Intuit Still Lobbying Hard To Stop Governments From Making It Easy To File Taxes

from the corporate-culture dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about how much effort Intuit has put towards blocking proposals to have the federal government send you pre-filled out tax forms. After all, the IRS already has your information, so why not just send you a form with all of your details filled in, let you check it over for any mistakes, errors or omissions, sign it and send it back? It would save a whole lot of hassle, and certainly would avoid problems caused by simple mistakes. But, of course, if the government made it easy to pay your taxes, why then, Intuit wouldn't be able to sell as many copies of TurboTax. So it's been fighting it all along.

Of course, some states have already implemented similar systems for state taxes, and Intuit then goes on the lobbying offensive to try to repeal those laws. Reader Xan points us to an LA Times story about the lengths to which Intuit is going to try to kill off a highly successful set of programs in California that have made it much easier for many, many, many residents, while at the same time saving the state millions of dollars. It's a clear win-win.

Well, except for Intuit.

Intuit is lobbying hard for California to ditch this tremendously successful program that helps both tax payers and the state, and replace it with a different program that... helps Intuit. It would offer a much more limited offering to many fewer people, mostly designed as an upsell to get people to pay for TurboTax. And, while Intuit hasn't been successful yet, it has been spending plenty of money supporting California state politicians on both sides of the aisle to try to find support for its efforts.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    quickbrownfox, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 9:51am

    Just one of many reasons I no longer purchase or use products by Intuit.

     

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    rabbit, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    which sucks because i loved mint...and then intuit had to go and buy it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:09am

    Ignoring the fact the lobbying is being done by a Tax Prep Software company, I have looked in the past at some of these state and federal offerings and found them wanting except in the easiest of cases. Perhaps I am being cynical, but my "antenna" always go up anytime I see government saying "Here, let me help you."

    Should Intuit be trying to basically "kill" such programs? No, I do not think so. Should Intuit be trying to require such government offerings be more informative? Yes, I do believe so. Might improved government offerings take away from private sales? Probably, but then again they are much too general and limited to apply, in my view, to anything other than "no-brainer" situations.

    Personally, I will always use commerical packages (I use H&R Block's software, particularly since the sleight of hand Intuit tried to use a couple of years ago) because such packages tend to look out for me and keep my taxes to a minimum. I cannot say the same for government offerings, which appear to resolve doubts in its favor.

     

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      A Dan (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      I tend to use the online TurboTax to do my free federal taxes (since I don't have to do the complicated form) but skip the state, which they charge for. Then, I went to do the state one at my state's website. The difference ended up being hundreds of dollars owed instead of hundreds received, so I paid the $20 to Intuit to save hundreds on my taxes.

      I have direct experience with your "which appear to resolve doubts in its favor" theory.

       

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      interval (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      AC: "I cannot say the same for government offerings..."

      I generally agree with you; I personally wish the fed. would go back to its mandate of national defense and interstate road maintenance ONLY. And the IRS is certainly one of the most malevolent public creatures around. HOWEVER: one of my best friend's wives is an IRS field agent. She helps me and my wife with our taxes every year, and she does a great job. Her opinion on IRS matters is very valuable to *me*, and I can say that although the IRS can be an incredible burden on people who for whatever reason have screwed themselves on not towing the tax line, they appear to do their best to make information on the tax code available, and up to date. Say what you want about the organization; but their web site is quite comprehensive and helpful. I hate paying taxes, trust me. I have no love for them, but you kind of have to be pretty flagrant and dismissive of the IRS to get its interest in your affairs. If you follow the rules and grit your teeth and pay your taxes according to their rules they generally tend to leave you alone. Trust me, according to this woman's case load they have plenty of legitimately bad fish to fry. I guess what I'm saying is if these tools and forms were some kind of trap for earnest tax-paying citizens I'd be surprised.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 11:10am

        Re: Re:

        I do not disagree that many within the IRS are dedicated, hard working, and try to be helpful.

        One concern I have, however, is that even if you use their programs or have tax forms filled out with the assistance of an IRS employee retained for just such a purpose, you are not as a matter or law entitled to rely on the information you have been provided in the event of an audit and the assessment of a tax deficiency.

        In the event of a conflict between the IRC and advice/assistance you have received and acted upon in good faith, the IRC beats you every time.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re:

        I generally agree with you; I personally wish the fed. would go back to its mandate of national defense and interstate road maintenance ONLY.

        Yeah, they really started overstepping their bounds about the time they started telling states that they couldn't have slavery. It's been all downhill from there.
        /s

         

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      DS, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:49am

      Re:

      Here here. I'm not happy with Intuit spending money to get this stopped, but I'm generally not in favor of trusting the gov't either.

      Me, I still use Intuit, because of some nasty bugs in H&R's past.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 12:48pm

      Re:

      Having worked as a tax examinar for the IRS a number of years ago, I have to say, you are a fool to trust H&R block, they prepared some of the worst returns I saw, and invariably included reams of additional information so that they could pad their bill to you.

       

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    Freedom, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:15am

    Free Markets...

    This really bugs me ... in the IT world, we often come up with solutions to fill a necessary need gap and then the next version of the OS, software, hardware, etc., includes it as a bundled "free" feature.

    At that point, we have to find another need gap to fill and that's just business. There are no guarantees in life and not to be trite, but you just need to roll with the punches.

    I'm extremely concerned if the current political environment continues that we will get increased protectionist policies (via regulation) usually sold by protecting labor in these industries.

    I find it ironic to say the least that progressives believe in such protectionist policies to protect labor and temporary disruptions which ultimately leads to much less overall "progression". To say they are being short sighted is an under statement.

    Freedom

     

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    Pixelation, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:31am

    Googletax

    Just wait. Google will create the free "Googletax" software.

    It seems to me that this is simply another story about what lobbyists do, convince the government to play favorites. It would certainly be a surprise if Intuit was lobbying for simpler tax prep.

     

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    interval (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:34am

    Horrible

    This makes Intuit a horrible little company in my opinion. I've never given them a dime for any of their products and I certainly won't now, even if they straiten up and get into a legitimate business. Anyone who fights to keep the tax system as byzantine and Kafkaesque as it currently is is the lowest form of scum.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 10:57am

    A Reagan administration study proved that

    not *one* cent of money collected by the IRS actually goes to the federal gov't, only to banks.

     

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    Another AC, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 11:03am

    I have been using a little program called TaxAct for the last 9 years or so. T0 date, I have never spent more than 12.95 for the product. I work for a company with strong tie to H&R Block and I got a free copy of the deluxe version one year. I compared the 2 and got better results out of TaxAct. Intuit's product is overpriced for what it offers. Now I know why! Wasting tons of money on lobbying in order to protect their interest. I am guaranteed to never buy an Intuit product, even if it is the best in its arena, I will purchase a competitor just to spite them.

     

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    Charlie Potatoes, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 11:18am

    Lobby, my ass ...

    Can anyone explain the subtle difference between bribing a Congressman and Lobbying one? I know we have the right to pressure our Congressman to see things our way, but in a sane world, offering him money to see things our way is properly called bribery. But, zeig heil, I am a loyal citizen, Homeland Security. I mean no disrespect.

     

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      Free Capitalist (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 11:53am

      Re: Lobby, my ass ...

      Can anyone explain the subtle difference between bribing a Congressman and Lobbying one?

      One is like paying a prostitute. For those in need of immediate "action".

      One is like courting your future spouse, with the family watching and all. In the long run you might be better off... or not.

      We have morals in this country, after all.

       

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      interval (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 1:37pm

      Re: Lobby, my ass ...

      @Charlie Potatoes: "but in a sane world..."

      I think a commenter on /. put it best when asked what the political cycle was like compared to the parliamentary system in Europe (I think it was actually put to the Australian political system, but still quite apt for the US);

      "Its a unicycle ridden by clowns."

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 11:33am

    Intuit is garbage. I hope the get audited...

     

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    NullOp, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Intuit

    I've used their products for years. Good stuff. However, they are now faced with the problem of competition from, of all people, the IRS. I too would probably not want my business, or a substantial part of it, to go South just because it's the right thing to do.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jul 27th, 2010 @ 2:22pm

    Intuit

    Institutions will seek to preserve the problem for which they are the solution.

     

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    Chris, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 3:23pm

    Idiots

    have a look at http://www.ird.govt.nz Here in NZ the IRD (equiv of the irs) has most of its filing online. You guys don't know what you're missing out on to be honest. But yeah, go private enterprise!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 27th, 2010 @ 7:17pm

      Re: Idiots

      Actually use technology to make bureaucratic processes easier? Get serious, we are dealing with US corporations and government.

      Regardless if you agree with the organization known as the IRS, why shouldn't they be accessible? Chris makes a great point, they can pull it off elsewhere why not here.

      Perhaps if we could set our sites beyond next years election or next quarters profits we could see that changes are necessary for systems to survive.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2010 @ 7:57am

    A simple solution to the problem

    Where I live you are allowed to skip filling in fields on your tax form if you know it is information that the government already has. The government is supposed to fill in these for you, but you can still fill in an amount if you want.

    Because everybody who pays salaries and pensions are supposed to report this and pay the tax part of the salary directly to our government, the majority of tax payers do not have to fill in anything on their tax forms. These people are not even mailed a tax form to file, unless they ask for it. They just have an obligation to tell government if/when they get other taxable assets.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 8:43am

    Already happens in Norway

    A friend of mine from Norway says their government fills in the tax forms for all citizens and simply asks you to check or add anything that may be incorrect or incomplete. Simple, easy way to do things.

    Intuit is a small fraction of a bigger problem of corporations all over the world using government regulations in favor of their specific industry to guarantee economic rents. It's a massive distortion. Either fully regulate by government or fully free a process to the private sector, but not both and not when changing the rules half way through for some but not others.

    If you think this is ridiculous, in the province of Alberta in Canada carwashes are allowed to deduct disproportionate food, uniform and locker room costs while forcing minimum wage employees to punch out when no cars are coming through during a shift, even though employees are forced to stay on premises. This was passed at the behest of the owners of several of the larger well-known car wash chains.

     

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    jungle rumble, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 9:19am

    1040 EZ filing is already free

    Guys, if you fill out 1040EZ, it is ALREADY FREE. http://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/online/free-edition.jsp

     

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    Jeffumm, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 12:01pm

    Why doesn't Intuit...

    Why doesn't Intuit, instead of trying to kill this proposal, simply try to sell their services to the IRS as the product which gets used to pre-fill out everybody's forms? Then they have guaranteed sales for 100% of American taxpayers, rather than whatever percentage actually buys TurboTax up until now.

     

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    Slatts, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 12:12pm

    Intuit...

    Consider yourselves lucky that you have any accounts software available to you! In the UK all the main players, Quicken and Money have pulled out leaving their customers in the lurch!
    The stupid thing is I’m still using Quicken 2000 quite happily but I don’t know for how long – I hope I can get it to work with the next version of Windows – or Ubuntu :-)

     

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    pornhorse, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 12:15pm

    Doing your taxes with turbo tax premium ultra 9000 edition for free, because they don't include anything in the software to stop pirating, makes me feel like a responsible adult.

     

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    vonshavingcream, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    this should be illegal

    I think it very clear. The system California has put in place does not HURT anyone except Intuit. A company who makes a product that is becoming obsolete. This is not a program that benefits some and damages others. This program benefits all citizens and helps government SAVE MONEY. Something that is this clear and present that they are simply trying to keep from having to invent something new or design a new business model is NOT a legitimate reason to lobby. Making money to make money is NOT worth keeping the government from making ALL citizens lives easier for a change.

     

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    Ashley from Intuit, Aug 2nd, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    Setting the Record Straight

    This is Ashley from Intuit. Wanted to weigh in because the above post distorts and omits many of the facts. For years, Intuit has worked to bring a free tax preparation and e-file program to Californians – one that’s already working in 20 other states, with about 30 million returns filed. The program, called IRS Free File, does many things the state’s cannot. It will:

    · Lower tax bills by helping taxpayers find every credit and deduction they deserve. The state-prepared return won’t do that, virtually guaranteeing taxpayers pay more than they should.
    · Reach more low-income taxpayers. Seventy percent of Californians qualify for Free File; just 44 percent qualify under the state’s program.
    · Make filing simpler. Free File completes both state and federal returns. The state’s program forces Californians to do their taxes twice.

    Free File also helps eligible Californians to obtain their share of the $1.2 billion federal Earned Income Tax Credit that is unclaimed in California. The state system won’t. You can read a recent story from Capitol Weekly (http://www.capitolweekly.net/article.php?_c=z0pont7hqyl09o&xid=z0p77e6d46ttm7&done=.z0pont7 hqza09o#) that gives a more balanced look at the issue.

    We appreciate the conversation and balanced debate on a very important issue for California taxpayers. Hope these facts help set the record the straight.

     

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      Anonymously Brave, Aug 5th, 2010 @ 8:49am

      Re: Setting the Record Straight

      Unless I'm missing something, I don't get how the IRS improvements prevent Intuit from still offering its "Free File" service and other, paid services. You can still offer what you want, can't you? The IRS plan just provides taxpayers with an additional option. That can only be a good thing. The new plan doesn't say, "the IRS will now offer this and Intuit can't offer it anymore."

      That's the rub. I think most people are complaining because the lobbying seems to be nothing more than an attempt to block a beneficial new plan in order to prevent addtional competition.

      Personally, I used to buy and use Intuit's tax software every year up until they released the version that wrote DRM to the zero sector of their customers' hard drives, at which time I went elsewhere and haven't looked back.

       

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