Thursday, May 16, 2019

ProPublica Targets TurboTax Again

ProPublica targets TurboTax again hereThey show an internal video of Intuit’s CEO defending Intuit from the numerous attacks on Intuit and TurboTax made by ProPublica. ProPublica alleges that Intuit has steered people away from the IRS’s free file site and to other TurboTax versions. They pooh-pooh the CEO’s defense.

The CEO says ProPublica’s “articles have been written and published in the context of a specific wider political agenda. That agenda is to create a centralized government system of pre-filled tax returns.” The authors reply, “But we don’t have a political agenda.” I don’t buy that. Who is “we” – the authors or ProPublica? ProPublica has advocated what the CEO truthfully said (link). I posted about it yesterday. Advocating the IRS or Congress do something is having a political agenda. 

The authors also show two Google searches they did, with the top search result of each being TurboTax web-pages. Like I said two days ago, when a user doesn’t include “IRS” in the search criteria, why should the user be directed to an IRS web-page? Similarly, when a user doesn’t include “IRS” or “Alliance” in the search criteria, why should the user be directed to an IRS web-page or the Free File Alliance web-page? Yet apparently the ProPublica authors believe the user should be directed to an IRS web-page or the Free File Alliance web-page, as if their wish should trump the user's input. That is ProPublica trying to bully.

Moreover, the searches they did were April 10 and April 15, a month ago. I used the same search terms a few days ago and the top search result for both directed me to the version of TurboTax on the IRS free file site. The authors did not include that fact in their article. I assume Intuit had something to do with the new search result. But ProPublica did not cheer the change or thank Intuit. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Deliberate or not, ProPublica’s article hid -- at least didn't reveal -- the new top search result!

This latest article is like their earlier ones – biased, deceptive reporting. Pretty clearly their goal has not been to inform readers about how to find the Free File Alliance, but to smear Intuit and TurboTax.

P.S. The authors note that only around 3% of eligible taxpayers have used IRS Free File. In an earlier article (April 26), ProPublica said 70% of taxpayers are eligible for free options from TurboTax and other tax software products. So what? Using them takes time, skill and the willingness, which a person may not have. It seems that in ProPublica's opinion none of these matter; it's entirely the fault of Intuit, H&R Block, etc. In addition to free software products, there are many VITA sites and AARP Tax Aide sites that offer free filing. 

1 comment:

  1. Heh. I tried posting part of ‘ProPublica Targets TurboTax Again’ in the comments section of ProPublica’s article. Somebody at ProPublica reviews then accepts or rejects comments. My comment was rejected.

    Several hours later I tried again, in a milder tone as a follow-up to a comment they did accept, which judged the article in words much more harsh (e.g., “shoddy reporting”, “piece-of-crap reporting”) than mine. My second try has stayed there a while, but it's still pending review. So it might be rejected, too.

    I don’t know why my first one was rejected. Maybe because I said ProPublica has a political agenda – wanting the IRS to do “prefilled filing” – and it is a 501(c)(3) organization. As such, it is tax-exempt and prohibited from conducting “political activities.” That definitely prohibits campaigning for candidates for elective public office and limits lobbying. I don't know about the sort of political advocacy ProPublica has done regarding "prefilled filing."

    Maybe my pointing out this political advocacy "touched a nerve." Maybe I "touched a nerve" by pointing out that their searches, a large part of the article, were out-dated, and the article failed to say how the top search result had changed. I doubt I will ever know why.

    Why ProPublica merits 501(c)(3) status is beyond me. It claims to be a “newsroom that aims to produce investigative journalism in the public interest.” Doesn’t The New York Times, Washington Post and many other newsrooms do that, too? However, they aren’t tax-exempt. I suspect political pull. ProPublica gets big donations from the Ford Foundation and others on the political left.