March 29, 2023
Investigating TurboTax for a decade
Spring member drive ends Friday!
New York, NY
Text version for screen readers:
Our spring fundraising campaign ends on Friday, and I am so grateful for the overwhelming show of support we’ve seen over the last week and a half. If you’re in a position to do so, I’d love for you to join us and stand up for the power of independent journalism to demand accountability — no matter how long it takes.
A decade ago, ProPublica first reported on how for-profit tax-preparation software companies, such as Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, had successfully lobbied to stop the IRS from creating an easy way for millions of taxpayers to file online for free (something many other countries provide). Instead, the IRS had struck a deal with these companies to offer their products for free to qualifying taxpayers, while the government pledged not to create its own competing system.
Fast-forward to 2019: As Intuit was lobbying Congress to make this agreement permanent, ProPublica exposed how TurboTax was using deceptive design and misleading tactics to steer low-income filers to paid versions of its service when they were eligible to file for free. This tactic worked. Only a tiny percentage of eligible taxpayers actually used the free products.
Our investigation spurred public outcry, federal and state investigations, lawsuits and more. The IRS announced major reforms to its agreement with the tax-prep software industry, including new policies that allow citizens to file their taxes for free directly with the IRS. And last summer, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $15 million for the IRS to study free tax filing options. Intuit reached a settlement deal to refund $90 each to more than 4 million people who paid for TurboTax when they should have received the service for free. (It is not clear when this money will be paid, but you can bet we’re still following this story.)
This entire investigation represents how powerful and influential journalism can be when published in the public interest. And with the public’s support, we’re able to really dig deep and uncover practices that corporations would much rather remain hidden.
Help us continue this critical work by renewing your support today with your donation of any amount. Journalism for the people is also powered by the people, and we’re counting on you to stand with us.
Donate to ProPublica