DES MOINES, Iowa (KCAU) — TurboTax’s owner will pay $141 million to Americans resulting from the company’s “free, free, free” campaign, and $1.02 million will be paid to Iowans.  

According to a release from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, 33,000 Iowans were deceived into paying for tax services that were advertised as free.  

The release stated that in addition to paying out those who paid for their tax services, the owner of TurboTax – Intuit – must suspend the campaign that was misleading.  

The District of Columbia and all 50 states signed the agreement which will require Inuit to pay taxpayers who filed their taxes with TurboTax’s Free Edition for the years 2016 through 2018. The release stated that consumers will receive a payment of $30 that will be delivered by mail.  

“Intuit manipulated internet search results to hide its free file services from eligible low-income consumers,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, “and it steered them to expensive paid products through its advertising and marketing practices.” 

The release alleged that ProPublica reported on the company stating that Intuit had been using deceptive tactics to steer consumers toward commercial products. The report sparked an investigation into the campaign.  

The release outlined Intuit’s commercial product, Turbo Tax-Free Edition, and stated that it was free but only for taxpayers with “simple returns,” despite the concept of free returns being their main selling point. The release indicated that the company repeated the word “free” dozens of times within 30 seconds. However, only one-third of Americans met the requirements to receive free tax services.  

The release specified that Intuit offered two free versions of the free TurboTax program. One was through participation in the IRS Free File Program, which was a public-private partnership with the IRS. The partnership allowed those whose income totaled $34,000 and military members to file their taxes for free. The release alleged that the IRS agreed not to compete with Intuit along with other tax preparation companies by providing its own tax preparation and filing services.  

The release stated that investigations revealed that Intuit used trade practices that limited consumers’ participation in the IRS Free File program. It was stated that the company used similar names for its IRS Free File Program and its “freemium” and bid on paid search advertising to be directed from the IRS Free File program to the freemium program.  

The release also alleged that Intuit blocked its IRS Free File landing page during the 2019 tax filing season, making it difficult to access the free filing program. It was also stated that the company’s website would list products with their pricing and recommend “the right tax solution,” but never displayed or recommended to IRS Free File program even when consumers were eligible.