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tax time
April 22, 2019

Thought TurboTax was supposed to simplify life during tax season? Think again.

Despite advertising free tax filing services — which anyone who makes less than $66,000 per year is entitled to based on an agreement between the Internal Revenue Service and multiple filing companies — ProPublica reporters found out that TurboTax does quite a bit of maneuvering to make it difficult for people to actually file their taxes for free.

The reporters created fictional profiles for people who make less than $66,000, but would hit a barrier each time. It turns out that it's impossible to find a truly free version if starting from the TurboTax website, which the company actually admits in its "Frequently Asked Questions" section on the site. But even when following their new lead, the reporters still found themselves running in circles, chasing link after link until they eventually landed back on TurboTax's homepage. The vicious cycle is an example of a "dark pattern," an internet design tactic to get web users to pay for products they don't necessarily want, ProPublica reports.

The reporters did ultimately access the real free filing service, but the arduous process is an example of how the free program is "failing to achieve its objectives." The IRS has faced criticism for not overseeing the program and consumer groups have advocated for the IRS to offer its own free tax preparation service as many other countries do, ProPublica reports.

But instead the House recently passed a bipartisan bill that would restrict the IRS from doing just that, which the Senate is now considering. Companies like TurboTax creator Intuit have lobbied for the bill heavily. It looks like it will only get more challenging to file taxes for free. Read more at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

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