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It looks like my issue was a case of bad design in the iPad app. Users have to sit through an animated scene of their past info appearing, geared towards starting the current year. Once a user waits the 15 seconds or so for the animation to end, a continue button appears.
Tapping continue then goes to a screen to buy a turbo tax product for this year. Scrolling 2 screens down finally reveals a “Your tax returns & documents”, requiring one more tap to access.
A proper design would ask users on a non animated landing page what their intent was, access old documents or start taxes for the current year. And adding a link to past documents to the menu that can be opened via the 3 bars icon. The current design seems to be geared towards tricking users into paying for the current year to then open access to past years, which is sadly not a surprise for a company that lobbies Congress to keep tax filing complicated.
To the application designers and higher ups at Intuit: Do better for a change, especially in a time of a global crisis.
To the customer support rep: thank you for trying to assist, and hope you have a good weekend. I hope that the product team takes this feedback to heart to help make your job easier.