Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Life After TurboTax

Bloggers are outraged at the fee increases in TurboTax, the most popular U.S. tax preparation software. The 2008 edition of the software was released a few days ago with additional fees that users find shocking. The most shocking, apparently: the software company now charges an extra $10 “filing fee” to let you print out your tax return.

I have just one thing to say to people who find the new fees that go with TurboTax intrusive and annoying: You really don’t need TurboTax at all. It doesn’t actually do anything to make paying taxes easier. Tax forms are just forms. You can download them free, fill them out on your computer in many cases, or in pen, and mail them in. Tax software doesn’t do any of the difficult work for you — it’s just supposed to make the process less aggravating by guiding you through it. But how good does it really feel to have a computer, controlled by a powerful business corporation, telling you what to do for three or four evenings in March? If you find the hidden fees in TurboTax aggravating, the aggravation you feel takes away the only advantage TurboTax has. So just don’t use the software at all. These links will get you started with your free downloads:

Internal Revenue Service Forms and Publications (federal tax forms)

Federation of Tax Administrators State Tax Forms (links to state tax authorities)