Tax Software Privacy

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Topic Author
Aerophany
Posts: 13
Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2012 12:10 pm

Tax Software Privacy

Post by Aerophany » Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:26 pm

Every year there are threads collecting the lowest prices for tax prep software trying to catch the Cyber Monday deals. Often there are threads discussing the security and convenience of online versus download tools. Sometimes there are threads discussing the advantages and disadvantages of e-file versus mail in because of security, convenience, and complexity. I have not found any discussions about what the companies do with your data after you file. H&R Block explicitly says they collect everything:
What information do we collect?
As part of providing products and services to you, we may collect information, including personal information, about you, your spouse, your dependents, or your business when you use our services.

Personal information is data that can be used to identify you, your spouse, or your dependents individually. The information we may collect includes, but is not limited to:

Contact Information (e.g., name, phone number, address, and email address);
Social Security number and other government identification numbers (e.g., EIN, Driver’s License Number and ITIN);
Date of Birth;
Financial Information (e.g., income, revenue, assets, credits, deductions, expenses, and bank account information);
Payment Data (e.g., checking, debit and credit card account numbers, balances and payment history);
Health Information (e.g., health insurance status and financial information related to payment for healthcare services);
Geo-Location Information;
Website, Mobile Application, and Email Usage Data;
Device Information (e.g., internet protocol (IP) address, device type, unique identifier, app version, operating system, network data, and phone state);
Login Information; and
Demographic Information.
TaxAct has less explicit wording but does talk about collecting "Tax Return Information" and using it in limited ways:
We disclose Tax Return Information in accordance with your requests, such as when you direct us to file a tax return with the IRS or to a state taxing authority or you provide your express consent to disclose information to a third party offering its own product or service.
TurboTax seems to be the only tool that has explicitly said "We do not have your financial information if you use our desktop products and you print and mail your return". I'm no lawyer so I'll ask: Is there anything functionally different between the user agreements of the major tax prep software tools? Does it even matter since like all license agreements there is always a "we can change anything whenever we want" clause?

panine
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by panine » Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:43 pm

i use h&r block and figured they'd have to collect my info in order to file my taxes electronically. also, if you get the amazon gift card bonus, they have to share your return amount with the company so that the git card credit can be processed. are there any known abuses by h&r with anyone's info?

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AAA
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by AAA » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:21 pm

A few years back, TurboTax required returns to be sent to their server for formatting so they could be printed locally using their desktop software. That was a no-no for me. The issue is not necessarily abuses by these companies but hacking, software bugs, etc. that could compromise the information. It seemed like an unnecessary, if small, risk. (I don't efile by the way). That was the year I switched to H&R Block as their software allowed local printing without an internet connection, although now that I bring this up I couldn't say for sure that still is the case.

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RickBoglehead
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by RickBoglehead » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:26 pm

AAA wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:21 pm
A few years back, TurboTax required returns to be sent to their server for formatting so they could be printed locally using their desktop software. That was a no-no for me. The issue is not necessarily abuses by these companies but hacking, software bugs, etc. that could compromise the information. It seemed like an unnecessary, if small, risk. (I don't efile by the way). That was the year I switched to H&R Block as their software allowed local printing without an internet connection, although now that I bring this up I couldn't say for sure that still is the case.
Been fling with TT for over 20 years and that's news to me.
Avid user of forums on variety of interests-financial, home brewing, F-150, PHEV, home repair, etc. Enjoy learning & passing on knowledge. It's PRINCIPAL, not PRINCIPLE. I ADVISE you to seek ADVICE.

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AAA
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by AAA » Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:41 pm

RickBoglehead wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:26 pm
Been fling with TT for over 20 years and that's news to me.
This was was definitely the case for the 2014 tax year as I corresponded with a fairly high up guy at TT about it at the time and he confirmed, with assurances that it was safe to do.

Topic Author
Aerophany
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by Aerophany » Sun Feb 10, 2019 8:30 pm

Seems to contradict their current statement about not knowing what you are doing if you use desktop and print at home. Interesting.

I can't say that I'm surprised by any of this sharing, especially H&R because they do full in person tax work. I'd hoped that there would be a way to keep my tax information from their servers though. I'll admit that this came up because I have used TaxAct in the past but I can't support their 100%-400% price increases in the last few years. Now H&R stands out as the cheapest by far but it seems, at least on a naive reading of the EULA, that they are cheaper because they place more value on sharing your detailed information.

talzara
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by talzara » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:18 pm

AAA wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:41 pm
This was was definitely the case for the 2014 tax year as I corresponded with a fairly high up guy at TT about it at the time and he confirmed, with assurances that it was safe to do.
The Mac versions of TurboTax 2014 and 2015 sent your data to Intuit's servers for printing. They fixed this in TurboTax 2016.

The Windows version of TurboTax has always been able to print locally.
Some Mac Users of TurboTax Software Have a New Gripe
By Laura Saunders
Feb 19, 2015 7:00 am ET

Some security-conscious users of TurboTax tax-preparation software are in for a surprise this year: They won’t be able to print and mail paper tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service without first sharing their return information with Intuit, the maker of TurboTax.

https://blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2015/ ... new-gripe/
For the 2015 Mac versions the pdf conversion software was not part of the TurboTax package installed on the computer but was on a TurboTax server instead which made printing impossible without a reliable internet connection.

... That software was done away with in 2016 and later so that issue no longer exists - but for 2015 it is still there.

https://ttlc.intuit.com/questions/44957 ... e-to-print
Last edited by talzara on Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

talzara
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by talzara » Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:31 pm

Aerophany wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 4:26 pm
Every year there are threads collecting the lowest prices for tax prep software trying to catch the Cyber Monday deals. Often there are threads discussing the security and convenience of online versus download tools. Sometimes there are threads discussing the advantages and disadvantages of e-file versus mail in because of security, convenience, and complexity. I have not found any discussions about what the companies do with your data after you file. H&R Block explicitly says they collect everything:
No, they say that they "may" collect this information.

Privacy policies are written by lawyers so that you can't sue them. It doesn't mean the software actually does what the privacy policy says it does.

It's like the California cancer labels that you see on a lot of products. Most of it will not give you cancer unless you eat it.

2015
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by 2015 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 8:33 pm

There is simply no such thing as privacy anymore. There's a couple of books out now which I can't get around to reading as a result of my recent move, but data aggregation is now big business (and getting bigger all the time). If H&R Block didn't collect somebody else has, is, and will.

Slow FIRE
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by Slow FIRE » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:08 pm

This is one of the main reasons i am considering doing my taxes by hand. I used to do it by hand. It was not that bad.
Investing is a marathon, not a sprint.

megabad
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by megabad » Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:52 pm

Slow FIRE wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:08 pm
This is one of the main reasons i am considering doing my taxes by hand. I used to do it by hand. It was not that bad.
I do them by hand and agree that it isn't that bad for most folks and allows me to catch more things and have a better understanding. Privacy doesn't factor in for me though. Honestly, I think the average person can guess most folks incomes pretty close by just a linkedin search, a glassdoor search, and/or a quick public records search. If I know your name and the rough area you live in, I can run a background check and know pretty much everything about you in a few seconds. Over the last couple of decades I have had to do this a couple times for single female family members as internet dating became popular, it is very easy. Also, SS#, DOB, and names are pretty much public knowledge for anyone with any credit (150 million Americans) after the Equifax breach, so I don't worry much there anymore.

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AAA
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Re: Tax Software Privacy

Post by AAA » Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:47 am

talzara wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:18 pm

The Mac versions of TurboTax 2014 and 2015 sent your data to Intuit's servers for printing. They fixed this in TurboTax 2016.

The Windows version of TurboTax has always been able to print locally.
Right, now that I recall it was just for Mac versions. Good to know it was fixed in case H&R does something to alienate me.

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