TurboTax Eats Tax Return, Apologizes With Free Software

Here’s a story about TurboTax that is at least a little bit heartwarming. Tyler filled out all of his tax information on the TurboTax website, and paid for an extra upgrade to save himself some data entry for his investments. But somehow, the TurboTax servers ate his 2010 return, and the information was nowhere to be found. He steeled himself for a long wait on the phone and a vicious fight with rude Intuit representatives, but that’s not what happened.

About a month ago I signed into my TuboTax.com account from years prior and began assembling my tax return from about a dozen documents. Since I live in WA, we get to skip the state tax part, but I do have to purchase a $20 upgrade to “Basic Plus” to make importing a bunch of stock information from a brokerage account happen automatically.

Last week I was almost finished, just waiting on one last thing, so I printed out a copy for my friend to look over. That $74 refund was money in the bank!

Until I logged in on Friday evening and everything had disappeared from my TurboTax account. I searched high and low, reset my username and password thinking I stumbled into the wrong account, and dug through my mailboxes confirming credentials with prior years. I could view old returns, but 2010 had entirely disappeared; so had my $20 upgrade.

I started clicking on their website looking for help and was almost annoyed that it was going to do anything but give me a phone number, but I was totally wrong. They gather some basic information from you online, assign you an “Incident ID”, and then give you the phone number which, first thing, asks for your incident ID. After that, a human being immediately answers the phone. No hold time on Friday at 6pm PST 3 weeks before taxes are due? Cool.

After 30 minutes and Tier 2 support, nobody had any idea where my tax return went. They could see a problem considering I had an order number to upgrade my account that had disappeared from it, but there was no good explanation. The only activity they showed on my account in 2010 was my sign in earlier that evening when I realized all of my previously entered information had disappeared. I was holding a printed 2010 TurboTax.com-prepared return (the one I had sent off for review by a friend and gotten back) throughout most of the call to convince myself I hadn’t hallucinated getting 95% done with my taxes already.

I had dinner plans so I said it wasn’t the end of the world if I had to input all of the forms again, but I obviously didn’t want to pay for the $20 upgrade a second time. Their solution was more than acceptable: 1) give me a free copy of “TurboTax Deluxe” to download ($50 product), and 2) refund my original $20 upgrade.

While I do have to spend some time inputting all of this information again and am slightly concerned that all the information vanished in the first place, this could have gone a very different way with a company that didn’t allow its front line customer service reps so much ability to do their job: make customers happy. I’ll be back next year, TurboTax.

Yay, happy customers! Yay, empowered customer service representatives! It’s sad that this is newsworthy, isn’t it?