing their free solution and instead had them sign up for paid offerings to file their taxes.
On the front end, TurboTax's often confusing website led users down rabbit holes that made it unclear which software was the correct choice for their needs. When it came time to submit their taxes to the IRS, users would be greeted by a paywall that prevented them from proceeding without paying fees for TurboTax's services.
Here's where things get tricky: For users who qualify under the income threshold, a separate website hosted TurboTax's free file program. By default, TurboTax's homepage pointed users in the direction of the non-free version instead -- regardless of whether this program fit their financial needs.
As ProPublica later found out, that wasn't the end of the story. In the back end, TurboTax placed a deceptive bit of coding into their website that prevented Google from picking the free version up in search results. When you'd google for free versions of TurboTax to file with, you'd be directed to the main site with the paid version instead of the separate website with the free version.
How do I get a refund from TurboTax
Needless to say, this deceptive practice drew ire from nearly every corner of the country that depended on TurboTax for their civic duty. Not only did the company mislead customers with poor website design, it's placement of tricky code in its website makes it doubtful that this "mistake" was anything but intentional.
If you're one of the thousands of Americans who incorrectly paid for tax services they didn't need, TurboTax is allowing users to request refunds from their customer service department. All you need to do is call TurboTax at their support phone number: 888-777-3066. Once you're connected with an agent, you'll need to login to your account and verify that your income amount qualifies -- so keep your username and password handy. The agent will guide you through the rest of the process.
In spite of the ordeal, users are reporting that TurboTax isn't being stingy with refunds as of yet, providing you qualify. The agents are said to be helpful and courteous, and in truth, it isn't their fault that this debacle has occurred. For those of you who want to claim a refund, it's highly recommended to reach out sooner rather than later. It's likely that this news will continue to spread and more people will call to claim refunds.
At the very least, if you call sooner, you'll be at the head of the line.
Yes, you can file your taxes for free
If you aren't already excited, time to get there because it's tax season! Oh, you mean this isn't a time of year you look forward to? Well, be that as it may, the taxes have to be filed at some point, and the April 17 deadline is rapidly approaching. Filing your taxes doesn't have to be expensive.