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This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It's Detestable

It's the New Year, and what does that make you think about? Well, taxes, of course. And, specifically, tax avoidance strategies.

One thing we've always done is donate things around the house we no longer want to charities, and deduct the value of those donations from our income when doing our taxes. We win by getting rid of stuff and decreasing clutter, plus by getting a tax deduction. The charities win by selling what we donated.

A few years ago, we started using a program called "It's Deductible". It's created by the same folks, Intuit, that create Quicken and TurboTax, both of which we've become addicted to. You simply enter in each item being donated, and they miraculously figure out how much it is worth, so you can figure out your deduction. Easier, and more defensible to the IRS. It worked out pretty well, and its data was importable into TurboTax when we did our taxes.

Well, in the last couple of years, Intuit has changed their marketing strategy on this product, and in the process completely screwed over their current customers, including us. First, they started packaging It's Deductible with TurboTax. Buy TurboTax and get It's Deductible for free. Sounds like a good deal, and we fell for it.

We bought TurboTax, but there was no It's Deductible. It turned out, even though we bought the desktop version of the tax software, the free product was the online version of ID. Not what we expected, but ok, we'll try it. We can use it, even though it's not as convenient as having the software installed on our home computer and having the data right there.

Then the end of the year came up, and it turns out that TurboTax desktop cannot read the data from ID online. Get this. The product that was given away for free with TurboTax was not compatible with that very same product. Not only that, we could not even go into It's Deductible and get a report of the value of the items we gave away. You could not extract (or even just view) that data without loading it into a tax return prepared by TurboTax online! So, we created a fake return in TurboTax online, imported the ID data, and then manually typed the data into our real return.

That was last year. For some silly reason we decided to try it again. Surely, they would get it right this year.

In a way, they did. You can now load It's Deductible online data into the desktop version of TurboTax. But now our taxes have become complicated enough that we are hiring an accountant rather than using TurboTax. It feels good to tell Intuit that their stupid business practices are driving us away as customers. However, they have our data about donations trapped on their servers, and we have no way to get it out.

That's right. Intuit has created and marketed a product that let's you enter and track a year's worth of data. At the end of the year, they hold your data hostage to using their product. If you don't use their tax preparation software, you can't get your data back. Sounds like blackmail, false advertising, and other things that I won't print here (and I don't censor my blog).

I think Intuit is counting on the fact that a class action lawsuit is too costly and won't get us our data in time to file our taxes. But clearly as consumers we shouldn't have to take this kind of abuse by a company that we have patronized for many, many years.

If anybody has any ideas on how to deal with Intuit and get our data back, please let me know. In the meantime, I highly recommend that you don't start using any of their products, as they clearly don't put any value on protecting their customers' data.

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Blogger BobM said...

Mike... I believe there is some misconceptions here that I would like to clear up and hopefully solve your problem.

First, you state that "they [Intuit] clearly don't put any value on protecting their customers' data". Contrary to your opinion, our entire business is based on earning our customers' trust for safeguarding their most valuable personal/financial information. We've done that well for over 25 years. And your suggestion seems to be 100% contrary to your complaint that you can't get your data.

As for tax year 2006, TurboTax desktop (CD) came with a desktop version of ItsDeductible. It IS compatible with the desktop version of TurboTax. Apparently you chose not to install ItsDeductible, but instead chose to use ItsDeductible Online, which is not compatible with TurboTax desktop.

For tax year 2007, ItsDeductible is available only as an online service (it makes it easier for us to keep the valuations up to date). The ItsDeductible information can be transferred into either the TurboTax desktop or online products and can be accessed year-round.

TurboTax customers can print complete information on their contributions and valuations from within the tax product. If you choose not to use TurboTax to file your taxes, you can use the summary feature in ItsDeductible Online to save (in PDF) or print your list of donated items. While the data is your data, the valuation amounts are proprietary to ItsDeductible and TurboTax.

ItsDeductible is valued by millions of our TurboTax customers to maximize their deductions and will continue to be valued going forward.

Mike, I hope this addresses your concerns.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Fri Jan 04, 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger insomniac said...

1. In 2006, Intuit increased the price of TurboTax desktop and in exchange included a subscription to It's Deductible Online. That's why we used that program. It was marketed by Intuit as part of the package. Nothing in the package told us that the data would not be compatible with TurboTax Desktop. That was a marketing error (best case) or false advertising (worst case). The product they sold as part of TurboTax was not compatible with TurboTax. Plus, you didn't find out until after you'd been using the product and entering your data for a full year. That data was lost, unless you went out and purchased a compatible product, for which only TurboTax Online qualified.

2. The fundamental flaw in Mr. Meighan's argument is that although they claim to want to protect my data, they claim that the most important piece of my data, the only reason I use their product, belongs to them!

I purchased It's Deductible 2007 (as part of a package with TurboTax 2006). The marketing materials for the product promise to provide valuations for donations. Now Intuit is holding those valuations hostage unless I purchase the next year's version of TurboTax.

By licensing this piece of software to me, Intuit has promised to provide a certain service. And now they are refusing to honor that agreement and will not provide that service unless I agree to buy another piece of software. Not only is that false adverrtising and bad business, it sounds to me like product tying that may be a violation of federal antitrust laws.

Fri Jan 04, 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger BobM said...

Insomniac... TurboTax 2006 provided a free copy of ItsDeductible Desktop (that was included on the TurboTax CD) for use with the 2006 TurboTax software. Its use was for tracking AND valuing your 2006 contributions. That was the offer.

Any use of ItsDeductible Online during 2007 would have enabled you to track your donations so that at tax time you could easily import your donations into TurboTax Deluxe, Premier, or Home & Business. Upon importing your data, TurboTax would assign the correct valuations to each donation. The functionality to value your 2007 donations using ItsDeductible Online was not part of any offer or even promoted online. I believe it was quite clear that the valuations would be provided when you imported your donation information into one of the TurboTax versions mentioned above.

Again, I regret that you believed subsequent year valuations would be provided (other than with the use of the TurboTax product in the following year). I simply cannot find anything to suggest that in our marketing or promotional literature.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Sat Jan 05, 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because you can print the summary as Bob Meighan states, there are no values associated with the list of donated items. What good is the list? So now I have to purchase a TurboTax version to be able to use my donations for taxes?

Sat Feb 02, 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Anonymous... That is correct. ItsDeductible enables you to track your donations throughout the year, but the valuations of the items are assigned by TurboTax at the time you prepare your return using TurboTax. Our customers do find the donations list valuable because it helps them substantiate their donations in compliance with IRS rules.

If you're wondering why we don't provide valuations during the year with ItsDeductible, it is because we average all values collected during the year for each item and then assign a single value shortly after the end of the year. It is this valuation functionality that TurboTax provides.

I apologize that you and Insomniac may have believed differently, but in all the marketing and promotional material it states that the valuations are done by TurboTax. Although I always try to find a way to accommodate customers in situations like this, there simply is no way to pull out the valuation logic from TurboTax to make available to you separate from TurboTax.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Sat Feb 02, 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger insomniac said...

The crux of the matter is that It's Deductible didn't used to work that way. Intuit changed this without telling their loyal users. And now their loyal users are screwed.

Sat Feb 02, 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Loyal users like you can use TurboTax and life will be good again. It's that simple. TurboTax will value your donations for 2007 and the TurboTax interview will make it easy to complete and file your return. It may cost you around $30, but that seems like a great value as demonstrated by 15 million other TurboTax customers.

I appreciate your feedback and the opportunity to respond.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Sat Feb 02, 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger insomniac said...

Sorry, Bob, it isn't that simple. As I stated in the body of my post, our taxes have gotten to the point that we can no longer use TurboTax. I would love to, as it would be much cheaper than hiring an accountant.

With Quicken, we can limp along with our home businesses, and fool it into doing what we need. But I don't think the IRS would appreciate our "fooling" TurboTax into doing our taxes "approximately" right.

Sun Feb 03, 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger insomniac said...

If you are following this debate, don't miss my additional comments on 1/5, and the workaround I posted on 2/13.

Thu Feb 14, 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am using Turbo Tax Deluxe for 2008. I don't have Microsoft. I use Open Office, because of the cost. When I try to pull up ID, I get an error message showing Microsoft not working. One of the reasons that I bought this was for ID, because we have given away a lot of items. Please help!

Thu Mar 12, 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Anonymous... I'm not sure what bearing Open Office has on your ability to open ID. As long as you are running IE 6 or higher (or any of other supported browsers), you should be able to open ID. I am not aware of any issues like this. Just make sure you are using a supported browser. Offhand, I do seem to recall that the AOL browser is not compatible, but just about every other one is.

I hope this information puts you on the right track.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

Thu Mar 12, 10:10:00 PM  

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