Saturday, April 13, 2013
Broker Nixes Tax Help
With April 15 in sight, Just2Trade decided to get rid of a key tax-accounting feature. A number of customers aren’t pleased.
Talk about terrible timing. With April 15 in sight, online broker Just2Trade dropped a key tax-accounting feature from its Website, leaving some clients scrambling to fill out forms by hand.
Not only does tax day loom, but it’s an onerous one for investors. The Internal Revenue Service has asked brokers and investors to decide how they plan to calculate the cost basis of their investments and has begun phasing in the changes. So it was a surprising time to drop Maxit, a cost-basis management system developed by a company named Scivantage. Just2Trade CEO Fuad Ahmed confirmed that his firm has eliminated Maxit, as did Cameron Routh, an executive vice president at Scivantage.
“We are trying to work with Maxit and our customers to resolve the problem, and I hope we can get this issue resolved,” says Ahmed. Although neither company wanted to go into specifics, it seems they disagreed over who was responsible for cleaning up some data being fed into the Maxit system. Entering inaccurate data means turning out faulty reports.
That was little consolation to Just2Trade clients, who started to alert Electronic Investor about the problem in late March, near the height of the tax-preparation season. Maxit allows customers to generate a Schedule D quickly.
After discovering that the Maxit link was missing, a reader in Alabama says he contacted a Just2Trade representative, who said the firm had “recently severed its relationship with Maxit and cannot currently offer an alternative.” When he asked why customers were not notified, especially with tax time looming, he didn’t feel he got a clear response. So he called again, this time to a supervisor. He says he received an apology but no help in entering hundreds of transactions by hand. The supervisor, added our reader, said the firm didn’t believe that the outputs were accurate enough and that third-party services were subject to change at any time.
In light of the IRS changes, which started to be implemented as of Jan. 1, 2011, having a cost-basis system like Maxit, or its rival Gainskeeper, was seen as a big benefit for clients. Some brokers have written their own cost-basis systems, relying on trading data from their clearing firms. Companies have been hailing their abilities for weeks. Vanguard, for instance, highlights its “cost-basis resource center” on its Website, alerting customers to the new IRS rules as tax day approaches.
A firm like Maxit tracks the cost basis for all transactions, including the complicated adjustments that can occur because of stock splits, mergers, or spinoffs, among many other situations like wash sales. Other brokers offering Maxit to their customers include OptionsHouse, Scottrade, and TradeKing.
The changes at Just2Trade’s Website are very recent. As part of our recent online-broker review ("Back Online!” March 11), Ahmed mentioned Maxit as a key benefit of his low-cost service. Routh of Scivantage says Maxit would be happy to have Just2Trade back as a customer.
In the meantime, however, traders like our reader in Alabama, who says he’s looking for a new broker, are on their own for Schedule Ds this year.
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Published in Barron’s, April 8, 2013.