Wednesday, February 16, 2005

TurboTax -- Angst and Euphoria

My home computer runs Windows NT. It serves me well. But I get nervous every time I need to update a program. Why? Microsoft stopped supporting NT quite a while ago. So I've become adept at locating that little "System Requirements" section on packaged software.

I've used TurboTax to file my federal taxes for 2001, 2002 and 2003. But when I sought out the latest version for 2004, I noticed that Windows NT was absent from the "System Requirements" section.

I bought it anyway. I'm sure they didn't mean to imply that it won't run on NT. They just left it off because ... well, nobody has NT anymore. Besides, perhaps it is time to buy a new computer. Or at least I'll buy a new hard drive and install Windows 2000 on it. And if I don't switch to Windows 2000, I can always run TurboTax on my office computer.

Before I cracked open the shrink wrap, I decided to check out the TurboTax website to verify the system requirements. After a mere six mouse clicks, I had my answer:

System requirements misprint on the Welcome Back CD packaging

The TurboTax Welcome Back CD packaging incorrectly lists Windows 95 and NT as supported operating systems. You can review the actual system requirements with the links below.

Then I got mad. This is all the fault of a lazy Intuit IT department and a team of inconsiderate programmers. And because of them, I have to invest time and money updating a perfectly good computer. I decided to rebel. I would do my taxes by hand.

Just before I clicked on my browser's close button in a huff, I noticed an inconspicuous link called TaxFreedom. "This looks interesting," thought I. In my rebellious mood, I envisioned a site that would show me how to give the IRS a virtual middle finger. If I could blow off doing my taxes, I won't need software.

But the link led me to another TurboTax site that offered to "Prepare and e-file your federal return FREE and get your refund fast!" Well, I wasn't born yesterday. I know nothing's for free. What's the angle? Apparently, they do your federal taxes for free, but you have to pay for having your state taxes done. That's okay. My state taxes are a breeze to do.

The system requirements (yes, I checked that right away) informed me that this would work only with Internet Explorer 5.5 and above. I did have the right version. But I've configured my firewall to block IE from the Internet. So I spent some time figuring out what IP addresses I needed to allow in order to get IE to work.

After I convinced myself that it was for real, I decided to give it a try. "I'll just enter my name and address," I told myself. It was nearly midnight.

Well, by 1:30am I had completed both my federal and state taxes, the latter by filling out the form at my state's website. My cost? Zero. And I believe it took less time than if I had been able to install and run TurboTax, since it's necessary to download several megabytes of TurboTax updates before filing.

Incidentally, I got a nice refund and I returned TurboTax with no questions asked.

So maybe I can keep using NT for a few more years....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HAHA!! Awesome. Beat the system, beat it down!

Err, I mean, nice work. I did my taxes by hand the old fashioned way (even after finding out I had to do the 1040 and two schedules, something I've never done). I miss the 1040EZ...

I run Win98 on my computer, my parents run Windows 2000 and I hate it. (they only upgraded from Win98 themselves in order to run Office 2003). I also hate XP with a passion. I'm way behind on older PC games I want to play, so Win98 compatability is not an issue there. I imagine someday I may "have" to upgrade... but I'm gonna fight it till I do. Heck, an old 386 with Win95 can run Diablo II. Not very well, but it runs.

I have no clue where that was going...