FTC bans tax-filing parasite TurboTax from advertising itself as 'free'

TurboTax deceptively markets its tax-filing services as free. A judge last year ordered it to stop, and now the Federal Trade Commission is affirming that decision.

By running ads for "free" tax services that many customers were not qualified for, the tax filing software violated the FTC Act and deceived consumers, the agency said. The FTC had first sued Intuit, TurboTax's owner,for its deceptive advertising in 2022. The FTC staff alleged most tax filers couldn't use the company's "free" services — "such as those who get a 1099 form for work in the gig economy, or those who earn farm income." TurboTax advertising their products as free misled those customers, according to the FTC. The FTC Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell announced the initial decision in September, which the commission upheld Monday. Intuit had appealed to the FTC as part of the process….

The FTC ordered Intuit to "disclose clearly and conspicuously all the terms, conditions, and obligations that are required in order to obtain the 'free' good or service."

"The order also prohibits Intuit from misrepresenting any material facts about its products or services such as the price, refund policies or consumers' ability to claim a tax credit or deduction or to file their taxes online accurately without using TurboTax's paid service," the release from the FTC said.

That something called the "tax-filing industry" even exists is bad enough. That normal people with normal finances must get tangled up with it (or pay through the nose for someone else to do it) is completely rotten.

Intuit/TurboTax is a portrait of the corporation as an amoral fiduciary machine. It's a rentier and parasite that creates nothing of value and will do anything it can get away with in service to revenue—at least so long as it can cost out the consequences. Just last year it settled with 50 states over it "steering millions of low-income Americans away from free tax-filing services." That it even exists is a political policy decision and destroying it would be a much better one.