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Your Tax Return Should Stay Private – Why You Should Say No to TurboTax’s Data Grab

Mar 25, 2024

Your Tax Return Should Stay Private – Why You Should Say No to TurboTax’s Data Grab

As you prepare your taxes this year using TurboTax, be on high alert when the software prompts you to “OK a couple of things.” With an innocent-sounding request, TurboTax is trying to get you to forfeit the legal privacy protections around your susceptible tax return data.

TurboTax, owned by Intuit, wants your permission to share details from your tax return—including your income, debts, investment details, and more—with itself and third-party companies. With this data, TurboTax can then bombard you with targeted ads and offers for credit cards, mortgages, and other financial products for years after you file.

Your tax return contains an incredibly intimate look at your financial life. It lays out your income sources, investment holdings, debt obligations, family situation, etc. Federal law tightly restricts what tax preparers can do with this data to protect your privacy. Unless you explicitly allow it, companies like TurboTax are prohibited from exploiting your tax data for any purpose other than preparing your return.

But TurboTax has found a sneaky workaround – it simply asks users for permission to use and share their tax data widely. And the way it works, the request deliberately downplays what a massive intrusion into your privacy you are allowing.

The Deceptive Opt-In Screen

When using TurboTax, you’ll likely encounter a screen stating, “We just need your OK on a couple of things.” It says TurboTax wants to “use your tax info to provide you with more personalized offers” and “share your data” to “improve your experience.”

Let’s stop right there. Already, the wording could be more precise and obfuscate what TurboTax is trying to do – exploit the deep insights into your finances for its gain and that of its corporate partners.

If you dig into the details, you’ll find that saying yes allows TurboTax to share data like:

  • Your household income
  • Investment interest and income amounts
  • Whether you paid student loans or mortgage interest
  • How much your tax refund was
  • And much more

TurboTax then uses this data trove to laser-target you with promoted offers, emails, and advertisements across its services and outside companies. It even shares the data with its Intuit siblings, like Credit Karma.

An Intuit spokesperson claims there is a “clear and transparent explanation” and “nothing is hidden” when it asks for this consent. But the vague “OK, a couple of things” phrasing completely contradicts that. Many would surely think twice if users truly understood how much private data they were surrendering.

You Have the Power to Say No

Here’s the good news—you are under no obligation to let TurboTax and its parent company, Intuit, run roughshod over your privacy in this way. Federal law gives you the right to refuse this data sharing.

When that “OK, a couple of things” screen appears, read it carefully. It will mention TurboTax wanting to use details from your tax return to promote financial offers and share data with third parties.

Protecting Your Data is Your Choice

There’s a bigger picture beyond TurboTax’s attempt to monetize your private financial details. We’re in the midst of a corporate arms race to extract as much personal data as possible and exploit it for profit.

Your apps, your TV, your car, your smart home devices—every company wants to know as much about you as possible to better target you with offers, advertising, and services. Handing your tax return data to TurboTax is sacrificing one of your last bastions of enforced privacy.

TurboTax tries to downplay and sugar-coat what it’s asking by saying it will provide “personalized offers” and an “improved experience.” But giving up your tax return data has nothing to do with the tax preparation service. It’s about letting TurboTax exploit your private life for its gain.

The onus is on you as a consumer to push back. Corporations will continually try to erode privacy and find new ways to make money from your personal information. Sometimes, you have to put your foot down, which is one of those times.

When TurboTax smugly prompts you to “OK a couple of things,” take a stand for your privacy. Read the details carefully, consider what you’d be giving up, and refuse to let the company cash in on your most private financial information without your consent.

Saying no to TurboTax’s request costs you nothing and does not affect filing your taxes. However, it conveys that privacy should be the priority, not corporate profits from your data. Exercise your rights, and don’t get trapped in TurboTax’s latest attempt to monetize you.

Arun’s Arunism’s