taxes

Many TurboTax Desktop Users Will Have to Pay More

Investors, the self-employed and others will need to upgrade—or find alternatives—to prepare their 2014 tax returns.

NOTE: After an onslaught of criticism from long-time users, TurboTax announced on Jan. 29 that customers who have already purchased its Deluxe desktop program will be able to upgrade to its Premium or Home and Business programs for free in early February. Deluxe customers who have already upgraded can go to www.TurboTax.com/25 to request a $25 refund. Next year, TurboTax will restore Schedules C, D and E to the desktop Deluxe program.

If you’ve been using TurboTax’s most popular desktop tax-preparation program, filing your taxes could cost you more this year. TurboTax’s Deluxe desktop version, which retails for $59.99, will no longer provide a question-and-answer interview for customers who need to report income from investments (except for interest, dividends and mutual fund capital gains distributions), self-employment and rental property.

Customers have two choices: Enter the information on the forms manually (which means you won’t be able to file electronically) or upgrade to a more expensive program. TurboTax Premier ($89.99) covers investment income reported on Schedule D and rental income reported on Schedule E; Home and Business ($99.99) also includes Schedule C, used for reporting self-employment income. For both those products as well as Deluxe, you pay an additional $19.99 to e-file your state return.

The online versions of the products are slightly less expensive: $54.99 for Premier plus $36.99 for a state return; $79.99 for Home and Business plus $36.99 for a state return. However, customers who use the online products can prepare and e-file only one tax return, versus up to five for the desktop products. And some customers prefer the desktop version because they believe it’s more secure.

The change in TurboTax Deluxe has ignited a firestorm of criticism from customers who say they didn’t discover that the forms were missing until after they purchased the software. Longtime user Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org, says he was shocked to learn he couldn’t use it to report his self-employment income this year. The updated checklist on the back of the box was easy to overlook, especially for customers who have purchased the product for years, he says. “That’s why people are so irate.”

TurboTax vice-president Bob Meighan says the change will bring its desktop programs in line with its online products. TurboTax started requiring online customers to use Premier or Home and Business for Schedules C, D and E last year. If you’ve already purchased the desktop version of TurboTax Deluxe, here are your options:

Make sure you really need to upgrade. You can still use Deluxe to report income from interest, dividends and mutual fund capital gains distributions. You can also use it to report miscellaneous income from a 1099-MISC.

Complain. Customers who are unhappy with their purchase can contact TurboTax (go to www.turbotax.com for contact information). While the company is dealing with complaints on a case-by-case basis, it has provided free upgrades to some customers.

Switch. If you’ve already purchased TurboTax Deluxe, H&R Block is offering a free download of H&R Block Deluxe + State, which retails for $44.95, plus $19.95 to e-file a state return. H&R Block Deluxe supports Schedules C and D (users who want to use the Q&A to report rental income need to upgrade to the $64.95 premium product). To receive a free download, e-mail your name, address and phone number, the type of operating system you use (Windows or Mac) and a photocopy of your receipt or download code to SwitchToBlock@hrblock.com. You can import the previous year’s TurboTax return to the H&R Block program.

Block also allows users to electronically import W-2s and 1099s from the majority of vendors that provide these documents. However, its list isn’t as comprehensive as TurboTax’s, which imports information from more than 1 million participating employers and financial institutions.

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