It’s tax time again, and so I started looking at the various options available for free e-filing of my tax returns. (I will withhold any rants regarding the inanity of the IRS protecting the pay-to-file monopoly of H&R Block, Intuit, et al when they really want everyone to e-file because it saves everyone a lot of money, including the IRS, in the interests of brevity.) I stumbled across this lovely little nugget on the Massachusetts Free File Alliance page:
CompleteTax Makes Federal, State and E-filing Less Taxing!
CompleteTax is a convenient and secure way to e-file federal and state tax returns online. Simply log on to CompleteTax and complete a short, intuitive questionnaire – CompleteTax will auto-fill the appropriate forms based on the answers given.
Quick. Easy. Accurate.
FREE electronic filing.
Complies with latest tax laws to help minimize taxes and maximize refunds.
Automatically checks for errors and omissions (helps avoid penalties).
No software to download. Just point & click online.
Your password protected account keeps your information private and secure.
Free email technical support.
FREE federal on-line tax preparation and e-filing for Massachusetts residents if you have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) between $12,000 and $54,000. State fee only $14.95. If you don’t qualify for the free offer, you can complete your federal return for $29.95 and state return for $14.95 and e-file them for FREE.
Let me highlight the most relevant stupidity of this:
State fee only $14.95.
Yes, you can file your federal return for free if you fall within the eligibility requirements, but your state return always costs $14.95. I learned before I was even old enough to set foot in a public school that $0 and $14.95 are not the same thing. So yesterday, I wrote a short note to point this out to our fair Commonwealth and let them know there was an obvious error:
CompleteTax is listed on the Massachusetts Free File Alliance web page, but the description of their service and eligibility clearly says that state returns are charged a $14.95 fee. That’s not free!
To which I received this very thoughtful reply:
Thank you for your recent inquiry.
A number of independent software companies agreed to provide free services to Massachusetts taxpayers who meet certain eligibility requirements.
Unfortunately, you did not meet their eligibility requirements.
Thank you for visiting our website,
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue
Wow, thanks for reading my email, Department of Revenue! Oh, wait… you obviously didn’t read it at all, considering that you didn’t comment at all about the actual topic of my email.
I was so peeved that I wrote this back to them:
I don’t think you read my comment correctly. (Honestly, I don’t think you read my comment at all.) You list CompleteTax on the Free File Alliance page despite the description of their product reading, in explicitly plain English, that they charge $14.95. I’ll even quote the relevant passage for you, and emphasize the important parts, from the Free File Alliance page:
“FREE federal on-line tax preparation and e-filing for Massachusetts residents if you have an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) between $12,000 and $54,000. State fee only $14.95.”
I mean, unless the Commonwealth has a different definition of “free” than the one I’m used to…
I apologize for wasting your time by trying to help you. Next time, I will refrain from pointing out an obvious discrepancy in arithmetic that anyone with a first grade education should be able to detect and that a government office should have been able to proofread on its own.
I know it’s probably a little bit too mean and snarky to be sending off to the taxman, but god damn it, if something is advertised as being free, it should be free, not $14.95. If this were a regular company, they could be sued for false advertising, but this is the Commonwealth, not McDonald’s.