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Intuit to Pay $141M Settlement Over ‘Free’ TurboTax Ads

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This Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 photo shows a display of TurboTax software in a Sam's Club in Pittsburgh. Under the terms of a settlement signed by the attorneys general of all 50 states, Mountain View, California-based Intuit Inc. will suspend TurboTax’s “free, free, free” ad campaign and pay restitution to nearly 4.4 million taxpayers, New York Attorney General Letitia James said, Wednesday, May 4, 2022.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

NEW YORK (AP) — The company behind the TurboTax tax-filing program will pay $141 million to customers across the United States who were deceived by misleading promises of free tax-filing services, New York’s attorney general announced Wednesday.

Under the terms of a settlement signed by the attorneys general of all 50 states, Mountain View, California-based Intuit Inc. will suspend TurboTax’s “free, free, free” ad campaign and pay restitution to nearly 4.4 million taxpayers, New York Attorney General Letitia James said.

James said her investigation into Intuit was sparked by a 2019 ProPublica report that found the company was using deceptive tactics to steer low-income tax filers away from the federally supported free services for which they qualified — and toward its own commercial products, instead.

“For years, Intuit misled the most vulnerable among us to make a profit. Today, every state in the nation is holding Intuit accountable for scamming millions of taxpayers, and we’re putting millions of dollars back into the pockets of impacted Americans,” James said in a statement. “This agreement should serve as a reminder to companies large and small that engaging in these deceptive marketing ploys is illegal.”

“As part of the agreement, Intuit admitted no wrongdoing, agreed to pay $141 million to put this matter behind it, and made certain commitments regarding its advertising practices,” representatives for Intuit said in a blog post Wednesday. “Intuit already adheres to most of these advertising practices and expects minimal impact to its business from implementing the remaining changes going forward.”

Until last year, Intuit offered two free versions of TurboTax. One was through its participation in the Internal Revenue Service’s Free File Program, geared toward taxpayers earning roughly $34,000 and members of the military. Intuit withdrew from the program in July 2021, saying in a blog post that the company could provide more benefits without the program’s limitations.

The company also offers a commercial product called “TurboTax Free Edition” that is only for taxpayers with “simple returns,” as defined by Intuit.

According to documents obtained by ProPublica, Intuit executives knew they were deceiving customers by advertising free services that were not in fact free to everyone.

“The website lists Free, Free, Free and the customers are assuming their return will be free,” an internal company PowerPoint presentation said. “Customers are getting upset.”

Under the agreement, Intuit will provide restitution to consumers who started using the commercial TurboTax Free Edition for tax years 2016 through 2018 and were told that they had to pay to file even though they were eligible for the version of TurboTax offered as part of the IRS Free File program.

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GivingTuesday raises $3.1B for charities in tough economy

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NEW YORK (AP) — GivingTuesday raised a record $3.1 billion in 24 hours for charitable causes in the U.S. earlier this week, as the event that started as a hashtag in 2012 celebrated its 10th anniversary and its status as a staple of fundraising for nonprofits, the group’s leader said Wednesday.

Despite the difficult economic year that many households have experienced, with inflation in the costs of basic goods, gas and housing, people were still willing to give, said GivingTuesday CEO Asha Curran.

“That’s really what we saw yesterday,” she told The Associated Press. “That whatever it is that people are experiencing, they were as generous as they had the capacity to be.”

GivingTuesday estimated that giving increased about 15% from 2021′s $2.7 billion, outpacing inflation. Donations were tallied using an array of data sources that includes major community foundations, companies that offer fundraising software, the payment processor PayPal and large grantmakers like Fidelity Charitable and Vanguard Charitable. Their methodology for compiling the estimate seeks to eliminate duplicate data points, Curran said.

In another measure of the resilience of donations, Fidelity Charitable said Tuesday that for the first time since 2018, the value of grants from its donor advised funds exceeds the value of investments going into the funds.

The organization said this year’s totals marked the largest amount donated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving since the group started tracking it.

The hashtag to promote fundraising on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving started in 2012 as a project of the 92nd Street Y and the organization GivingTuesday became an independent nonprofit in 2020. The organization has also launched a campaign to raise $26 million over five years to expand their database of giving.

In the tenth year of nonprofits and donors marking the day, Curran said, people continue to show incredible generosity.

“They give in a multitude of ways. It does not always have to do with money. It often has to do with community. It is very collective. It has a lot to do with people feeling like they are a fractal of a larger whole,” Curran said. “And yesterday was just one more reaffirmation of that.”

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Stocks fall as Fed signals rates need to go still higher

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Stocks closed lower on Wall Street and Treasury yields rose Thursday afternoon after more indications from the Federal Reserve that it may need to raise interest rates much higher than many people expect to get inflation under control.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3%, with retailers and banks among the biggest weights on the benchmark index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped less than 0.1%, while the Nasdaq composite closed 0.3% lower.

Decliners outnumbered gainers on the New York Stock Exchange by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. Smaller company stocks fell harder than the rest of the market, pulling the Russell 2000 index 0.8% lower.

Bond yields rose and hovered around multidecade highs. The yield on the two-year Treasury note rose to 4.45% from 4.37% late Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, rose to 3.77% from 3.69% late Wednesday.

The Fed has been raising rates aggressively in order to tame inflation by applying the brakes to the economy. Investors have been hoping that more signs of easing inflation could help the central bank shift to less aggressive rate increases.

The central bank, though, has been clear about its intent to keep raising rates, possibly to unexpectedly high levels, to tame inflation. James Bullard, who leads the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, reaffirmed that position in a presentation on Thursday, suggesting the Fed’s short-term rate may have to rise to a level between 5% and 7% in order to quash stubbornly hot inflation. The central bank has already raised its key rate to a range of 3.75% to 4%, up from nearly zero as recently as last March.

“Bullard’s comments this morning suggesting that they need to get the fed fund (rate) between 5% and 7% was a surprise, to say the least, to markets,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments. “That certainly was a shock to folks and pushed us further down.”

The S&P 500 fell 12.23 points to 3,946.56. The Dow dropped 7.51 points to 33,546.32. The Nasdaq lost 38.70 points to close at 11,144.96. The Russell 2000 index fell 14.04 points to 1,839.12. The major indexes are all headed for weekly losses.

The presentation from Bullard follows reports showing that inflation is starting to ease somewhat, but still remains extremely hot as consumers continue spending amid a very strong jobs market. Strong spending and employment remain a potential bulwark against the economy slipping into a recession. It also means the Fed will likely remain aggressive and raises the risk that it will hit the brakes hard enough on the economy to actually bring on a recession.

Stock markets “got a little bit ahead of themselves” after getting encouraging reports on consumer and wholesale prices easing a bit, said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird. “But, the Fed knows they have a long way to go.”

“When you have the (Fed) statement already laying it out and someone like Bullard saying what he said, there is a little bit of jawboning markets back down and letting investors know this fight is not over.”

Outside of concerns about inflation, the market is also worried about Russia’s war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China hurting the global economy.

The conflict in Ukraine has been weighing on the energy sector and any worsening could cause spikes in prices for oil, gas and other commodities that the region produces. U.S. oil prices fell 4.6%.

China’s “zero-COVID” approach has caused a supply crunch for some of Asia’s biggest manufacturers, denting economic growth.

Markets in Asia and Europe fell.

Companies are also wrapping up the latest round of earnings reports. Macy’s jumped 15% after beating analysts’ quarterly financial forecasts and raising its earnings outlook.

Retailer Bath & Body Works soared 25.2% after reporting strong financial results.

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CFHLA CEO Robert Agrusa Receives Recognition from State Rep. Daisy Morales

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Former State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).
Former State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – State Representative Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) presented Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO Robert Agrusa with a certificate at the CFHLA headquarters last week.

Rep. Morales honored his and the CFHLA’s strong relationship and support for her office. The certificate for “Outstanding Support” reads in part: “I hereby recognize you for your support of the Office of State Representative Daisy Morales.”

 

Former State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

 

“I’m honored to recognize Mr. Agrusa,” said Representative Morales. “I appreciate Mr. Agrusa’s and the CFHLA’s commitment to our rebounding and ever-growing hospitality industry.”

 

Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

 

According to research done earlier this year, some 36 million travelers visited Florida in the first quarter of 2022, just six million more than the visitors in 4th quarter of 2021, and the numbers are on a steady upward trajectory. Prior to the pandemic, Florida boasted an average of over 72 million visitors per year.

The CFHLA will host its annual Hospitality Gala, its signature black tie event in which the organization recognizes hospitality industry leaders and supporters, on December 17, 2022 at the Disney Coronado Resort.

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Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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