Warning: TurboTax Missing Minnesota Tax Info (Updated With TurboTax Response)

by Elizabeth Lang on 10 March 2010 13 comments
Photo: KOMUnews

[Editor's note: See TurboTax's response.]

Rarely do I get to a point where I’m so frustrated I could cry. But that’s where I sit right now. I have spent 120 minutes trying to help a company I like (TurboTax) fix a glitch in their system. But, after these two hours I failed at helping them understand the problem and was even hung up after waiting on hold for 45 minutes. Luckily, I can help you avoid the same mistakes I made.

The biggest problem that you should know about right now:

If you are a Minnesotan: When TurboTax completes your M1PR Property Tax Refund, between lines 10 and 11 you need to fill in your property tax ID and your county. TurboTax online doesn’t ask you for this information and subsequently leaves it blank. Also, you need to put the name of other people who you are including in household income.

Let’s back up.

I’ve been a faithful TurboTax user ever since I’ve filed my own taxes. In fact, as you might recall, I sort of enjoy taxes. I enjoy doing my taxes so much that I help extensively with my wife’s (given that our marriage isn’t recognized federally or in our state we file separately).

This year, as first-time homebuyers we got to fill out all sorts of new information. One form is the M1PR Minnesota Property Tax Refund. TurboTax seemingly helped us through this process. We answered a few questions and voila — it spit out a nifty completed form to mail in. (You can’t electronically file the M1PR form.)

Well, as is recommended, we go through our forms line by line before filing to make sure things make sense. Every year things added up. Until this year.

My wife Kimberly was taking the property tax credit. And on her property tax form several lines were blank. Lines that said "REQUIRED" and "ALL HOMEOWNERS." (Yes, in all bold caps).

Hmm, that’s odd. Why would Turbo Tax leave the required lines blank? I went through the process online again and found that Turbo Tax still didn’t ask these questions so they never filled them in.

So I did what any good consumer would do. I sent a support email explaining the problem. I wanted to help them fix the system so that hundreds of thousands of other people didn’t get the same blank spaces and file incorrect forms. Since the form wasn’t filled out correctly and TurboTax has a guarantee, I also requested a refund.

We got a reply email within 24 hours. The email told us to call a number because they couldn’t help via email.

So last night I called. I spent the first 45 minutes patiently trying to explain the problem to the support tech. Because it’s not easy to find the form on Turbo Taxes site I suggested she visit the MN Department of Revenue site to view the form. But despite all my explanations and even having her view my screen she just wasn’t getting the problem.

After 45 minutes of genuinely trying to help her understand the problem so they could fix the system, she still wasn’t understanding. So, I requested a supervisor. In fact, I requested talking to a supervisor 3 times during the next 15 minutes during which the support tech kept telling me that someone would be coming but that she had a few more questions.

Finally, after an hour on the phone I just requested a refund. I told her that I wanted to be able to help TurboTax with the glitch in their system, but that I really needed to go and would just like to get my money back through the TurboTax guarantee. She told me she couldn’t refund my money because I filed the other tax forms already. So, I asked to talk to a supervisor.

I waited over 40 minutes on hold to talk to a supervisor. Then, I heard a voice, a hang up, and then a dial tone. That’s right — after waiting for 40 minutes to talk to a supervisor — I got hung up on. So being even more convinced that I needed to explain the problem to someone, I called back. And waited on hold for another 20 minutes just to try to talk to someone. I gave myself a time limit (and wrote this story while on hold). Finally, I had had enough. Who knows how long I would have to wait to talk to someone — much less a supervisor.

[Editor's note:  See TurboTax's response below.]

Luckily, my frustrations weren’t for naught. I have this story and some key takeaways for the world of the internet.

What You Need To Know

1. If you’re a Minnesota who will be filing M1PR: I highly recommend that you just go to MN Department of Revenue site and print the form and instructions. They are not too difficult to understand. Another option would be to use TurboTax’s forms and hand-correct the errors yourself. Besides the two errors previously mentioned, on line 5 if you are including income from a co-tenant/owner, you need to include their name. (TurboTax just lists “other person’s income,” but according to the M1PR instructions you need to include their name.)

2. Always double check your tax forms.

3. If there is a mistake, it’s probably not worth your time to call and try to explain the problem. Right now we’ve paid TurboTax over $140 for the two filings and I’ve wasted 2 hours of my evening trying to help them fix the problem.

Disclaimer: There may be other problems with the M1PR that I didn't catch. I am not an accountant and should not be relied upon for tax advice. I just read the tax forms and follow the instructions.

Have you ever found a major mistake in software? Did you try to help the company correct the problem?

Update:  TurboTax Response From VP Bob Meighan

Dear Elizabeth,

At TurboTax, we take our commitment to helping our customers get their taxes done easily and accurately very seriously.  We were recently made aware of the issue that you experienced while filing your Minnesota state tax return.  We have corrected this issue and it will be available as an update by this Saturday, 3/13.  However, I would like to correct one point you made.  TurboTax handles line 5 of the Minnesota 2009 Property Tax Refund (M1PR) correctly.  All that needs to be reported is the type of income, not the names of individuals.

At TurboTax we have a satisfaction guarantee and I apologize that our agent did not honor that commitment. I will ensure that your TurboTax fees are refunded promptly. Also, TurboTax has an accuracy guarantee that pays penalty and interest if our calculations are in error.

We have also recently increased staff in our customer service organization and now have significantly shorter wait times.  As we approach the April 15 deadline, we will be adding even more staff to provide the responsiveness and quality all our customers deserve. We are also revising our escalation procedures for state-specific issues since agents cannot reasonably be expected to be knowledgeable in each state's unique laws and forms (as you learned from your experience).

I apologize that TurboTax did not meet your expectations this year.  We value you as a customer and take your experience very seriously.
 
Sincerely,
Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax

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Guest's picture

Something similar happened to me a few years ago--the way TurboTax worded a question caused me to get hit with a penalty for underpaying taxes (they asked had I lived in my NYC neighborhood for the entire year, which I had not, but answering "no" marked my return as a part-time resident of the NYC tax locality, which wasn't correct, and their error checking didn't catch it despite my previous address being a NYC address).

I called and complained, and they did refund my fees, and the next year the question was asked correctly. I think you should definitely keep trying to get your money back--their software caused a problem and it didn't live up to their gaurantee.

Elizabeth Lang's picture

Mr. Meighan,

While I will again note that I am not a tax expert; the bottom of page 7 of the instructions do state "If someone other than your spouse lived with you, you must include the other person’s income and name on line 5."

My interpretation of this is that the name does need to be included on line 5.

You can find the instructions here: http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/taxes/prop_refund/instructions/m1pr_inst.pdf

Guest's picture
Kristen

I am also a loyal Turbo Tax user who had major problems with my returns this year. I am a coporate tax accountant so I understand more than the average joe. However like you I was in tears several nights in a row and could not ever get anyone to answer my questions. I use the software version and it got "corrupted" multiple times in a 3 day period. Then it was acting as though I did not have a state return (even though it came with one state). I spent 2 hours one night waiting for a rep online and never go to talk to one and then I spent almost an hour on the phone and never spoke to anyone before I gave up. I tried a final time to uninstall and re-install the program. It worked long enough for me to e-file my federal and print my state. They are going to have to make some major improvements for me to fork out the money again next year!!

Guest's picture
knagl

Wow, thanks for your post. I stumbled upon this, and I'm glad I did as I just filed (but haven't yet mailed the M1PR) my partner's taxes using Turbo Tax (web version).

I looked at the M1PR generated today (3/12/2010) and sure enough, the section between lines 10 and 11 is blank. I'll have to re-do it thanks to this major error.

I'd like to offer one note of correction -- it IS possible to file an M1PR electronically, but Turbo Tax doesn't support it. (Turbo Tax, if you're reading this, there are a bunch of people in Minnesota who'd appreciate it if you folks would support that for 2010!) Other competing tax preparation tools can do it (and the one that the state lists even throws it in for free when you file federal and state). Source: http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/e-file/other_supporting_content/m1pr_provid...

Guest's picture
knagl

Well, for fun I decided to look at the 2008 M1PR that I sumbitted last year for my partner. Sure enough, Turbo Tax was missing the same information on the 2008 form. However, the state did accept the incomplete form as the refund appeared in my partner's bank account. I'm sure the state has seen a lot of these forms with the missing information sine a fair number of people use Turbo Tax. Kudos to you for spotting the error and (eventually) getting a hold of people to get it fixed.

Guest's picture
Guest

I spotted a different problem on the M1PR as of March 25th: Line 11 has the incorrect amount from what I entered on an earlier Turbotax panel where it asks for line 1 of statement of property taxes payable in 2010 - it was about $73 less than what it should have been.

Guest's picture
Jen

The response letter from turbo tax states that these glitches have been fixed as of 3-13-09. Well, this isn't the case. I was reviewing my property tax refund prepared by turbo tax, and the information between lines 10 and 11 are left blank. I filed my taxes just a few days before April 15th, an entire month, after turbo tax claims to have fixed this glitch. I'm really glad now that I didn't have this automatically submitted with my federal return.

Guest's picture
mamma04

My boyffriend/daughters father 2009 federal taxes were stolen by his ex girlfriend she did his taxes on the turbo tax and had his federal return directly deposited into a turbo tax debit card that was in her name can you tell me how is that possible??
And i understand that all you need is a social security number to sign off on the internet for taxes but how could she get away with stealing 4200 dollars from him. It don't make any sense to me at all. please direct me in the right direction

Guest's picture

Just curious if this speaks to the complexity of our tax code. When even the most technical of programs can't seem to get it right.

VAT anyone?

Guest's picture
Emmy

That is why I always try to tell people to never put all their trust in the computers, They just are not the kind of thing you want to put too much confidence! There are always problems with them!

Guest's picture
bob

Mr. Meighan, I just got audited for my 2008 M1pr form and found that it was line 5 in error. It was for rental losses and that should have been added back in making my refund $580 less and thus the interest and audit. This was a clear error on turbotax fault as I see all the info was entered correctly on my end. I no longer trust your software.

Guest's picture
Maria M

I had the same problem as Bob - Turbo Tax did not add in the passive rental depreciation deduction from my Federal form and I began to receive tax bills stating this miscalculation in 2010. The first year (for 2007) was an error of over $300 plus penalties, the second year (for 2008) $140, the third year (for 2009) I didn't even file because that actual tax year (2010) is when I started getting my bills from the past (I should have filed manually, but was dealing with significant health issues with a child and it got put on the back burner for 2 years). The 4th year (2010) I completed the form manually. I didn't GET A NOTICE it was wrong until year 3...so fun getting tax BILLS in the mail to make your day. Do you think Turbo Tax stood behind their guarantee...NOOOOOOOOO. I too made the mistake of calling them to inform them...and still no changes. I think I am going to take up this fight again, to get my fees back from those years - turning on the squeaky wheel as we speak.

Guest's picture

The Minnesota department of Revenue has sent out notices this morning (March 8) warning not to use any Intuit products (TurboTax, Lacerte, Intuit online or ProSeries) because of errors.

You can read the release here: http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/MNREV-70077e