This year’s tax wars between H&R Block and TurboTax maker Intuit have erupted over their competing software packages and filers’ access to mundane forms.
Each company is offering free software to consumers in the wake of changes Intuit made to its software packages that caught many customers off guard.
Kansas City-based H&R Block hopes it can capture some of those surprised TurboTax users for its own.
“I was going to use TurboTax this year, but I said, ‘No, this isn’t going to happen,’ ” said Charles Coody, a longtime TurboTax user in San Antonio. “Why should I buy a Cadillac when I want to buy an F-150 pickup?”
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Coody, and lots of other TurboTax users, are unhappy about changes in what comes with Intuit’s Basic, Deluxe, Premier and other versions of TurboTax software this year. Many are finding that they have to upgrade from the TurboTax software package they had last year – and pay more – to get the same tax help this year.
For example, the Basic TurboTax package a year ago handled a federal 1040 form and Schedule A – the one taxpayers need to itemize their deductions instead of taking a standard deduction. Schedule A helps those with enough deductions, often interest payments on a home loan, to lower their tax bills and boost their refunds.
This year, TurboTax Basic doesn’t handle Schedule A. It tells buyers they need to upgrade to the Deluxe package. Intuit cut the price of Basic, but users aren’t happy with paying more to get Deluxe.
Similarly, prior Deluxe users are finding that this year’s version doesn’t handle other schedules – such as Schedule C for reporting gains or losses on stocks sales – that it handled last year, requiring them to upgrade as well.
As of Wednesday, 89 percent of the Amazon reviews had awarded only one star to TurboTax Deluxe. Some of those poor reviews have triggered a reply from TurboTax vice president Bob Meighan or others from TurboTax on his behalf.
“We know that some of our customers won’t be able to use the same TurboTax product as last year,” Meighan replied to one customer on Amazon. He told this customer and others to buy the product they normally do and call an 800 number to get the upgrade they need.
A five-star Amazon review posted by Everell Edwards said he was upset by how Intuit handled the changes but was “well pleased” that the company gave him a free upgrade to Home and Business.
H&R Block hopes to capitalize on the difficulty that users of TurboTax Basic and Deluxe software have experienced this year.
“Those packages haven’t changed in 20 years,” said Jason Houseworth, president of Block’s digital products.
H&R Block is offering it own Basic and Deluxe software packages free to TurboTax customers. It asks them to e-mail to SwitchtoBlock@hrblock.com a proof of purchase such as a photo of a store receipt or the download code from the Intuit software.
Houseworth said Block employees noticed the TurboTax changes in November. The counteroffer of free Block software is a response to the consumer reaction to those changes.