The one thing tax preparation companies don't want you to know

And more of the week's best financial advice

Office workers.
(Image credit: bernardbodo/iStock)

Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial news, gathered from around the web:

TurboTax hides the free-filing option

Intuit, the makers of TurboTax, deliberately obscures its free-filing feature from Google, said Justin Elliott at ProPublica. The company added "code on its site telling Google and other search engines not to list TurboTax Free File in search results," while allowing search engines to list the pages that get customers to pay. It helps explain why TurboTax's free option is so underused: "While 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible for Free File options," just 3 percent actually use them each year. H&R Block also hid its free product from Google with a similar code. The deceptive tactic comes after "Intuit, H&R Block, and other companies signed a deal to offer Free File options to lower-income Americans" in exchange for getting the Internal Revenue Service not to create its own free-filing tool.

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Finally, wages swing upward

Ten years after the recession, "wages are finally rising," said Ben Casselman at The New York Times. Economists have been puzzling for years over why this didn't happen sooner. "Decades ago, economists observed that when unemployment falls, wages tend to rise, as companies are forced to offer higher pay to attract workers." Yet wages changed little even as unemployment fell by half. The most likely reason, economists now say, is that the government's definition of unemployment, which "counts only people actively looking for work," is too narrow. Many workers stayed on the sidelines. Now the economy is strong enough that employers need to bring those people back in. So we're finally seeing wage growth higher than 3 percent a year — and economists hope to see a repeat of the 4 percent annual growth of the late 1990s.

A faster way to waste time

Messaging software for the workplace was supposed to make us more productive, but it's actually making us less so, said Rani Molla at Vox. "Much like the ubiquitous open-floor plan, this type of software is meant to get different parts of a company working together," but in practice "it can be hell." In offices that use the communications app Slack, employees send one another an average of 200 Slack messages a week; that comes on top of many hours spent on email. The apps are supposed to help us communicate faster, but "faster isn't good or bad, better or worse. Faster is just faster," says one media company executive. "If you're sending a lot of stupid messages faster, that's not great."

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