Senator Warren Presses TurboTax for Answers on Its Efforts to Block Free Tax Filing

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

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

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Intuit in March for misleading marketing, a move 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 center on the Free File program, an IRS partnership with a nonprofit tax preparation coalition. companies founded in 2003 to provide free tax services to low-income taxpayers. Under the terms of the partnership, 2021 taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less are eligible for services, which are listing on the IRS website.

Intuit’s participation in the program was criticized after a series of ProPublica reports showed that both Intuit and H&R Block had tricked Free File-eligible taxpayers into paying to file their taxes. The companies also deliberately made free versions of their software. Hard to find in online search results, depending on 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, scamming taxpayers into paying for services that should be free,” adding that “the deceptive practices and outright sabotage of companies of Free File” were largely to blame. by the low participation rate of taxpayers in the program, a rate of only about 3 percent, according to Warren Estimate.

In response, Intuit’s director of corporate communications, Derrick Plummer, provided the following statement to the edge:

Intuit firmly believes that Americans should be at the center of their financial lives and is proud to have helped more taxpayers file their taxes for free than all of our competitors combined. In the last eight years alone, Intuit’s free tax preparation offering has helped nearly 100 million Americans file their taxes for absolutely free. We are clear and fair with our customers and open and transparent about our advertising practices, and our participation in the Free File program was done in compliance with and with the supervision of the IRS. We are reviewing the letter from Senator Warren and other legislators and will respond.

Warren’s letter also points to a March 31 open secrets report, which found that Intuit employed former government officials, including former members of Congress, in its lobbying efforts. Intuit’s corporate political action committee has donated to both Democrats and Republicans, according to the data. The company spent $3.3 million on lobbying in 2021.

Warren’s letter also points to a “revolving door” issue in the app, in which Intuit hires former regulators to help deflect government action. A recent court filing revealed that the company had hired former FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz “to defend against an FTC complaint,” which Warren says raises conflict-of-interest issues. A 2019 public citizen report found that Leibowitz was one of dozens of former FTC officials with such potential revolving-door conflicts.

Update 22:07 ET: Added statement from Intuit.

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