As Americans around the country pay TurboTax to file their taxes many are likely unaware that the company underwrote a stealth campaign against a program that might allow tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes for free and in minutes.
Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax, launched a campaign against return-free filing which would not only allow free and simple filing for millions of Americans but would also be completely voluntary. Nonetheless, a “grass roots” campaign was started claiming the IRS was trying to “take over” an industry and tyrannically threatening “tax payer rights.”
But upon closer scrutiny the websites and letters to the editor were part of a coordinated effort not by “grass roots” activists but professional PR hacks. In some cases, such as a letter to the editor written by Rabbi Elliot Dorff, those helping Intuit were duped.
Rabbi Dorff says he was approached by a former student, Emily Pflaster, who sent him details and asked him to write an op-ed alerting the Jewish community to the threat. What Pflaster did not tell him is that she works for a PR and lobbying firm with connections to Intuit, the maker of best-selling tax software TurboTax....
The website of Pflaster’s firm, JCI Worldwide, had listed Intuit among its clients, but removed it after ProPublica contacted them. Pflaster said Intuit had been listed by mistake, but added that the firm does work for the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a trade group of which Intuit is a member. Pflaster also said her firm has reached out to multiple groups and encouraged them to share information about the “flaws” of return-free filing.
Filing taxes is not a choice so many Americans are forced to pay for tax preparation even if they can barely afford it. Something TurboTax relies on.
The 1% typically utilize accountants and lawyers not software. Services like TurboTax rely on extracting fees from the very people that would benefit from a free and simply tax filing system like return-free filing.