I have never had a whole lot of use for TurboTax, although it must be disclosed up front that 40-odd years ago, I was a seasonal worker at present-day archrival H&R Block. But I never quite suspected Intuit, publisher of TurboTax, of pulling a stunt at this level:
This week, we reported on how TurboTax uses deceptive design and misleading advertising to trick lower-income Americans into paying to file their taxes, even though they are eligible to do it for free.
There’s a new wrinkle: It turns out, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is deliberately hiding the truly free edition — TurboTax Free File — from Google Search.
Intuit has done that by adding code on its site telling Google and other search engines not to list TurboTax Free File in search results.
Does this require some arcane knowledge of coding? Ha. Also, ha:
The code in question, which can be found in a file called robots.txt or in an HTML tag, has to be actively added to a site, as Intuit has done. It is typically used on pages that designers want to hide from the open internet, such as those that are for internal use only. Without that code, Google and other search engines default to adding a site to their search results.
My own robots.txt file, should you be interested, blocks indexing of graphics and WordPress components, but nothing else.
There are, of course, ominous political rumblings:
Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that he plans to raise Intuit’s misleading marketing with the IRS. “Intuit’s tactics to reduce access to the Free File program and confuse taxpayers are outrageous,” he said.
As if tax returns themselves aren’t confusing enough already.