Buyer Beware – “free” is not free

Are you familiar with Wayne Static’s quote that, “Nothing in life is free.  You end up paying in the end.”

Consumers who may not have been familiar with that quote may have learned the reality of it the hard way.  Particularly if those consumers were lured by a tax preparation company’s ad campaign of “Free, free, free, free” where that was essentially the only word spoken.

In an age where DIY tax preparation has become more accessible than ever, a certain tax preparation software company has captured the attention of consumers through their enticing “free” message. But according to a ruling by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it suggests that there may be more to “free” than meets the eye.

Upon further examination, it seems that TurboTax’s definition of “free” may not align with consumers’ expectations of “free”. “According to the Administrative Law Judge, Intuit deceived consumers with its bogus “free” filing claims, given that approximately 100 million people – about  2/3 of filers – didn’t qualify for “free” filing.[1] The FTC’s recent initial decision highlights the following key issues:

1.  Hidden Fees: For many taxpayers with more complex financial situations, certain forms and features are required.  In which case, customers often find themselves pushed toward paid versions, resulting in additional costs that were essentially hidden from their original marketing campaign.

2. Income Restrictions: The “free” option may have income restrictions that limit who can use it, excluding many taxpayers with even slightly more complicated returns.

3. Lack of Transparency:  The FTC’s initial decision suggests that their advertising may not always provide the transparency needed for consumers to make informed decisions. Customers may not fully grasp the limitations of the free option until they are well into the filing process.

The FTC’s initial decision against Intuit TurboTax serves as a wake-up call for both them and the consumer.  Although, ultimately it will be a win for the consumer since the FTC will ensure that the company be more forthright with their advertising in order to protect American consumers from deception.   

To read the Federal Trade Commissions’ entire business blog, go to

This situation highlights the need for consumers to be proactive and informed when selecting a tax preparation service. Taxpayers should take time to research and understand their options, read the fine print, and be prepared for potential upselling in the pursuit of a “free” tax filing experience.

If you already know that nothing in life is free and that you end up paying in the end, then you are one step ahead of those seeking the “freebie”.  But it also makes sense to do your due diligence so that what you pay for is quality, reputable and suitable for your needs.  Consider reading the following IRS article on “Tips on how to choose a reputable Tax preparer”:

To learn more about tax preparation services offered by Saunders Tax & Accounting, visit The office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm and is available online at with extended hours offered January through April.  Awarded the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce “2023 Small Business of the Year”,  we have been providing a Less Taxing Life and More Prosperous Solutions since 1984!


Daily Forecast, December 2, 2023

Franklin County Forecast: In the forecast for today, we are expecting overcast clouds, with a high of 59.13°F and a low of 40.55°F. The humidity

John O Freeman 1935-2023

Mr. Freeman served with the 101st Airborne where he was stationed in France for 2 ½ years. He enjoyed woodworking, splitting wood and carpentry.

Who We Are

The Franklin County Free Press, established by Vicky Taylor in 2019, emerged as a beacon of local journalism for the residents of Franklin County. Under Vicky's leadership, it quickly became an essential source of news, particularly at a time when major newspaper publications were increasingly overlooking local coverage.

On January 1, 2022, the torch was passed to Nathan Neil and his firm, Neil Publishing, LLC. Neil, a local entrepreneur with multiple thriving businesses in Chambersburg, shares Vicky's fervent commitment to both the community and the world of local journalism.

Rooted in the heart of Franklin County and powered by its residents, the Franklin County Free Press continues to bridge the gap, ensuring that the local stories, events, and issues that matter most to the community remain in the spotlight.