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MacInTax: Getting a Fix Intuit

As noted in TidBITS-261 and TidBITS-264, MacInTax has exhibited problems importing data from other software programs. Several TidBITS readers have reported other problems they’ve encountered with this year’s version of MacInTax, and these folks certainly aren’t alone. In recent weeks, Intuit’s forums on AOL and CompuServe have virtually overflowed with reports and complaints from customers. Some people are having problems with the software, but others are reporting problems with delivery, failing to get through to Intuit’s technical support, or with inappropriate billing. Some comments have been considered and civil, but – as you might expect – a good deal of consternation has been displayed. The problems have even made it into the mainstream media, appearing in computing and financial forums as well as general news.

On 01-Mar-95, Intuit announced that it is making available at no charge revised versions of MacInTax and TurboTax to correct tax calculation errors in those programs. The revised version of MacInTax is available in Intuit’s AOL and CompuServe forums. (The update is supposedly available on Intuit’s own BBS, but just try to find a phone number for it!) But be warned: the update is a complete version of the program rather than a small patcher application. Weighing in at around 5 MB, the update consists of four disk images and copy of Apple’s DiskCopy (although we recommend you use ShrinkWrap to mount the four images instead). At 9600 bps, the update takes more than two hours to download. As of this writing, there’s no official word on whether the update will be distributed to the Internet.

Intuit has also set up a special support number at 800/224-0948 to handle requests for the updated versions. They also claim they’re contacting registered users to inform them of the revision.

Intuit says the problems in MacInTax only impact about one percent of its customers. If you fall into one of the following categories, be sure to obtain the new version:

  • If you’re importing financial data from another program
  • If the tax return only has disability income
  • If the tax return takes a section 179 deduction for an automobile
  • If you use the Estimated Tax Worksheet to estimate payments for the 1995 tax year
  • If the tax return depreciates an asset in the final year of its depreciable life

In an unusual move, Intuit Chairman Scott Cook issued a statement apologizing to Intuit customers for the handling of the situation. "We have known about most of these errors for three to four weeks," he wrote, "and could have notified our customers earlier." In addition, Mr. Cook acknowledged that Intuit was aware of the MacInTax import bug reported in TidBITS-261 as early as December, 1994, but "internal procedures broke down, and the problem was not formally communicated within the company until much later." Intuit also indicated plans to increase support staffing, and emphasized their guarantee to pay any penalties or interest due to the IRS resulting from errors in its tax software.

Though it’s rare for a software company to air a product’s dirty laundry in public, Intuit is apparently taking a lesson from recent incidents in the computer industry where companies have been dealt huge public-relations blows via online services and the media. This incident points out that as the population of computer users grows and online access increases, the proportion of "impacted users" required for a small problem to turn into a major incident is constantly shrinking. Here we’ve seen a problem that Intuit claims impacts about one percent of the customer base for a single software product propel the company into front page news. Admittedly, with an estimated 1.6 million copies of its tax software in the market this season, that’s about sixteen thousand people. But how many of those users called or tried to contact Intuit? How many even knew about the problems? Clearly, the actions of a relatively small group had a strong impact on Intuit’s operations.

Intuit, Inc. — 602/295-3080 — <[email protected]>
800/224-0948 (tax updates only)

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