Thursday, February 02, 2006

The IRS Free File Alliance Works As Designed

by Tom Bozzo

Until recently, I was a happy filer of paper income tax returns. I have a nice spreadsheet that calculates all the relevant lines, AMT calculations and all, and sort-of liked filling in all the numbers on the forms. More pertinently, the foregone interest from the slower refunds, relative to e-filing, didn't justify paying an e-filing fee. I also found branding mattered when the Free File Alliance launched: The poor web site design of the couple providers who would accept returns from taxpayers in our situation did not fill me with enough confidence to hand over our tax information. Last year, though Intuit entered the fray, offering a free version of Turbo Tax Online to all comers, and I bit.

After slogging through the data entry for the Federal return last year, I was hit with the choice of re-entering all the data using Wisconsin's e-filing service, or paying Intuit for the convenience of transferring my already-entered information. I learned that my value of an hour or so not spent working on my taxes is at least $24.95.

This year, I received a helpful solicitation offering to transfer the relevant '04 information to '05 and e-file for the low low price of $9.95, or I could e-file for free but would have to start from scratch. Guess the choice.

Voilà, we're a revenue stream.

It's worth it.
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