RealTime IT News

Intuit Cracks Down on TurboTax Cheats

Intuit announced its 2003 version of TurboTax would include a product-activation system, in order to crack down on unauthorized use of the popular tax-preparation software.

The product activation will be included in all federal TurboTax software for Windows, will not prevent customers from preparing multiple returns with it for family members. However, when customers pass along the CD, a new user will need to enter a credit card to pay for a product license in order to print or electronically file a return.

"All we're doing is making sure people abide by the licensing agreement," said Intuit spokesman Scott Gulbransen. "This is something that as a software company we never wanted to do until we could do it right."

The product activation will occur when a user installs TurboTax, a unique product number that is sent to Intuit, via the Internet, along with the product number on the CD. In seconds, Intuit will match the numbers, sending back another number to the customer that will activate the TurboTax.

Customers can also activate the software over the phone.

Gulbransen said the company did not know how many people improperly use TurboTax each tax season. Last year, the company sold 5.2 million units of the software, making it the No.1 tax-preparation software. Intuit estimates that up to 20 million people use the software, which allows household members to share it.

Intuit said family members could still use a single copy of TurboTax, while also stressing that the product activation would not infringe on users' privacy.

This is an anonymous situation," Gulbransen said. "There's no personal information captured."

TurboTax can be loaded onto more than one computer, but the program contains controls that make printing or filing only possible from the computer on which it was activated.

The company said a similar product-activation scheme with its QuickTax products in Canada have received wide consumer acceptance.