TurboTax dark patterns

Did my taxes with TurboTax today, and gosh it’s just as spammy as ever. Check it out, to use the free file option you have to click a button labelled “NOT NOW”.

And then at the end, the “how to get your refund” checklist… the option highlighted in blue? It’s like… taking out a loan and getting a debit card and I have no idea what the terms and conditions are but that sounds HELLA SKETCH NO THANK


I hate how their current commercials talk about how super smart people can’t figure out how to do their taxes and it should all be simpler… Um, part of the reason why it’s so confusing is because TurboTax lobbies the government to keep it so!


I dropped TurboTax in 2016 for FreeTaxUSA. At the time FTU was on the IRS site as a freefile option, and I noticed now the only mention of online options is TT >.>

I have heard that FTU is not great if your taxes are more complex, but it works just fine for me and only asked me once if I wanted to pay/upgrade at the end.


I use HRblock (via the free file link), but not because they’re any less scammy than all the major companies, but because they’re actually one of the best for freelancers/sole proprieters I’ve encountered.

If your income is below ~$60K (as an individual), too, check out the nonprofit Tax-Aide volunteers folks in your area. They’re great and won’t sell you bullshit and are totally free but fully qualified:


Hol up, these are companies the government recommends you use for online submission of tax info?
We have a government platform called eTax that preloads with all your bank and investment and other info they have for you. Then you add in missing income and verify their info. Add deductions and submit online.


Yes, it’s wild and scammy but we can’t change it because doing so would take away our FreedomTM.


This is one of my favorite descriptions of the US tax system.


Ugh too accurate.

I tried using TurboTax twice. The first time I tried, it was more confusing than filling out the forms on my own. The second time I tried, it wouldn’t let me use the free file option because (gasp!) I have an HSA. I am sticking with paper filing, apparently.


If you want to give it one more go, I did not have any issues with FreeTaxUSA with an HSA.

At this point my calculator and pen and I are pretty much just the Golden Trio. We understand each other. :3


I too found Turbotax super shady.

If you can do your taxes on paper with a calculator, you might like Free Fillable Forms directly through the IRS. I’ve used it for years and it’s free, and it does not have income requirements.


I noticed that new weird loan thing too @Qristy !

I like turbotax though, I find it super easy to use (as a freelancer and an employee), but I am generally unbothered by spammy/scammy things. I still use the free version of Spotify and just listen to the ads, haha, sometimes it like…tries to pressure me? Like the ad will say, “you listen a lot, why not upgrade for ad free listening?” and I’m like “HAH! You have underestimated my threshold for nonsense.”


I’ll have to remember this for last year. HR block also made me pay a bit for having an HSA :frowning:

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I filed for free with an HSA and HR Block.

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Had you used money from it for medical expenses though? That seemed to be what they got me with. Also, for a couple years I had access to a fancier level of HR Block for free through one of my credit cards, which is why I ended up filing with them to begin with. It is also possible that I simply missed some kind of workaround.

Yes, so I don’t know why the difference. I went in through irs free file.


Ah, that was probably my mistake. I just went in through the email they sent me cause I filed with them last year :woman_facepalming:


I started out using H&R Block in college on dad’s recommendation. 5 years ago, after moving to CA I switched to TaxAct bc they did a 2nd state return for only $15, and it was straightforward. Last year I used FreeTaxUSA bc it let me do the 2 weeks I drove for Lyft (for free or cheap, I forget). I appreciated the service but the site felt a bit scammy.

I think this year with just W2 income (+1099int, +401k) I will go back to TaxAct.

Oh, and I tried TurboTax 5 years ago and it was The Worst. Like it was fine while you neatly fit their 5 most common use cases but if anything was unclear it got confusing FAST.


TurboTax and another big brand one always got confused about my sharing child deductions every other year (or something right term something related to child and his dad), even though it was fine by IRS rules.

TaxAxt let us, and even had an explanation in the sidebar. So TaxAct it’s been and now I’m just too lazy to switch.