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TurboTax 2014 Marketing Mistake

Remember New Coke?

Remember Qwikster?

My Spidey senses tell me that Intuit’s TurboTax product is about to have its own moment of marketing mishap. Now. As a tax nerd, I don’t put my TurboTax on the shelf after I file my return. I open it regularly to plan my year. Since one of my goals is to avoid paying more tax than I have to, I use it to plan my stock sales, Roth conversion, if any, and forecast my tax bill well in advance of April 15th. It’s been a ritual of mine to buy the new tax year software the weekend it’s out, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year, as I started to look to see a product release date, I found that the versions offered had their contents revised.


(Right-click to open in new screen)

You can see, the Deluxe version no longer handles any stock transactions, i.e. Schedule D, or any rental property details, Schedule E. Last, with part time blogging income, I need to file a Schedule C, which is now a Home and Business offering.

Here’s my concern – people are creatures of habit. When was the last time you “read the fine print”? We buy what we’ve bought and rarely catch the changes until it’s too late. Unfortunately, in this case, it with be a painful process, realizing your return wont have the forms you’re expecting and you need to upgrade the software (hopefully that option will be available, to pay the difference and move on) or buy the right one for your needs. The 2014 version was just released, and Amazon reviews are already running negative, 8 reviews so far with 7 showing One Star.

I’ve been a user of TurboTax since filing my first return in 1985. We’re having our 30th anniversary with this next purchase. For the last decade, I’ve taken advantage of the ability to produce multiple returns, using my copy to print returns for my daughter, mother-in-law, sister and sister-in-law. I’m not going to quibble over a change that I read about and can adjust to. But I’ll sit back and watch how the reviewers are already having their say and see how my friends at TurboTax respond.

Update (11/22) – The reviews on Amazon continue to mount –


The one star reviews are all focused on the price increase. Unfortunate, I hope TurboTax jumps on this to stop the potential loss of customers.

  • Joe November 18, 2014, 8:51 pm

    The only thing that would make me dump TurboTax is if they abandon the Mac OS. I can afford the $30 hit the higher level will cost me. I hope I was clear in my writing, I find far more value in the product than it costs me. My mother in law and sister in law were paying $500 each to do their returns. I just recall a trail of bad marketing moves, and am afraid this will be one.

  • Doug November 18, 2014, 8:34 pm

    Great write up Joe. I was reading the Amazon reviews as well, and was concerned that these changes will what permanently makes me breakup with TurboTax. I have used a CPA to do my taxes in the past, and while the small mom and pop firm doesn’t charge me anywhere near what they could, I love the independence of doing taxes on my own.

    We will see if this marketing blunder is fixed before January.

  • Steve November 20, 2014, 9:17 pm

    They started this process last year, making Premier required for ESPP sales, even though I personally would have rather done the math manually than pay an extra $20 for them to do it. In previous years, I could access pretty much any form I wanted, as long as I did it manually – one year I filed schedule C with Basic edition. I do think they might have that new coke moment for requiring premier for *any* taxable investment sales.

  • Joe K. December 7, 2014, 9:35 pm

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been using Premiere more or less since I started actively investing, since my employer had a particularly complicated version of ESPP which the Deluxe version sorta almost maybe handled but Premiere worked better with. I’ve stayed with it since then because, even though Deluxe could be manipulated into filing the right data, I decided I do like having the dialogs for those forms.

    And actually, if folks buy the wrong version, they’ll discover that Turbo Tax will actively tell them “This is handled better by the X version; do you want to upgrade” and let them purchase the reasonably-priced upgrade (which may actually just be an unlock) right from TTax. (Did that once…) So they already have a recovery mechanism built in, without having to reenter any data… and while this bit of function shuffling may annoy folks briefly, I really don’t think it will cost them any sales.

  • Larry January 10, 2015, 2:02 pm

    JoeTaxpayer, you were so ahead of the curve on this. I wished I had seen this a while back. You know TurboTax customers better than TurboTax does. That’s a sad thought, even sadder to think that TurboTax knew it’s customers would be hoodwinked by their tactic to force more money from it’s customer base. I have (had) used TurboTax for 15 years and the Deluxe version did everything I needed including investments. So like every other year on my visit to Costco I saw the TurboTax display prominently inside the front door and grabbed my copy of the Deluxe version. I went home and stalled it so I’d be ready to go. That very evening I read about Intuit gutting the Deluxe version and forcing it’s loyal customer base to pay significantly more to get the same thing but calling it something different (Premier). This tactic has got to be a business school’s real life lesson of corporate blunders. It’s time for me to try H&R Block’s software and if it proves successful then I’m done with Intuit and TurboTax. From the looks of Amazon’s reviews I’m not alone. Thankfully Costco has a great return policy and I was able to get my money back. Even at this one Costco store the staff was already well aware of customer returns for this product. I see that TurboTax is scrambling a bit to try to salvage customers by giving a free upgrade if you call to complain to them. Too little too late and I don’t feel like groveling after a bait and switch tactic. Wished I had seen your article a lot earlier…nice job!

  • Joe January 12, 2015, 8:11 pm

    I have no malice toward TurboTax. It’s tough to create the levels of software capability and price it accordingly while using the old names. They had a similar issue when they limited the number of returns one could process. By the reaction, I imagine that there are many, many, people who help family with their returns and didn’t expect to be forced to buy multiple copies of the software. On one hand, “one fee, one return” might seems fair, it’s a shift they wouldn’t easily get away with. Sorry you wasted some time, but yes, Costco is great. Even to take back that software.

  • Florida Len January 28, 2015, 11:46 pm

    I was switched to the more expensive Premier addition because I had a Schedule C and it was $40.00 more than the Deluxe for which I had used to file for 6 years. I was infuriated, but they had my records with all sorts of carry overs, so I filed. When I heard about the $25.00 refund for those like me that were baited and switched, the website to put in the claim did not work. So I called the number and was given a big run around by an arrogant customer service rep. I asked to speak to a so-called ‘supervisor’ and thereto received a run around, where they said the refund was only for “Desktop” users. I was finally told that, yes it is $40 more and that is the way it goes – period, end of story. So in being really upset I called the corporate number and asked for the “Office of the President”, which appears to be a unit that really cares to help. The person there, Sonya took all the information and promised that someone would get back to me since I used the refund I was getting to pay Turbo Tax. Believe it or not I received a call that evening from another very nice person, who arranged to send me a check for the difference between Deluxe and Premier.

    So, while everything turned out OK in the end, the experience left a very bad taste in my mouth. I certainly never expected Intuit to try to gouge customer, and you can be sure I will be sure to check this type of activity more carefully and go somewhere else if they try it again.

  • Joe January 29, 2015, 6:40 am

    Hi Len. Thanks for writing, I appreciate you sharing your experience. The fix, a $25 refund, requires too much effort, and has too high a risk of not working, as you saw. In my case, I don’t file on line, so I have no record of my 2014 purchase of deluxe. They would have been better off offering an online update to bring the Deluxe up to Premier level.

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