Friday, April 16, 2010

TurboTax surprise: You’re screwed

I’ve been using Intuit’s TurboTax software every year since 1999 to prepare my income taxes. In the previous 10 years I never had any serious problems with the software. But this year was different.
Fifteen minutes to midnight on April 15, the last day to file taxes, I hit the send button to electronically file my federal return and was greeted with a jaw-dropping surprise. A message popped up on my screen that read:

Patrick … You Cannot E-File This Return

We know it’s not what you wanted to hear at this point. However, we do have details on your situation below.

Not only didn’t I want to hear that, but I had no expectation that would ever get such a message. The message said it had “details” on my situation below. But they were hardly details. The note made some vague reference to “certain forms that can’t be e-filed, usually because of tax regulations.”
It then instructed me to print out 44 pages of documents and mail my return. There was no way I was going to be able to print out my return, attach the W-2s, write a check, find an envelope big enough to stuff the papers into, locate a post office still open at midnight, get postage and have the thing mailed by the filing deadline. Not with less than 15 minutes to go.
Yes, I shouldn’t have waited until the last few minutes to file. I had been working on my return leisurely for a while and was looking for final charitable and other deductions to add. Now I face a financial penalty.
Here’s my problem with TurboTax in this incident: The software should have alerted me to the fact that I couldn’t e-file my return as soon as it started filling out the form or forms in question. With e-filing becoming increasingly common and lots of last-minute filers out there, this is something TurboTax should and must do.
The only thing different with my return this year was having to file a Schedule E for Supplemental Income and Loss. Before we moved to Connecticut from Illinois last summer, we were unable to sell our home. So we were forced to rent it out. That turned us into landlords for the last five months of the year.
And come on Uncle Sam, since when is a printed document better or more efficient than an electronic one. The entire tax process should be able to be done electronically.


Bob said...

Patrick... I regret that you were unable to file, but in many cases we don't know if you're going to mail or efile a return until you are finished with the return. Your experience and feedback, however, are helpful as we consider ways of flagging transactions that are not eligible for electronic filing (which are actually quite rare... with the exception of the homebuyer credit). Based on your post, Schedule E is not the transaction that disqualified you.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Patrick Seitz said...

Thanks for the note, Bob.
I expect to continue to be a TurboTax user, but an earlier filer going forward.

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