Kenneth Lin is an American tech entrepreneur. Founded in 2007, his best known business is Credit Karma, an online credit score monitoring service, and he continues to serve as CEO.
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My Bio: I started Credit Karma in 2007 to help make credit easy to understand and really free. In the last nine years, we've given away over one billion credit scores and changed the market. Yesterday, we announced our goal to make tax preparation and filing truly free as well.
Is 2-factor authentication something that is on your agenda for Credit Karma? I love the site and would like to see that feature added for an extra layer of protection, especially now that you will be offering a tax option.
Yes two-factor is on our roadmap. We have a number of new security features at launch including SMS verification.
I realize you are offering a free service so you may not offer these features but I have to ask:
Will you provide any kind of guarantees? Often tax filing software will provide accuracy guarantees so that any fees or interest incurred due to filing errors will be reimbursed by the preparers.
Any kind of audit support?
How do you envision this generating income for you? You’ve said before you don’t like when companies sell people’s data so you don’t do that but any general ways you will profit? It would be upsetting if the classic saying, “if it’s free you’re the product” were true here.
One nice thing about the credit scores on credit karma is they not only provide your score but explain a little more behind it. What it means, what factors go into it, etc. This has really helped educate a lot of people (myself included) what credit scores are and some of the logic behind them. Will your tax software be the same? Will it explain how the tax brackets are broken down? Or what the difference is between capital gains vs normal income and how it’s taxed. I know in the US we constantly argue about tax policy and it seems like educating more people about how taxes work would be beneficial regardless of party affiliation. I guess I'm curous how much of an educational bend you've added?
Most of the guarantees that we see in the space are the refunding of the cost of the software. If we follow that model, we would be refunding you $0 as part of our guarantee.
In your question, you are implying quality. We are not going into this net new. We bought a company that has been providing taxes for 10 year and is white label provider for one of the major tax preparers online. As part of providing the service, we have to go through IRS and state certifications. Finally, I suggest you try our service against another major provider. You should get the same results. At that point, it is up to you whether you want to pay on that other provider or file with us for free.
As for audit support, we are still working through our features. We don't know if the audit supports that others market is valuable. We want to understand that aspect fully before we engage. With that said, we will have a full team of certified tax professionals who can help answer questions about our service (email, chat, phone). All for free, no upsells
I spoken about how we plan on using the data in another thread.
Edit: changed CPA to certified tax professionals but we have both.
What is your credit score?
It was about 810. I recently missed the first payment for the first time in my life and it dropped to 765. :(
Why should I choose you over your competition, such as TurboTax and my own personal bank (in terms of notifying me of a credit report/score?)
In tax, I think TurboTax is a good product. Today, the main difference will be price. Our service is free no matter what schedules, income, states that you need. In the future, we think that integration on our platform will make the experience more seamless. For example, we will know that you bought a home from the credit report and double check to make sure that you are getting your mortgage interest deduction.
As for credit, we have the most robust platform. We have two bureaus, credit reports, credit monitoring, direct dispute, credit simulator, etc. With that said, we are always happy when banks give away the data. Better informed consumers lead to better outcomes.
I am curious as to why Credit Karma focuses on the less used, and seemingly less valuable, Vantage model. Is it a cheaper resource as you won't have to pay for the FICO models or are you and your company seeing a trend away from those FICO models?
Great tool btw. I recommend your site for anyone trying to understand and dive into their credit profile.
There are a few reason for this. One is that FICO is expensive and scores are a commodity. FICO also sells about three dozen variants. Which means even if we used them, the chance that the score you see on the site is the same as the one the lender uses is low.
Secondarily, the trend is to move away from credit scores in underwriting. Scores were great when banks didn't have statisticians or large data processing capabilities 1980-1990s. Today, everyone embraces big data. That means banks can compute their own risk score from the credit report. The score computed by FICO or Vantage becomes a smaller variable in the approval process.
I should also say scores still do matter for small banks which don't have the resources. Scores are also good for describing general risk. For example, you might describe the average score of your portfolio of loans to signal the relative risk.
Awesome! Y'all did an awesome job with the rebrand and new experience design, love it.
Thank you. I am sure the brand, marketing, and design teams will love that feedback. I think it looks great too.
What do you plan on doing with the data collected from these? Also, would your free tax form be as simple as something such as turbo tax?
I should be clear that we aren't going to be selling the information like some people suggest. First, I think saving people $50-$100 a year is a pretty powerful reason.
The business reason are that we will be able provide better advise and recommendations. Let me give you two examples.
As for the simplicity, yes we absolutely think it will be as easy as any other provider in the market. Long term, we think it can be easier by leveraging the information from reports and other sources like I referenced in the mortgage example.
Our mission statement at Credit Karma is "to make financial progress possible for everyone". Credit scores are certainly a defining metric.
Earlier this year, we realized that there were many similarities in the credit score space as the tax space:
You just launched in Canada, and now you've announced taxes. Are there any other things you're working on adding?
Yes, a lot. We have been working on many really cool features. Expect a couple more awesome features in Q1.
First of all, LOVE this service! Started using it a year and a half ago when I was trying to get a mortgage. It really helped me to see how things I did affected my score, and I closed this past August. My question is... never mind. I saw the answer in reading TFArticle. Ok, here's a question. Are there any plans in the works to get Experian as well? Not so concerned with getting the trimerge at this point, but it would be nice to get the whole picture. Thanks!
No plans at the moment. We have a number of initiatives that we believe will drive more value to our members. Like Tax!
May be a more obscure question. But as a visual designer, I'd like to know a little about your design team. What size is it? Do y'all contract work out? In house design team? What are your thoughts on how a well designed site/mobile experience does for your customer base?? Cheers!
Edit: autocorrect spelling mishap
We have about 10 designers internally. As we have moved to more surfaces (desktop, iOS, Android, mobile web), it has become more and more challenging to move quickly. We usually design in house but in certain instance like our new rebrand we want different perspectives so we brought in an agency to help.
For the tax forms you don't support, will we be able to manually enter the relevant information into the 1040? For example if I needed to enter something on Form 1040, line 48 even though you don't support the other forms relating to that line.
The product teams' answer is: "is it depends, in some cases you need to attach the form which we cannot provide if we don’t facilitate that form."
My answer is: it sounds like a big kluge. Don't do it.
Ok thanks for your reply! I didn't mean to criticize your quality I'm definitely pleased with your credit score service and I had heard about your acquisition. More of a question about the guarantees I see on other tax software. Wondered if you'd provide the same.
What about my education question?
Don't worry, I wasn't offended:). Just trying to read between the lines. Regarding education, we won't have that level of content this year. It will much more about a simple and clean experience. We will incorporate more of the education into the product in future year. But I'm not sure that it would be as detailed as credit since tax code may change a lot whereas credit has been pretty steady.
Also thank you for being a member!
In case of an audit will you keep a certain number of years files backed up?
Will you support filing extensions or amending past returns?
We support both extensions and amending. We will allow you to keep yours filings as long as you want and permitted by law.
I have all my credit reports frozen. Will I be able to use your tax return service?
As long as you can pass the knowledge based authentication questions, yes.
Will the software allow international student to file taxes??
International students require 1040-NR which we won't support for the 2017 tax season.