Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Intuit and H&R Block Prevented Search Engines From Displaying Their Free Tax Filing Products

Larissa Williams:

TurboTax is setting the “free” filing page to “noindex” in the web code, making it much harder for people trying to find the page. Without a direct link, it would be VERY hard to find that page searching the internet. Shady.

Justin Elliott, ProPublica:

We found that Intuit’s smaller competitor in the market, H&R Block, also hid its H&R Block Free File product from Google using the same sort of code. An H&R Block spokeswoman said: “We are proud that we have helped millions of Americans file their returns under the Free File Alliance program. … Our Free File Alliance offering, like all other alliance partners, is presented in the IRS site and easily reachable through the IRS, on HRBlock.com, and also by googling ‘FFA H&R Block.’”

But the Google results for that search do not directly link to H&R Block’s Free File landing page.

TaxSlayer, 1040.com, and Free Tax USA also request that search engines do not index their free filing webpages.

There are other ways to access all of these companies’ free filing options; the IRS provides a list of links. But it’s not unreasonable to expect people to search “free tax filing software”, and I cannot think of a non-sleazy reason why these pages would be hidden from search engines.