From an early age, we are taught that “nothing in life is free.” So, naturally, when people started asking about filing their taxes for free online, the hair on the back of our necks stood up. Companies offering these services, Intuit, HR Block, and Credit Karma to name a few, are not charitable institutions. So, what’s the catch?
First, they are legit services. And, no, you don’t have to give them your credit card to get started with the free service. Add on services and/or upgrades are available at an additional cost. The biggest cost, however, is hidden, and it comes in the form of pimping your most vital financial information. I was shocked to learn that the information on your tax return was available to the company’s business partners and affiliates. What information, you ask? Well, all of it, really. Your name, address, date of birth, income, and the last 4 digits of your social security number are all up for grabs.
The privacy statements we reviewed do acknowledge that the user must consent to the dissemination of information. But really, who reads the long disclosures before ordering a service or product that they’re excited to use?Most of us just click “OK” so we can get to the transaction finish line.
You have been warned of blind consent!
Is consent all bad? The information is used to target products and services that may be beneficial to you. Whether the sales information is from the best companies with your best interest at heart is an entirely different story. After all, how does a company pick its partners and affiliates? Well, that’s another story for another day, but in our experience, it usually centers around money, not who can help you (the client) the most.
If you are part of one of the fastest-growing categories in tax preparation and filing (people who prepare their own return using the internet rather than desktop software), our advice is to take the time to read the privacy statement. And, if you do not want your tax return shared with the marketing world, look for the opt-out button before divulging any of your most personal financial data.
(sources: all index return data from Yahoo Finance; Reuters, Barron’s, Wall St Journal, Bloomberg.com, ft.com, guggenheimpartners.com, zerohedge.com, ritholtz.com, markit.com, financialpost.com, Eurostat, Statistics Canada, Yahoo! Finance, www.stocksandnews.com, www.chaikinanalytics.com Chaikin Analytics, www.marketwatch.com, www.BBC.com, www.361capital.com, www.pensionpartners.com, www.cnbc.com, www.FactSet.com, W E Sherman & Co, LLC)
Hayden Royal is an investment adviser registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any level of skill or training. The information presented in the material is general in nature and is not designed to address your investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Prior to making any investment decision, you should assess, or seek advice from a professional regarding whether any particular transaction is relevant or appropriate to your individual circumstances. This material is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified tax advisor, attorney, or accountant. Consultation with the appropriate professional should be done before any financial commitments regarding the issues related to the situation are made.
The opinions expressed herein are those of Hayden Royal and may not actually come to pass. This information is current as of the date of this material and is subject to change at any time, based on market and other conditions. Although taken from reliable sources, Hayden Royal cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information received from third parties.
An index is a portfolio of specific securities, the performance of which is often used as a benchmark in judging the relative performance to certain asset classes. Index performance used throughout is intended to illustrate historical market trends and performance. Indexes are managed and do not incur investment management fees. An investor is unable to invest in an index. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. No strategy assures success or protects against loss. There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. Investing in stock includes numerous specific risks including: the fluctuation of dividend, loss of principal, and potential liquidity of the investment in a falling market. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.