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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 18, 2007 10:00 AM. The previous post in this blog was Outsmarting technology. The next post in this blog is You think you've got it bad. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"TurboTax ate my kicker check"

Here in Oregon, lots of folks are discovering that they didn't receive their "kicker" refund checks from the state because their tax return preparation software, TurboTax, donated them back to the state without their realizing it. One reader wrote us this morning, copying us on an e-mail message sent to the Department of Revenue:

When I did not receive a kicker check in the mail, but instead a letter from the state thanking me for my donation to the State School Fund, I opened up my 2006 return in the TurboTax software, clicked on "State", and then on "view forms". The electronic form within TurboTax does NOT have an X in the box for "donate any kicker". However, I looked at the paper form that I printed and mailed to the state, and it did indeed have an X in that box, as did the PDF file TurboTax generates that I used to print the paper forms. I had not noticed this before I mailed the forms to the state, because I assumed TurboTax filled them in consistent with my answers and I did not review the printed forms in much detail. It is clear in the software, however, that I had specified I did NOT want to donate my kicker. It is clear that this was a problem with the TurboTax software. The kicker calculater shows my wife and I should be receiving $533. What process do I need to go through to claim that amount?
And he's not alone. Can you say "class action"?

I wonder if the state will let them all file amended returns, withdrawing their elections to donate.

UPDATE, 12/19, 12:55 a.m.: We have more on this story -- maybe more than you want to read, even -- here.

Comments (29)

When computers make a mistake it just might be BIG! I used MacInTax in the past but its' gone, replaced by the down grade Turbo Tax (Mac version.) Being ADD I know I have to check everything a VERY boring 6 or 8 times. The software just screws up, sometimes even losing data. And I don't use the state version because I find it easy enough to do it manually after Turbo Tax and I get through doing the Federal. My best wishes to Turbo Tax, the Oregon Dept of Revenue and the School fund as they work to fix this. Maybe, I hope, the can do it before some law firm looks for next years big class action ($$$).

According to this story in the O, "State law says the decision to make such a donation is irrevocable."

Several years ago I gave Turbo Tax a try. I discouvered it tended to err in the favor of the state and increased tax my obligation from the previous years. Then I re-figured using pencil and paper and got the correct results. I used the same numbers inputted to Turbo Tax that I used with pencil and paper. So now I frustratingly dedicate a weekend to figuring my tax by hand.

Stupid idea for a class action. Attoney awards will eat any recovery. And I say that having spent 30 plus years as a plaintiffs' lawyer.

Very good candidate for a massive series of small claims actions against Turbo Tax's publisher alleging both negligence and violation of the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act, specifically ORS 646.608(1)(e) and (g).
And you collect your attorneys fees. 646.638.

Point here is to get your money back in your pocket toute de suite, and a class action ain't gonna do that.

Jack, you might want to check with Jay Cosgrave, an adjunct o your faculty.

Hey, no need for me to check anything. I got mine. I just took a look at my return on TurboTax, and nothing is amiss there, either.

I used TurboTax (filing electronically) and still received a kicker.

Me thinks thou dost protest too loudly.

Perhaps this affected only those who qualified to use the short form, or those who printed out the return and mailed it in manually. From our house, we printed out the long form and mailed it in. Don't remember overriding anything about the kicker refund.

Another possibility is that we wound up with different versions of the software; perhaps some update or another got downloaded by some taxpayers and not others. As I say, we got (and have pretty much already spent) our kicker.

Ugly, ugly, ugly.

me, too. i got the kicker and used TTax

No problems here with Turbotax 2006. My kicker arrived a week ago. I guess the message here is that regardless of what the screen shows, it *is* necessary to check the printed copy BEFORE you sign and mail the forms off. If you electronically file, for god's sake, check the thing carefully (print a copy of what the e-return will look like) before sending it off. I guess after spending a good 45 years writing computer software, I'm still cynical about just how reliable the bits are. My life depends on them, but that doesn't mean I won't use my mind to evaluate what I'm sending off.

As the good doctor says in War Games: "For god's sake, why are you listening to a machine".

It might be the case that the problem is, indeed, Intuit's. Most of the cases I'm reading about used TurboTax online version, not the boxed version. While the engines might be the same, I believe the online version is written in Java, while the boxed versions (Windows and Mac) are written in C, C++, and assembly language.

One problem with the Oregon forms that TurboTax prints out is that they don't look like the forms that humans file by hand. If there's a line on there about donating the kicker, I'm not so sure you'd recognize it when you saw it.

It wasn't TurboTax, rather a virus ginned up by BlueOregon and OCPP.

I used Turbo Tax and e-filed and had no problems, get my check as normal. Strange others have issues

Hmm, says it happened to people using H&R Block's "Taxcut" software too. Thats what I use (they sent it to me free last year)...but I got my kicker.

Could have something to do with software updates too. I wonder how many of those people e-filed really early? Because the tax software updates itself almost every day during tax time.

It's pretty clear to me. The machines have taken over, and they're more generous than we are. The machine "kicked" back. Time to shut mine down - the holidays have arrived. Enjoy all, and thanks Jack for your buck-a-hit generosity. Joyous Holidays - all - genop.

Turbo Tax worked well for us - got our kicker okay. We used the online version of TurboTax - filed electronically.

Blaming the software is easier than admitting one checked the box without thinking. Garbage in, garbage out.

With TurboTax, it's easy to start fast clicking without reading every question. Especially if you're began preparing your taxes on April 14th.

Perhaps a CPA is worth the extra money? Even if they just review what you've printed on the TurboTax output pages.

Here is a link to the Oregon Form 40
http://www.oregon.gov/DOR/PERTAX/docs/2006Forms/101-040-06fill.pdf
Read line 7.

Here is what my 2006 turbotax copy says in box 7A:
Self: 65 or older with a box blind with a box
Spouse: 65 or older with a box, blind with a box.

That's it folks. I have 7A, no B, C, D and most certainly, no E!! This is turbotax's 2006 version of Form 40. At least its the one I was given when I told Turbotax that besides a Federal return I would be filing a return for the State of Oregon. Looks nothing like the state's. Is that my fault? Like I would know I'm missing a box or two!?! Is it turbotax's fault? Maybe. Probably. There's no box that I mistakenly checked. I didnt miss an opportunity to read and reread my tax form before submitting it online (mrfearless47.) For those of you who think you know it all (Don), and assume that the rest of us who didn't receive kicker checks either checked the box by mistake or did it on purpose and regret it now..guess what? It DIDN'T EXIST for me to check, period (Mrtee). I suspect many of us are in the same boat and that's why they are checking which version of turbotax you have. Congrats to those of you who downloaded it and line 7 looks just like the state's. To the rest of us....thus far, we were robbed, plain and simple. I'm assuming since I have a copy of what was filed electronically, and can prove I had no 7E box that I'll eventually get my kicker check. Let's hope. Check to see what your form looks like in comparison to the state's version!!! If you didn't get your kicker check that may be the problem. Don't listen to the sanctimonious group here who got theirs and have it figured out why the rest of us didn't.

Heh, unfortunately, I have been hit with this issue as well.

I will now have to go back through TurboTax and check and see if I can even find this checkbox. I totally don't remember clicking any such box and it certainly shouldn't be checked by default.

Anyhow, the money should at least count as a donation which means I can get some of it back from the federal government when I do my taxes this year.

We also used the downloaded version of Turbo Tax and when you click view forms, there is no line 7 E. The Donate Kicker box is not on Turbo Tax's form, except it mysteriously appears on the PDF version if you chose to print it. If you, however, simply electronically filed the Turbo Tax form, there was no box for you to see or verify prior to filing - it doesn't exist. We downloaded early and e-filed on 2/7/07, so perhaps Intuit fixed this in later versions or with updates, which would indicate that they figured it out and didn't tell those of us who filed early. That seems to be an even bigger problem for Intuit.

WOW! I initially came to this post to say I used Turbo Tax, mailed in my state (but not federal) because I owed, and still got my check.

However, after reading the entire post I am blown away by TurboTax. I have been using it since 1999 but will reconsider this year.

In response to the posts here, I thought I would paste the response to the Kicker Rebate that I have posted in numerous other places. And by the way, the Oregon form(s) printed by TurboTax are not supposed to look like the actual state forms. Forms prepared using tax software are modified (as required by OR) to facilitate the electronic processing of the form by the state. Descriptions are truncated and much of the data is converted into a scan bar.

My response posted elsewhere...

We conducted extensive research over the last four days and believe TurboTax is correctly computing and reporting to Oregon Dept. of Revenue the Kicker Rebate. Here are the details.

Based on concerns raised by Oregon taxpayers, the OR Dept of Revenue asked us on Friday (12/14/07) to look into how TurboTax handles the Kicker Rebate. Our research included testing all combinations of forms (resident, non-resident, part-year), filing methods (paper, electronic filing), and tax scenarios. We also examined TurboTax data files provided by consenting taxpayers and did a TurboTax code review. Our review of the TurboTax interview also indicated that in response to the question, “Do you want to contribute it [refund] to the school fund?”, we default to No. Below the question, we also state “Note: This is an irrevocable election…”

While we are confident in our current assessment, please do not take this for arrogance. For time-to-time, we do make mistakes and in those cases, we acknowledge those errors. Nothing is more important to us than earning your trust, and we will not compromise this in any respect.

We will continue to work with customers and the OR Dept of Revenue as requested to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our customers' tax information. If you filed using TurboTax, you can be confident that the information you entered was accurately reported to Oregon.

If you think your Kicker Rebate was erroneously donated to the State School Fund rather than refunded, please call the OR Dept of Revenue at (503) 378-4988 or toll-free (800) 356-4222.

Although the Oregon state law does not provide a mechanism for changing the Kicker Rebate election, we have communicated to Oregon officials the desirability of finding a way of refunding those taxpayers who did not intend to have their refund diverted to the School Fund. Whether your refund was large or small, that is the right thing to do.

I hope this information helps and if we learn more, we will share that with you.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

There's something fulfilling about a grammatical error in a sentence that admits to other possible errors.

"For time-to-time, we do make mistakes and in those cases, we acknowledge those errors."

This happened to me too. I prepared returns for myself and another person. Mine was mailed, the other filed electronically. The e-filed one was fine, problem was on the paper copy. I don't have an issue with the printed version not looking like the non-computer form - my problem is that the form that's displayed on the screen (when you ask for it) bears little resemblance to the printout. There is actually an unlabeled box on the screen version, identified as the donate kicker box only when you right click on it. Clicking further for more information brings up a page which makes no mention at all of the kicker! But sure enough, that box was checked on the screen version of my return even though the corresponding box is blank on the personal information worksheet. Sayonara, Turbo Tax!

Mine behaves as Joe describes: the form in the TurboTax shows the kicker as an unlabled checkbox. Some testing showed that the kicker setting reflected what I had chosen in the interview and the PDF output, which labels the kicker checkbox, was correct as well.

I wonder if there's some technical reason for not showing the same form on the screen as is printed/PDFed. Otherwise, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

For the record, I originally saved my forms to PDF for printing and received my kicker.

I DID NOT MAKE A MISTAKE - I did not check the box to donate my kicker to the Oregon School Fund - it was somehow checked automatically.

I did not recieve my kicker.

Maybe Bob Meighan from Turbo Tax can send me a check for $445.10.

Turbo Tax should refund the total amount of any Kicker Refunds lost because of errors in their SW. An important box/input such as the Kicker donation should have been highlighted with a confirmation of the correctness of the choice, and warning it was irrevocable. Your response here is a cop-out. At a minimum, why don't you respond directly to those who lost their refunds here with an offer to review their return and software?

Oops!

After reading the Turbo Tax response again, I did note they said, "Our review of the TurboTax interview also indicated that in response to the question, “Do you want to contribute it [refund] to the school fund?”, we default to No. Below the question, we also state “Note: This is an irrevocable election…”

I assume that's true. If so, how did it happen to these folks? Why not contact them directly and find out? They have provided conflicting information.

I e-filed with the box version of Turbo Tax and haven't received mine either. I went through the worksheets in the PDF, and the Kicker box is unchecked. I looked at the 'paper' version of the 1040 in the PDF, and nothing is mentioned about the kicker. The only way the state could say that I intended to donate it is if the bar code information was incorrect.

So, for how long will the State and Intuit point fingers at each other until we actually see our money?

And if we don't, what's the next step?


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