Wants a Baby Yoda
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- Sep 22, 2018
- Underground in America
- SL Rez
- Joined SLU
- May 2009
- SLU Posts
Using lobbying, the revolving door and “dark pattern” customer tricks, Intuit fended off the government’s attempts to make tax filing free and easy, and created its multi-billion-dollar franchise.
For more than 20 years, Intuit has waged a sophisticated, sometimes covert war to prevent the government from doing just that, according to internal company and IRS documents and interviews with insiders. The company unleashed a battalion of lobbyists and hired top officials from the agency that regulates it. From the beginning, Intuit recognized that its success depended on two parallel missions: stoking innovation in Silicon Valley while stifling it in Washington. Indeed, employees ruefully joke that the company’s motto should actually be “compromise without integrity.”
I got caught in this trap, where TurboTax's site sorta hid how much you can file for before you get involved in their "free" e-filing. At the end when the price tag became evident, I backed out of the whole shebang and refiled everything over again at the gov e-file site. But even this may may be getting harder.The centerpiece of Intuit’s anti-encroachment strategy has been the Free File program, hatched 17 years ago in a moment of crisis for the company. Under the terms of an agreement with the federal government, Intuit and other commercial tax prep companies promised to provide free online filing to tens of millions of lower-income taxpayers. In exchange, the IRS pledged not to create a government-run system.
Since Free File’s launch, Intuit has done everything it could to limit the program’s reach while making sure the government stuck to its end of the deal. As ProPublica has reported, Intuit added code to the Free File landing page of TurboTax that hid it from search engines like Google, making it harder for would-be users to find.
Twelve years ago, Intuit launched its own “free” product: the similarly named “Free Edition” of TurboTax. But unlike the government program, this one comes with traps that can push customers lured with the promise of “free” into paying, some more than $200.