Sen. Warren pushes TurboTax for answers about its efforts to block

Tuesday, April 19, 2022
author picture Alice Dupont
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Senator Elizabeth Warren Pushes TurboTax for Answers About Its Efforts to Block Free Tax Filing

Massachusetts senator Sen. Elizabeth Warren has written to Intuit CEO Sasan K. Goodarzi‚ demanding answers for the tax-filing program. In the letter‚ she argues that the software company has engaged in extensive lobbying and affect-peddling to block competition from online tax preparation services. She also points to the FTC's March lawsuit‚ which she calls welcome. In addition to Warren‚ co-signers include Reps. Brad Sherman and Katie Porter.

Intuit's Free File program

On Tuesday‚ Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pressed TurboTax to explain why it tried to prevent the Free File program. She said she was seeking full disclosure from the company about the efforts it made to block the program. The company's CEO‚ Bernie McKay‚ joined Intuit in the late 1990s and has outlasted several Intuit CEOs. He led the company's campaign against Obama and the Free File program‚ and he subsequently hired a small army of outside lobbyists to do the same. In addition‚ he negotiated a deal with Free File‚ and he did so on behalf of lawmakers who were friendly to Intuit. Despite the fact that the Free File program is free for Americans‚ Intuit has fought back against governmental encroachment for years. Last April‚ it was almost time for the Free File program to be permanent. The Taxpayer First Act was sailed through Congress‚ but then ProPublica published a series of stories detailing the business tactics used by Intuit to limit competition. These stories showed that military families were especially hit by Intuit's business practices‚ which led Congress to remove a provision that would have enshrined Free File in law. In response to these accusations‚ Intuit has hired former government officials to lobby on its behalf. Former FTC chair Jon Leibowitz has been hired by Intuit to help defend the company's efforts. Intuit has a corporate political action committee that has donated to both Democrats and Republicans. The company has spent a reported $3.3 million lobbying in 2021. Senator Elizabeth Warren is asking Intuit to explain how it has blocked the Free File program. The company's internal documents outline its strategies against the encroachment of government initiatives to make filing taxes simpler. Among its enemies are the Free File program and a free government filing system. It has even opposed the controversial ReturnFree Tax System. The IRS declined to comment on the article.

Intuit's deception of consumers

Senator Elizabeth Warren is pushing TurboTax to answer questions about its efforts to stop consumers from using its software. She argues that the company's cost-free File program has been a huge failure‚ scamming taxpayers into paying providers with 3 percent of the total cost of their services. The company did not respond to a request for comment. Intuit declined to comment on the letter. The letter also calls for Intuit to explain how much of its revenue it has been receiving from taxes‚ and whether or not it has been lobbying the federal government. The company's corporate political action committee has donated to both Democrats and Republicans. It also claims to have employees working for the federal government. While these efforts do not seem to be effective‚ the letter does highlight a growing problem. The FTC's investigation of TurboTax's marketing tactics has been ongoing for some time‚ and the company has also been the subject of private lawsuits. Keller Lenkner has been pursuing a novel legal strategy. The law firm has filed tens of thousands of arbitration claims against Intuit for misleading ads. These are claims by people who paid for TurboTax and were entitled to receive a similar product for free. Sen. Warren‚ who chairs the Senate's Finance Committee‚ has written to Intuit's CEO‚ Sasan K. Goodarzi‚ asking him to explain how the company has used lobbying and influence-peddling to block consumers from using the Free File service. The FTC's lawsuit against Intuit was long overdue‚ but a new letter from the company is needed to clear up the situation. While the FTC's lawsuit is an extremely complicated legal case‚ the company does have a history of hiring former FTC officials to fight the companies' claims. For instance‚ Intuit hired former FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz as a consultant for the company. As a result‚ Leibowitz's decision to work for Intuit raises conflict of interest issues. Public Citizen has identified more than a dozen former FTC officials with potential conflicts of interest.

Intuit's lawsuits

Senator Elizabeth Warren‚ D-Massachusetts‚ is pushing the maker of TurboTax to answer questions about the company's lawsuits and lobbying. The Massachusetts Democrat has sent a letter to Intuit CEO Sasan Ok. Goodarzi‚ claiming that the company is using extensive lobbying and sham advertising to get people to pay for a service that should be free. The lawsuits slam Intuit's free TurboTax software and the company's alleged use of influence peddling are based on the same claims made by the Federal Commerce Fee‚ which filed suit against the company in March. Senator Warren is not the only one demanding answers. She has also called for Intuit to disclose which lobbyists it has hired. Some of the people who are working for the company include former IRS negotiators Dave Williams and Jon Liebowitz. Williams was a key negotiator for the Free File program. He later joined Intuit‚ and Intuit hired Leibowitz to defend it against the FTC lawsuit. Intuit has been under investigation by federal and state attorneys general. There have also been numerous private lawsuits against the company. However‚ Intuit has denied these allegations. A law firm called Keller Lenkner has filed tens of thousands of arbitration claims against Intuit on behalf of individuals who paid for TurboTax and used it for years‚ but could have received the same product for free. Another concern with the company's recent lawsuits is its practice of hiring former regulators to avoid the scrutiny of the government. Intuit hired former FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz to help defend itself against an FTC complaint. This raises questions about Leibowitz's independence and his conflicts of interest. While Public Citizen found dozens of former FTC officials with potential conflicts of interest‚ Leibowitz's hiring of a former government official raises questions about Intuit's business practices. The company has not responded to the Senator's request for a response. It has said it will challenge the lawsuit and defend its free offering. The company argued that it did not violate the law by advertising that its services are free‚ and the 'free' ads made people aware of this service. This practice has led to increased awareness of the free filing option among Americans.

Grover Norquist's anti-tax crusade

If you're a conservative‚ you probably have heard of Grover Norquist‚ the conservative activist who holds weekly meetings to set policy and legislative agendas. But how does he reconcile his support for politicians such as George W. Bush‚ who effects tax cuts but does not follow through on federal spending cuts? Grover Norquist's anti-tax crusade is not a new one. But it is more important than ever to understand the motives behind Norquist's work. In a recent profile in Boston Globe Magazine‚ Norquist described his anti-tax crusade. As president of Americans for Tax Reform‚ Norquist has political clout over budget-making in Congress. He signed a no-tax pledge‚ which he claims is aimed at reversing the recent increase in marginal tax rates. While he was in Washington‚ Norquist also traveled to various war zones‚ including Somalia and Sudan. Norquist also traveled to Africa to support anti-Soviet guerrillas in the 1980s. His mother‚ Carol Norquist‚ said her son made 13 trips to Africa and helped organize a meeting between guerrilla groups in Angola. While the American for Tax Reform Foundation and Americans for Tax Reform are technically separate nonprofits‚ the leadership of both organizations is identical. Norquist is president of both organizations‚ as are their executive directors. Their respective directors for state affairs‚ international programs‚ and strategic initiatives were the same. Norquist's communications director‚ John Kartch‚ did not respond to questions about the shutdown of the ATRF. While Norquist claims to be a radical‚ anti-conformist‚ and anti-tax ideologue‚ he is far from being an idealist. In fact‚ his anti-tax crusade is an unrelenting example of the political polarization he's attempting to foster. As one of the leading conservative think tanks‚ he has a strong following in the Republican Party. The Republican Party has been in a dry spell for a long time. Norquist's anti-tax crusade has fueled Republican Party polarization and removed a powerful counterweight against Democratic collaboration with Islamic supremacists. Norquist's anti-tax crusade is unconstitutional. He should be prosecuted for this scandal‚ and he must be stopped.