On TurboTax and "free" filing

Tax Season is upon us, and with that comes my annual plea to drop Intuit/TurboTax as your preparing/filing software.

Why, you ask? Your "ease of use" to step-wise fill out your forms through a slick UI is built on a foundation of shady anti-consumer lobbying. Pro Publica has a great piece on TurboTax's 20-year crusade to stop Americans from being able to file their taxes for free:

But the success of TurboTax rests on a shaky foundation, one that could collapse overnight if the U.S. government did what most wealthy countries did long ago and made tax filing simple and free for most citizens.

For more than 20 years, Intuit has waged a sophisticated, sometimes covert war to prevent the government from doing just that, according to internal company and IRS documents and interviews with insiders. The company unleashed a battalion of lobbyists and hired top officials from the agency that regulates it. From the beginning, Intuit recognized that its success depended on two parallel missions: stoking innovation in Silicon Valley while stifling it in Washington. Indeed, employees ruefully joke that the company’s motto should actually be “compromise without integrity.”

The ProPublica reporting is most definitely worth your rage-reading time - if anything, because you'll see that Intuit/TurboTax has Grover fuckin' Norquist as an ally. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the content of their character, eh?

Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, the most consistent champion of Intuit’s policy positions, warned that “big spenders in Washington, D.C. want to socialize all tax preparation in America.”


This year, I'm using FreeTaxUSA to file. TurboTax's key advantage - their innovative, step-wise UX that really lowered the barrier for most Americans to file confidently - has eroded. Every company can bring a solid user experience to the table if they choose (and opt to fully fund research and design, but that's for another post).


FreeTaxUSA's pricing is straightforward: $0 for Federal, $14.99 for State. If you want to upgrade to "Deluxe," that's only $6.99.

It's a no-brainer.


But, how does it perform? I ran my taxes through both TurboTax and FreeTaxUSA and was within a dollar due to rounding. Even a strange tax filing situation - the Backdoor Roth IRA contribution - was handled with ease.

I feel confident that I can file with FreeTaxUSA and have my return accepted and processed all the same.

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