TurboTax Limit on Single Computers Sparks Outcry

Intuit’s popular TurboTax software could be facing a different type of tax rush, as initial reaction to anti-piracy safeguards installed by Intuit are causing unrest among customers as the United States enters its annual tax-preparation season.

In its 18th tax season, TurboTax was the No.1-selling tax preparation software program in 2001. According to third-party research, TurboTax owned 71 percent of the market last year, at least when it comes to units sold.

In September 2001, Intuit announced it would build new anti-piracy systems into this year’s version of TurboTax. But many customers of the popular tax-reporting software are just learning about the change as they install the application to begin their 2002 tax returns.

Beginning this year, all federal versions of TurboTax desktop products for Windows include a product activation code to make sure customers use the product in accordance with the License Agreement. The code allows customers to use TurboTax on other computers, but printing and electronic filing of tax returns must be done from the same computer where the software was first launched. The phrase “one computer” in Intuit’s licensing agreement literally means one computer.

According to a spokesperson for Intuit, the new anti-piracy scheme is built into all versions of this year’s tax-reporting software. You can move the software onto another computer and are able to view it in interview or forms mode without having to purchase a new license. But the software can only be activated on one computer where you will need to print or e-file your return from.

In a spontaneous online outcry, customers are assailing the change as something that could cause problems if they buy a new computer before the April 15 tax-filing deadline or need to amend their 2002 returns within the next few years.

In hundreds of online product reviews and postings in newsgroups customers are deriding TurboTax and urging people to switch to H&R Block’s TaxCut software, which doesn’t come with similar limitations.

Hundreds of angry customers have posted scathing reviews of the new TurboTax limitations at Amazon.com. One product reviewer said limited activation scheme was enough to make him switch to another software maker.

“I will switch to another product next year due to the activation scheme. I used Intuit’s TurboTax for many years. I am also considering switching from other Intuit products for the same reason,” the irritated consumer fumed.

Intuit says the criticism stems from misconceptions about the product activation code that customers must obtain from the company to use its top-selling tax preparation software. But only time will tell if customers will buy this line of thought or buy TurboTax software again this year. More than 14 million Americans used TurboTax for online tax preparation and filing services last year.

Intuit is a leading provider of business and financial management solutions for small businesses, consumers and accounting professionals. Its flagship products and services include QuickBooks and Quicken, in addition to TurboTax. Many U.S. small business use Intuit’s financial management program and payroll processing systems, as well as its personal finance and tax preparation software.

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