Saturday, September 23, 2023

sen. Warren Urges TurboTax For Answers About Its Efforts To Block Free Tax Returns

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As millions of Americans file their 2021 income taxes online today, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is demanding answers from Intuit about its popular TurboTax e-filing product.

In a letter to Intuit CEO Sasan K. GoodarziWarren says the company has used “extensive lobbying and dexterity” to prevent Americans from filing their taxes online for free.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against Intuit in March for misleading marketing, an action Warren calls “both welcome and long overdue.” Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Katie Porter (D-CA) also signed the letter.

Many of Warren’s complaints are about the Free File program, an IRS partnership with a nonprofit tax preparation coalition businesses founded in 2003 to provide free tax services to low-income people. Under the terms of the partnership, 2021 filers with adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less are eligible for the services, which are listed on the IRS website

Intuit’s participation in the program came under criticism after a series of ProPublica reports showed that both Intuit and H&R Block tricked users who were eligible for Free File into paying to file their tax returns. The companies have also deliberately created the free versions of their software hard to find in online search results, according to ProPublica† Intuit left the Free File program in 2021.

In the letter to Goodarzi, Senator Warren writes that “the Free File program has been a failure, defrauding taxpayers into paying for services that should be free,” adding that “deceptive practices and outright sabotage by Free File companies were largely to blame for the low rate of taxpayer participation in the program — a rate of only about 3 percent, by Warren’s estimation

Intuit did not respond to a request for comment from The edge

Warren’s letter also points to a March 31 report from OpenSecrets, which revealed that Intuit employed former government officials, including former members of Congress, in its lobbying efforts. According to the records, Intuit’s political action committee has made donations to both Democrats and Republicans. The company spent $3.3 million on lobbying in 2021.

Warren’s letter also mentions a “revolving door” problem in enforcement, with Intuit hiring former regulators to avert government crackdown. A recent court filing revealed that the company had hired former FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz “to defend itself against an FTC complaint,” which Warren says gives rise to a conflict of interest. a 2019 report from Public Citizen found that Leibowitz was one of dozens of former FTC officials with such potential revolving door conflicts.

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