TurboTax Grassroots Campaign Aims to Oppose Return-Free Filing: Report

Image: TurboTax Grassroots Campaign Aims to Oppose Return-Free Filing: Report

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 11:15 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A TurboTax grassroots campaign against what is known as return-free filing has apparently been orchestrated by a lobbying firm working for Intuit, the software company behind the tax preparation software.

Over the past 12 months, various community leaders including a California rabbi, NAACP official, and a small town mayor wrote op-eds in multiple publications arguing against the proposed tax-filing reform. All of the pieces appeared to contain similar language in opposition to the measure, as discovered by Liz Day, the director of research for the non-profit investigative journalism group ProPublica.

In the letters that came from various sources but maintained a common theme, the writers argued that the proposed return-free filing would target "the most vulnerable Americans," with Rabbi Elliot Dorff writing in a Jewish Journal op-ed that he "shudder[s] at the impact this program will have on the most vulnerable people in American society," ProPublica.org reported.

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The source of the shared outrage, at least in the rabbi's case, was that of a former student – Emily Pflaster, who, according to ProPublica, contacted him last year with details about the alleged threat such a tax reform posed to the Jewish community and low income Americans. What Pflaster reportedly did not mention is that fact that she worked for the public relations firm JCI Worldwide, which at the time had listed the software giant as a client on its website.

When informed about Pflaster's likely motivation behind her advisory, Dorff told ProPublica, "I wish she would have told me that."

Last year, ProPublica contacted JCI Worldwide to inquire about their connection to Intuit, to which the PR firm said the software company was listed as a client on its website by mistake. It subsequently removed the company from its online client list.

When asked about the seemingly phony grassroots campaign on Monday, Intuit spokeswoman Julie Miller told ProPublica that the software company works with various organizations and community service organizations "to support common-sense tax reform and taxpayer empowerment for the average American."

"We feel all points of view deserve to be heard on issues so important to taxpayer rights," Miller said, "including those of groups and media advocacy organizations who disagree."

As ProPublica points out in its investigative piece, what all the anti-return-free filing op-eds omitted was the fact that the measure was supported by both former President Ronald Regan and President Barack Obama, and allows tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes in minutes for free.

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