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Virtual Experts Fueling Financial Empowerment in the Nick of Time
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Virtual Experts Fueling Financial Empowerment in the Nick of Time

As this global pandemic drives us further into our cocoons, we're scrolling our phones to bring the world closer. Our collective frame of reference for what is normal is now dictated by what technology can make accessible through our screens.

Want to get tacos? Not worth venturing out – get 'em delivered. Go see the doctor in her office? No way…not when there's telemedicine. Work out at the gym? Now it's riding on a Peloton with a virtual instructor, by yourself.

It seems that if it can be done remotely, it's now part of our daily life. Virtualized service business models previously on the horizon waiting for consumer habits to catch up have accelerated at break-neck speed. And consumers are tapping their feet, waiting for more.

Now, think about the dilemma that consumers are faced with going into this tax season. Because of the pandemic, many tax situations seem more complex and are sparking questions never before imagined. Uncertainty and doubt often rule the day when it comes to personal finances and those uncertainties are taking an added toll. Even the proudest do-it-yourselfer may seek additional guidance with their finances after this year. The demand for tax help is vast, but the tax store may be closed.

Americans Need Help Now, and Now Help is Available

The need to receive every dollar people earned and deserve through deductions and credits has never been more pronounced. Consider these facts:

  • 62% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck
  • 75% have concerns about being able to pay their bills
  • 33% have lost income due to the pandemic

Thankfully, the union of live tax expertise and technology is complete and already evolving. As makers of TurboTax, even prior to the pandemic, we saw a steady and parallel rise in both the demand for virtual services and the need for qualified tax experts.

In 2018, we launched TurboTax Live which provides live virtual tax experts via one-way video to help customers finish and file their taxes. And this past year, TurboTax Live delivered 70 percent customer growth year-over-year. It is an unqualified success that's only getting better. This tax season TurboTax Live Full Service will let taxpayers upload tax documents and a tax expert will virtually prepare, sign and file your taxes for you, all without you leaving home.

Think about all the emerging factors shaping individual tax situations this year: unemployment, early withdrawals from retirement accounts, cryptocurrency, mortgage refinancing driven by low interest rates, and so on. It doesn't take much for some people to feel overwhelmed by their unique tax situation. Thankfully, technology is democratizing expertise and empowering taxpayers to take control of their personal finances.

Tax Refund as a Catalyst to Financial Freedom

Our tax system is uniquely American and the one time of year people get the fullest view of their financial picture. What they made, and what they paid.

When they file their taxes, people enjoy a new kind of financial empowerment – a once-a-year opportunity to be their own advocate by getting every tax dollar back to which they're entitled.

In fact, the tax refund is often the biggest check taxpayers will receive all year. Through expert guidance, that refund can be a life-changing event to fuel financial freedom: paying down debt, building savings, investing and securing retirement.

Even people who pay $0 to file with a TurboTax product benefit from tax expertise and a guarantee they'll get their maximum refund. Last year alone,16 million people filed with a TurboTax product absolutely free of charge, representing roughly one-third of all returns filed using TurboTax.

Each tax filer has a unique life situation that only they know. And filers have an exclusive combination of deductions and credits defined by their income sources and their lifestyle.

For example, a single full-time teacher will have a much different tax scenario than a married Uber driver with two children. To recognize and proactively address these differences, TurboTax uses AI and machine learning models to match data and double check for accuracy. And TurboTax puts its three decades of tax experience to work, augmented by a legion of thousands of tax experts with an average 12 years of experience. If there's a tax situation, we've likely seen it. That becomes even more important as the virtualization of services accelerates, and the gig economy grows.

Infinitely diverse and for some, frustratingly complex, tax time will continue to sow fear and uncertainty, especially this year. TurboTax – from its most basic free product to one that uses a live expert to do your taxes for you – uses technology to quickly convert that fear into confidence and that uncertainty into empowerment.