Taxes Schmaxes – A Shakedown Breakdown of “Free” Tax E-filing

16 Mar

Bottom of the Barrel Tuesday: TurboTax Vs. TaxSlayer

Wif was hesitant to take this route and leave top of the heap for some bottom of the barrel.  There’s probably enough negativity in the world without this added whining.  But my hope is that this review will be helpful and prevent you, sweet blogglets, from making the same catastrophic mistakes.

So wif files her own (and now her and hubby’s -jointly) every year.   And YES – it’s as much of a nightmare as they say.  Only here’s the thing.  Some sites out there make the nightmare even more HORRIFIC and never-ending.  I’m talkin’ to you TurboTax.

Here’s the quick and dirty version:

turbo vs slayer: quick n dirty (pdf)

Here’s the painstakingly detailed experience:

This year, wif ended up primarily using 2 sites.  I started with TurboTax since that’s what she’d filed with last year.  Let me preface this tribulation with some background info.  Namely the fact that by when you Google “free tax filing” TurboTax is the 2nd link that comes up, directly after the IRS.  Google is wise  beyond its years… go to the IRS site FIRST. There is a listing here of sites and specification of who exactly is eligible for free filing on each site.  Except here’s the thing – TURBOTAX LIES.

I proceeded to spend approximately 5 hours compiling all my dang info (even with all of the paperwork neatly organized and sitting on the couch with me) for my Federal, New York State and Oklahoma taxes.  And every step of the way there was this [falsely] reassuring header on the top of the page “Free Edition.”  Then wif got to the last page – you know that sweet-relief-I-can-smell-success state.  But here’s where the stuff hit the fan.  Because, *surprise, surprise* there is a magically appearing $52 charge now.  $26 per state.   And equally shocking – no way to remove without CLEARING my five hours of blood, sweat and tears.

Needless to say this was the maddest wif has been in months… nay years.  Talk about bait and SWITCHEROO.  I guess inflation has made $0 become $52 here in NY.  So after a bit more Googling (because OF COURSE – TurboTax charges you for phone support) wif finds out that this is typical TurboTax behavior.  They get the innocents to sign up for “Free Edition” and spring the charge on them at the end – taking full advantage of the fact that NOBODY wants to do taxes twice (or once really)…  And they get nice IRS support too by offering  a top-secret “Freedom Edition” that can only be accessed through the portal on the IRS site (not from TurboTax’s homepage, naturally).  It’s kinda sad too, because these free filing systems are already set up so only low-income Americans can use them – so nice job screwing the poor TurboTax.

And the part that really made wif’s blood boil is the fact that all information entered into the Free Edition must be CLEARED in order to start over with the Freedom Edition.  Even though we all know that insane company could instantly transfer your data into the Freedom Edition seeing as this is how it works when you upgrade to any of their other versions.  But noooo, if you want to “downgrade” you MUST start at square one again.  Fine TurboTax, you screwed me and being a stickler on the sheer principle of it – I faithfully re-entered every tittle and jot (for an additional 5 hours) into a site that was *truly* free.  But you know what?  Not everyone has another 5 hours to whiddle away on taxes.  Nope, it’s those low-income single moms and dads and troops (who are also eligible for the Freedom Edition) who are getting ripped off by that stinky company when, in sheer exasperation, they just pay the ridiculous fee for the “Free Edition” because they can’t afford the time and effort to re-enter all the befuddling data.  So, even if TurboTax isn’t actively screwing you – you can rest assured its because they’re busy stealing from our troops.

In the end, it was TaxSlayer that actually provided wif with legitimately free e-filing.  The website didn’t have all the bells and whistles of TurboTax but it was perfectly functional and 100% less misleading.  Tragically, TaxSlayer didn’t seem to allow you to view your state forms so this gave wif a THIRD opportunity to figure this out. Oklahoma, for instance, doesn’t accept e-filing from nonresidents so wif had to do these with the form from the insanely complicated PDF on OK’s state site – sometimes I swear taxes are just a giant cruel joke played on us). Plus you still can’t really print your finalized 1040 but with a little copy and paste action (into word – which maintained tables so the “non-official” crapola can quickly be removed) you can have a hard copy.  This is especially essential for people who had part year or nonresident status for states they have to file like wif.   Because along with the hard copy of the PDF for OK wif had to include her Federal taxes – blargh.  And miracle of miracles, wif even came up with the same return ($38 smackaroos) for OK on her own as Tax Slayer had figured.

TaxSlayer was also quick to inform me that the Feds and NY have accepted my stuff – within 24 hours!  Impressive.  Also: send me my money baby.

So if you’re ready to start the beast that is taxes – wif recommends you check out the IRS page and take a quick look-see.  They even have a handy-dandy questionnaire set up to tell you what sites will allegedly allow you to file for free. I can’ t speak for any of the other websites but I will say that TaxSlayer was both functional and *free* for Federal and NY e-filing.  And TurboTax- you get a bit FAT thorn from me – don’t waste your time.

I’d love to hear your about your tax calamities.  And if you have any advice or sites to share… pray tell!


7 Responses to “Taxes Schmaxes – A Shakedown Breakdown of “Free” Tax E-filing”

  1. Andrew March 17, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    My experience is NY state is charging the $26 to file. I had to pay when I e-filed using TaxCut (H&R Block’s version of TurboTax). I did a multi-state tax return once and it was awful. But it’s worse when you own a home and a small business, so I buy the software every year (cheaper than paying a tax preparer, and faster than doing it by paper myself).

    The safest way to avoid filing fees is to fill out the papers and mail it in yourself. And if you don’t have rental properties, a small business, don’t own a home or have income sources other than a job or unemployment paycheck, and no complicated investments or interest, filling out the 1040 isn’t that difficult, as you’re likely to not miss anything and no special forms or schedules are needed.

    • twebby March 24, 2010 at 9:03 am #

      I will say that I was quite happy with TaxSlayer – they successfully sent in my Federal and NY state taxes and didn’t charge me a penny. Plus – I could cull through the information I’d given them to do my OK state taxes by hand (using their functional PDF form which did the calculations as you entered info). I was *beyond* thrilled when my numbers matched what TaxSlayer had predicted. At the end of the day, I think TaxSlayer would’ve done all three for free if OK had accepted e-file from nonresidents…

      In summary – multi-states are SO the pits! I can’t even imagine adding on a home and small business – we don’t own a thing and it’s stressful – lol. I hear what your saying about the software speeding up the process too! We might have to look into that next year since Jer has some freelance work and a full time position now and *fingers crossed* we might even be buying a home. Which software do you like?

      Thanks for the input Andrew!

  2. Oyin March 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Tell me why i’m getting back $1 for my refund?! I’m not impressed.

    Great story though – I found the same thing out with Turbotax, but luckily, Washington State doesn’t have a state income tax. Woot woot.

    • twebby March 24, 2010 at 8:56 am #

      $1 !! You have got to be kidding me! Ridiculous. And lucky ducks over there in the evergreen state eh? Still – you should join us in avoiding those stinkers for your federal (big $$) tax returns!

  3. Becky Geitzenauer March 20, 2010 at 3:56 pm #

    We had the same experience with TurboTax. How do they get by advertising that it is free? Thanks for the information.

    • twebby March 24, 2010 at 8:52 am #

      Uhg – I’m sorry to hear that they bait and switched you too:( I’m so disappointed in that company… I guess we’ll just have to take our business elsewhere when we are making boatloads of $$$ in the future;)


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