Unveiling the Catch Behind TurboTax Free: A Comprehensive Guide

When tax season rolls around, many individuals seek out free or low-cost tax preparation services to navigate the complexities of filing their returns. TurboTax, a popular tax software provider, offers a “Free Edition” that entices users with the promise of filing their taxes without incurring any fees. However, as many have discovered, the reality is not always as straightforward as it seems. This article aims to shed light on the potential catches associated with TurboTax Free, empowering you to make informed decisions about your tax preparation options.

Understanding TurboTax Free

TurboTax Free is a version of the TurboTax software that is marketed as a free tax preparation service. It is designed for individuals with simple tax situations, such as those who only have W-2 income and no deductions or credits. While TurboTax Free may indeed be free for some users, it is essential to be aware of the limitations and potential pitfalls associated with this service.

Limitations of TurboTax Free

The TurboTax Free Edition has several limitations that may not be immediately apparent to users. These limitations include:

  • Limited Eligibility: TurboTax Free is only available to taxpayers with very simple tax situations. If you have itemized deductions, unemployment income, business income, stock sales, rental property income, or income reported on other forms (such as income from crypto investments), you will not be eligible for TurboTax Free.

  • Hidden Fees: While TurboTax Free is advertised as a free service, there are certain situations where you may incur unexpected fees. For example, if you need to file a state return, you will be charged an additional fee. Additionally, if you need to access more advanced features or support, you may also be charged a fee.

  • Limited Support: TurboTax Free users have limited access to customer support. If you encounter any issues while using the software, you may have to pay for additional support or seek assistance from a tax professional.

TurboTax’s Deceptive Marketing Practices

In recent years, TurboTax has faced criticism for its deceptive marketing practices related to its Free Edition. A 2019 investigation by ProPublica revealed that TurboTax was intentionally steering users away from the truly free IRS Free File program and towards its own paid products. The investigation found that TurboTax was using misleading language and design elements to make it difficult for users to find the actual free version of the software.

As a result of these findings, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took action against TurboTax, requiring the company to change its marketing practices. However, it is important to note that TurboTax is still allowed to offer a paid version of its software, and it is up to users to be aware of the differences between the free and paid versions.

Alternatives to TurboTax Free

If you are not eligible for TurboTax Free or are concerned about its limitations, there are several alternative options available for filing your taxes for free. These options include:

  • IRS Free File Program: The IRS Free File program is a partnership between the IRS and various tax software providers that offer free tax preparation and filing services to eligible taxpayers. To qualify for the IRS Free File program, you must meet certain income requirements and have a simple tax situation.

  • Free Tax Preparation Sites: There are several non-profit organizations and government agencies that offer free tax preparation services to low-income taxpayers. These services are typically provided by volunteers and may have limited availability, so it is important to research and contact these organizations early in the tax season.

  • Local Tax Assistance Centers: Many communities offer free tax assistance centers where volunteers can help you prepare and file your taxes. These centers are typically staffed by IRS-certified volunteers and can provide guidance on a variety of tax-related issues.

While TurboTax Free may be a suitable option for some taxpayers with very simple tax situations, it is crucial to be aware of its limitations and potential pitfalls. If you have a more complex tax situation or are concerned about hidden fees, it is advisable to explore alternative free tax preparation options. By understanding the catch behind TurboTax Free, you can make an informed decision about the best way to file your taxes and avoid any unexpected surprises.

How To Use TurboTax Free Plan (Free Tax Filing With TurboTax Free Edition)


Is free TurboTax any good?

Roughly 37% of taxpayers qualify. The free package won’t handle itemized deductions or the full Schedule 1 or Schedules 2 or 3 of Form 1040, which means it probably won’t work for you if you plan to deduct mortgage interest, report business or freelance income, or report stock sales or income from a rental property.

How does TurboTax make money if it’s free?

How does TurboTax make money? We want our customers to love our products and services. Because we have customers who pay for our premium products and services, we can offer free tax filing. We offer additional paid benefits that go beyond filing your Form 1040 return with limited credits, but they’re optional.

What is the TurboTax free scandal?

In an opinion and final order issued Monday, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that Intuit engaged in deceptive practices by running ads claiming consumers could file their taxes for free using TurboTax though many people did not qualify for such free offerings.

Why is TurboTax no longer free?

The FTC said that TurboTax’s “file FREE” claims misled people because most people didn’t qualify for “$0 to file.” Except they only found that out well after they spent a lot of time putting all their info into the system. As a result, the FTC ordered Intuit to stop making false “free” claims.

Does TurboTax offer free tax filing?

TurboTax has a couple of options for free tax filing: TurboTax Free Edition and TurboTax Live Assisted Basic Offer. These offers are designed for people with simple returns only. Simple tax returns include W-2 income, limited interest and dividend income, standard deduction, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Student Loan interest.

What is TurboTax free edition?

For the tenth year in a row, we are offering free federal and state tax filing with TurboTax Free Edition, helping millions of Americans file for free. TurboTax Free Edition is for taxpayers filing Form 1040 and limited credits and approximately 37% of filers qualify – you can see if you qualify here.

How much does TurboTax cost?

The price starts at $35 for a federal return and $37 per state return. TurboTax says its own AI-powered tax help is available on all of its free products this tax filing season. And its “TurboTax Live Assisted Basic,” which lets taxpayers ask questions of tax pros in real time, is free through March 31, according to a spokeswoman.

Is TurboTax a good tax software?

Most of the tax programs have an income threshold of around $60,000 to $66,000. Although some have additional restrictions around age or state of residence, in many cases you can file both your federal and state returns for no charge using the tax software services listed. TurboTax, however, is an outlier.

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