More than 70,000 New Jersey consumers are eligible for a portion of $2.15 million in direct restitution under the terms of a settlement reached by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories with Intuit, the maker of the do-it-yourself online tax preparation software TurboTax.

The settlement was announced Wednesday by Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin, as the Garden State was among an executive committee that led the investigation into Intuit and TurboTax's claims, in television commercials and other advertisements, of offering free tax help.

According to a release from the Office of the Attorney General, Intuit used "deceptive web tactics" to conceal a no-cost program developed with the Internal Revenue Service for low- and middle-income users, tricking many who thought they were getting free services into upgrading to paid ones.

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Overall, the multistate agreement is valued at $141 million, with nearly 4.5 million consumers across America eligible for repayment.

The alleged deceptive practices had begun by 2016 at the latest, according to the investigation, characterized by a series of since-discontinued TV commercials featuring users repeating the words "free, free, free."

Customers who searched for the no-cost, IRS-contracted program commonly found themselves on TurboTax's commercial website, on which the "Free Edition" software often led to $60 to $120 in software upgrades, OAG said.

That resulted in a loss of more than $100 million to these consumers intending to use the IRS-hosted Free File software between 2017 and 2021.

In addition to paying restitution, under the terms of the settlement, Intuit must clearly disclose that eligibility limitations apply to its "free" products, and that those may not be available to all taxpayers.

No action needs to be taken by anyone who may be eligible for a restitution payout, which will be made directly by a fund administrator, according to the OAG.

 

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