TurboTax has been deliberately hiding its free edition, intended for lower-income Americans, from Google search, ProPublica reports. Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, has reportedly been hiding the offer from searches by adding code on its site that instructs Google and other search engines not to list the free version—TurboTax Free File—in search results. “It’s deliberately saying: ‘Google, we don’t want you here. Do not bring us traffic,’” said Jared Spool, a veteran web design and user experience expert. In contrast, the TurboTax page that tells tax filers to pay signals to Google that it should be listed.
The free filing option was created as part of a deal between tax filing companies and the U.S. government. In exchange for the IRS promising not to create its own free online filing tool, tax filing companies agreed to offer free options to lower-income Americans. About 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible for the free filing options, but just three percent actually use them. That discrepancy could be due to the deceptive code, effectively hiding the option from Google.