By Ari Lazarus
Federal Trade Commission
March 30, 2022

It’s tax time, and like many people, you might be looking for a tax preparation service — especially one that’s free. Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax, has gotten a lot of people’s attention with ads that said things like “$0 to file” and “file FREE.” The problem? For a lot of people, it’s not actually free.

Today, the FTC announced an administrative action against Intuit for misleading people about free tax filing with TurboTax and separately has asked a federal court to stop Intuit’s deceptive advertising of TurboTax. According to the administrative complaint, since at least 2016, it was only after people spent time entering sensitive personal and financial information that many learned they’d need to upgrade to a paid TurboTax product to complete and file their taxes.

TurboTax’s Website in 2019 (left) and 2022 (right)

So, when is it free? Only when you meet TurboTax’s definition of a “simple return” (which they’ve changed a few times since 2016). In practice, during 2020, two-thirds of all tax filers didn’t qualify for the “simple return.” That includes people who got unemployment benefits and gig workers with 1099 forms.

Looking to do your taxes for free — for real?

  • Check out the IRS Free File Program. If your 2021 adjusted gross income was $73,000 or less, you qualify for free guided tax preparation software for your federal taxes. Use this tool to find which free software is available to you, based on your income and situation.   Depending on your income and which IRS partner site you use, you might be able to prepare and file your state taxes for free too.
  • Check out MilTax if you’re a servicemember or veteran. If your income is too high for the IRS Free File Program, there’s another free option for you. There’s no income limit for the Department of Defense’s free filing program, but there are some eligibility requirements.
  • Look into the details. If a company advertises free tax preparation services, ask what qualifications you’ll have to meet for it to be free? Do you qualify?
  • Check out IRS Free File Fillable Forms. Use these to file your federal taxes for free if your 2021 adjusted gross income was more than $73,000. These are an online version of the IRS paper forms, so you won’t get any guidance. These forms don’t help with your state tax return, so learn more by going to the website for your state’s tax agency.

Spot a tax preparation service that says it’s free but isn’t? Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Share this story!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
DAVID LOTT
DAVID LOTT
4 months ago

Although I have been a “paid” TurboTax customer for quite a number of years, the tactics of the company within their products is becoming deceptive. TT is not the only company advertising a “free” version which generally only supports a basic tax return. What riled me this year on TT was that it “recommends” their Premier (and most costly version) if you have to file a Schedule C (sale of stocks). When in fact the lower cost Deluxe edition will support a Schedule C filing. But you won’t find that feature being included in the Deluxe edition in any of their basic advertising. I am sure their defense is that they state that it is only “recommended” and not “required”. They have lost a long time customer.

Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
4 months ago
Reply to  DAVID LOTT

Sorry David, but sale of stock whether a capital gain or loss is SCHEDULE D. Schedule C is for self-employed business. BIG DIFFERENCE!

Ben Martin
4 months ago

Wouldn’t it be great if the IRS was eliminated all together? Some say the whole problem started in 1913 with the passage of the “Federal Reserve Act.” Maybe that Act should be repealed.

Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Ben, the income tax was created under the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, not the Federal Reserve Act. The Federal Reserve Act created the central bank of the United States which regulates the flow of money. As Senator Patrick Moynahan once said to a Senate colleague, “Sir, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts!”

Ben Martin
4 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Kayne

Joseph, Facts matter for sure. I could have been more clear. Thanks for pointing out it was the 16th Amendment that created the income tax.

The Federal Reserve Act became law in 1913.

The 16 Amendment was ratified the very same year.

It is like they came together.

The Income Tax forces the people to pay the debt owed to the Federal Reserve Banking System.

The IRS is like a collection agency for the Federal Reserve System.

Let’s get rid of the System and the Income Tax too.

It would be good for me, and also for you.

The world would be a better place if mom and pop entrepreneurs didn’t have to worry about 80,000 pages of tax code. Besides, central banking is a tenet of communism.

Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Ben, the IRS and the Federal Reserve are totally independent of each other. In fact, the Fed is independent of the federal executive. Just because two things happen at the same time does not make them related. I’m sure several people share your birthday, but that does make them your siblings.

Again, you’re welcome to think the tax code is too complicated. In fact, I agree. And you can believe central banking is communism, even if it shows you do not understand what either really is. But do it from a position of knowledge, not ignorance.

Ben Martin
4 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Kayne

It is a fact that Marx loved Central Banking.

Wells Fargo became one of the largest landlords in the nation after the 2008 Financial Crisis.

https://mises.org/wire/why-marx-loved-central-banks

Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Now you’re equating Marx and communism. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE. So you are right that Marx believed in central banking, but that does not justify your statement “central banking is a tenet of communism.” See below.

The main difference between communism and Marxism is that communism is an ideology that is based on common ownership while the absence of social classes, money, and the states, while Marxism is an ideology by Karl Marx that is a social, political, and fiscal theory by him, that focuses on struggles between capitalists and working class.

Furthermore, the Fed is governed by regional boards that are made up of equal representation from the public and private sectors. THAT IS NOT COMMUNISM.

We can have an intelligent debate when you stop moving the goalposts.

Ben Martin
4 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Kayne

Facts are important. “The Communist Manifesto” was authored by Karl Marx and Frederich Engles

The Federal Reserve is a privately owned, for profit, banking cartel. Like all cartels it’s purpose is to remove competition.

The way things are moving it won’t be long before the central banks of the world own all of the worlds’ property. Could this be part of what has been planned by the WEF?

Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

Ben, your last post is what happens when you read a headline but are too lazy to read the article. Yes, Marx and Engles wrote “The Communist Manifesto.” Do you have any idea why it was called “The Communist Manifesto?” Because it was the platform for a political party called the Communist League. established in London in 1847. The platform was consistent with Marx long standing views of the struggle between capitalists and laborers. The League was a merger of several socialist organizations, some of which promoted communism as we think of it today. But if you wan to understand Marxism, you should read the more complete Das Kapital.

But now you’re in the world of conspiracy theory suggesting the Fed is privately owned (it is not), and a banking cartel (which it is not). As for competition have you not looked around Amelia Island? There is a lot of competition with national banks, community banks and credit unions.

If central banks are the tenet of communist, why do democracies, socialist countries, dictatorships and communist countries all have central banks. They are tools for regulating the availability and cost of money. The do NOT have any functions that we associate with banking. NO checking accounts. NO savings accounts. NO consumer or business lending with the exception of loans to member banks to ensure liquidity.

Cannot wait for your next pivot and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

Ben Martin
4 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Kayne

Joseph, unless the Federal Reserve Banking system is owned by the government – it is private.

If you get in a dispute with Wells Fargo over fees and remove your money it would seem that BofA would want your business. But that is not the case. You will not be able to start an account with BofA unless you first settle up with Wells Fargo. That is because they are all part of the same Federal Reserve System and they are working together – just like a cartel.

Some people have conspiracy theories about conspiracy theories. But please, lets stick to the facts.

Joseph Kayne
Joseph Kayne
4 months ago
Reply to  Ben Martin

As a very wise man once said, “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.” Believe what you want.

12
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x