IRS Reforms Free File Program, Drops Agreement Not to Compete With TurboTax

Remember how, earlier this year, tax preparation companies were caught preventing search engines from indexing their free products?

Justin Elliott and Paul Kiel, ProPublica:

Under the nearly two-decade-old Free File deal, the industry agreed to make free versions of tax filing software available to lower- and middle-income Americans. In exchange, the IRS promised not to compete with the industry by creating its own online filing system. Many developed countries have such systems, allowing most citizens to file their taxes for free. The prohibition on the IRS creating its own system was the focus of years of lobbying by Intuit. The industry has seen such a system as an existential threat. Now, with the changes to the deal, the prohibition has been dropped.

The addendum also expressly bars the companies from “engaging in any practice” that would exclude their Free File offerings “from an organic internet search.” […]

Product naming will also be standardized so that Intuit can’t offer two slightly different “free” versions of TurboTax, where the main difference is that one of them is actually free.