TurboTax 2014 Feature Change + Free H&R Block Offer + Free TurboTax Upgrade

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ttboxIt’s that time of year again, where we await our W-2 and 1099 forms and decide which tax software to use. I’m working on product-specific reviews, but for now I figured I’d summarize the drama surrounding TurboTax 2015 for those that don’t follow these things as closely.

  • Last year, TurboTax Deluxe Online 2013 started requiring you to upgrade to Premier in order get guidance on stock sales (Schedule D) and self-employment expenses (Schedule C). You can see this as either a feature delete, or price increase. However, the TurboTax Deluxe Desktop 2013 version kept this ability. There was a little outrage but really not that much from what I recall.
  • This year, TurboTax Deluxe Desktop 2014 no longer included Schedule D or C. In other words, the 2013 change to the online version was propagated to their desktop download/CD version. This time, break out the pitchforks! There are over a thousand 1-star reviews on the Amazon product page and articles from various media outlets including the NY Times and Time.
  • Why the outrage this year and not last year? TurboTax says 80% of people use the online version and only 20% use the desktop download, so you can see why Intuit thought everything would be cool. My theory is that desktop PC customers always pay for their software upfront (often at a physical store like Staples or Costco) and then don’t expect to be asked for any more money down the road. This has probably been their habit for years. Now in the middle of doing their taxes, you’re hitting them up for another thirty bucks?!
  • In contrast, with TurboTax Online you pay at the very end and the price is always a little different with various coupon codes and promotions.
  • Finally, the price difference between Deluxe and Premier for Online is $20, but for the Desktop version is $30. The software only cost $40 or $45 initially. That $30 upgrade fee is a 66-75% price increase.

Intuit needed to communicate this price change much more upfront and clearly. They don’t hide it, but you can see how repeat customers won’t notice since the Deluxe name doesn’t change.

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Trying to pick up the fumble, H&R Block is offering any impacted TurboTax customer a free copy of the H&R Block Deluxe + State for 2014, which just so happens to still include Schedule D capital gains guidance.

Those who have already purchased TurboTax Basic or Deluxe and would like to try H&R Block may email H&R Block at SwitchToBlock@hrblock.com and include the following information:

  • Name, address, and phone number
  • Type of operating system in use (Windows/Mac)
  • A photo, scan, or email showing proof of TurboTax Basic or Deluxe purchase

H&R Block will then send a link for one free download of H&R Block Deluxe + State (a $45 value, State E-file is $19.95 extra, does include Schedule D). You can import from a previous TurboTax return. This offer is not on the H&R Block website – it is only available by e-mailing them as directed above.

What if you want to stick with TurboTax? TurboTax may offer you a free upgrade to Premier, *if* you ask correctly. Well, hidden in the Amazon comments and vaguely referenced in various articles is the fact that Intuit will help their customers on a case-by-case basis so they can “demonstrate customer service” and “do what’s necessary” to appease customers. That basically means the squeaky wheels get the grease. You have to e-mail them at their own special e-mail address: TurboTax_Advocate@intuit.com or call them at 800-445-1875 (8am – 8pm EST M-F).

Reports are that if you contact them and cite the unexpected feature change, they will offer you the upgrade to Premier for free (a $30 savings as noted above). You may also mention a TurboTax VP made statements in Amazon reviews and media articles that Intuit would remedy the situation. I don’t know if it will work for the online version, but you could try.

So there you have it. TurboTax committed a foul, H&R Block invites you over to their party instead, and TurboTax wants to take you aside and apologize privately. When comparing tax software prices, be sure to find the right version for your needs and also include the price of state e-File if needed.

Or, you could use the underdog, TaxACT.com. Both the online and desktop versions of their Free Federal edition and cover all the Schedules A/B/C/D/E and even includes a free Federal E-File. For them, the Deluxe option means addition of time-saving import features. Their Ultimate package with everything Federal and State included – all Schedules, free Fed e-File, free State e-File – runs $17.99 for Online or $30.99 for Desktop ($21.99 + $9.99 State e-File).

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the detailed writeup! I already had to pay for the online upgrade last year unfortunately.

  2. Taylor Lee says

    I just got my W2 for work yesterday so this is very timely. Thanks!

  3. Jon,

    Been with Tmobile for 8 years now. Switched to the 4 for $100 plan for over 1 year now. Very very happy.
    I travel the world and still can use the data plan for free and texting too (data plan on 2g when roaming, but free). I recently added $10/month for all 4 lines for unlimited calling to landline and mobile all over the world.

  4. I have used all these programs over the years, but now only use TaxAct. Last year for the first time, I had a problem with the program. I check all the calculations and the program was making a small mistake. I almost just paid the extra amount rather than trying to get TaxAct to address the problem, but I thought I would send them one message before giving up. I was very surprised when TaxAct responded very quickly. Although, the first reply, asked questions I had answered in my first message, after my reply they acknowledged the problem and went to work to correct. It took about a month to get the corrected version released, but they had to go to the IRS. They felt their program reflected the IRS instructions. TaxAct was responsive to me at all times and even sent me unsolicited updates. All this support for a product I paid less than $10 for.

    I need to point out that the problem was not likely to impact very many people. My return was reasonably complex last year, but TaxAct made it easy.

  5. I wish there was this amount of uproar over companies like Intuit actively lobbing and spending millions (billions?) to prevent our taxes from being automated like in civilized nations to keep themselves in business. Their business and practices are directly against the best interest of the people but no one says anything.

  6. I agree with Jake that we should just be able to get a bill from the IRS for the taxes we owe rather than having to go through a complicated process to calculate what we owe. A few years ago my tax calculations were off because I forgot to include dividends from an account that only issues online 1099’s. A few months after I filed, the IRS was happy to send me a bill for the amount I had forgotten to report along with penalty interest. Would have been so much easier if they just told me up front how much I owed.

    Until that happens, I’m going to happily stick with TaxAct. I used TaxAct for several years in the early 2000’s, and found when HSA’s first came out that they handled the forms correctly much sooner than TurboTax or HRBlock did. Eventually I migrated over to TurboTax because it had better import features, but when TurboTax started pulling their scheduleD shenanigans I went back to TaxAct last year. I found it to still be a great product, and am planning to file with TaxAct again this year.

  7. Thank you for the write-up. Last year was my first having to handle taxes on my own, and I enjoyed the overall ease of the online process using TurboTax. I may try one of the other options this year just to test more waters, but its good to know the issues and options around stocks as I have begun to be more involved there.

    There is just one thing I wanted to note: After completing the federal file last year I was taken by surprise that the state process would cost me extra. After more research I discovered this cost could be bypassed through free file on my states government website. Maybe that was just for CO, but It seems to me people should be more aware that these added costs to file on the state level is unnecessary. It only requires a little more time to fill in the information again.

  8. Ha, I was waiting for you to post an article about Turbotax and tax software! I always appreciate your opinion to sort out the facts from fiction.

    You have a typo in the first paragraph, should be “TurboTax 2014” not “2015”.

  9. I have another example of TurboTax trying to nickel and dime people. My tax return is not very complicated so I used their free online version last year. My tax situation did not change so I tried to use the free online edition again this year, however, they now make you upgrade to the Deluxe version in order to deduct alimony you paid. Last year you could do it under the free version, this year you cannot. It is a simple line item on the first page of the 1040 form that doesn’t require any additional schedules or worksheets. I will be switching to TaxAct or H&R Block this year and probably permanently.

    I also agree with Noah above, I am in CA and the state FTB offers a free e-file state return. You have to be careful and you cannot save your data (meaning you have to do it in one sitting) but IMO it is worth it to save $10 or more. Personally, I have a problem with paying someone to get back money that is rightfully owed to me.

  10. Called the number posted in the article, and it was a relatively painless process after I explained to the rep how disappointed I was that I got blindsided by the lack of Schedule D support in Deluxe. She claimed that their policy is to offer a free upgrade to Premiere for customers affected by this, so this means you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a free upgrade. Ten minutes later, and now I have a Premiere disk en route to me.

  11. As one of the 80% who used the online version, I ran into this last year and ended my over a decade long history of using TT. I now use Tax Act, and even paid for the state last year, even though I usually just do that directly with the state (for free).

  12. This is ridiculous that just because I got a 1099-B for selling stock from a brokerage firm I have to get intuit TurboTax Premier+State 2014!! In the past, I’ve always used TurboTax Deluxe+State, and paid $40-50 sale price, and had Sched D, Fed efile. Now, Deluxe 2014 is $50; Premier 2014 is $75 on sale. H&R Block 14 Deluxe+State is $45 sale, and it includes Sched D. I’m very disappointed. My annual spending for tax will go elsewhere. Thanks Jonathan!

  13. Called TT Friday and asked abt missing forms in Deluxe. Tech support advised that there had been some changes. When asked how could I get C and D she advised upgrade (for a fee). Told her after 20 years with TT I was very disappointed. She said let me see what I can do. After a one minute wait she said manager did not want me to be upset and they would upgrade me free.
    Point: took knowledge from your post and some insistence on my part before she acknowledged there was a free solution.
    When satisfaction survey arrived I suggested that management was now operating like “back lot used car salesman”
    Hopefully they will mend their ways

  14. In prior years I was able to get Turbotax for free because I have an account with State Farm Bank, but I believe I was able to use the Deluxe version. On Premiere it looks like State Farm Bank is offering $20 off. That’s the same discount I can get from AAA. As I get closer to filing, I will probably just use the best discount I can find on Premier and pay the fee. Compared to hiring a CPA Turbotax is still hundreds of dollars cheaper.

    I do recall that last year was the first year Turbotax forced me to pay for the state return; in prior years I think it was included with my free version of Deluxe. There’s no way I’m paying another $36 or whatever to do the state return. This year I will probably do what I did last year, which is have TT run my state, make a note of the refund amount, and then spend 10 minutes on my state’s tax website and complete the return for free there, and use the TT refund figure as a double-check to corroborate before submitting the online state tax forms.

  15. DollarBill says

    According to the USA Today article, TurboTax is issuing $25 refunds to those who were forced to by TT Premier:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/01/23/turbo-tax-refunds-customers/22209259/

  16. DollarBill says

    According to a USA Today article:
    “Starting in early February, buyers of the Deluxe version of TurboTax’ tax-preparation software will be upgraded to the Premier or Home and Business version of the software. This upgrade will return the functionality that was stripped out of the mid-priced version this year. The upgrade will be provided to users for free, a giant victory for the users of the desktop software.”

    Even better news:
    “Additionally, TurboTax stated all the forms removed from all desktop versions of its software will be restored next year — that includes the mid-priced Deluxe version of the software that’s been a favorite with investors.”

    source: http://americasmarkets.usatoday.com/2015/01/29/turbotax-tweaks-software-to-fix-fiasco/

  17. So disgusted with turbo tax this year- for 5 years have been using the premier edition. The labeling from last year to this year was insufficient to notify me that I can no longer do a small LLC in the premier version. Got through most of the prompts and got hit with a message telling me i had to upgrade to home & business for extra $. Will definitely be looking at competitors next year.

  18. So, which one do I need Deluxe or Premier if I did a 401k to Roth rollover? Does that need the schedule D? I’m thinking probably not but I don’t know.

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