Intuit Overhauls Lobbying Roster Following IRS Direct File Announcement

The TurboTax owner dropped its lobbying contracts with six D.C. firms after the IRS announced a free tax filing pilot program and brought on 21 new lobbyists.

Intuit Overhauls Lobbying Roster Following IRS Direct File Announcement
(Intuit TurboTax, by Focal Foto on Flickr)

Following the Internal Revenue Service’s announcement that it will create a free, electronic tax-filing system for individual taxpayers, tax prep giant Intuit has shuffled its roster of lobbyists. 

Since Sept. 1, Intuit, the owner of TurboTax, has hired 21 new lobbyists from five D.C. firms. Almost all of its new lobbyists—20 of the 21—went through the so-called “revolving door” from positions in government, according to their Senate registration forms. The hirings came after the firm terminated its lobbying contracts with six D.C. firms in August and September, according to Senate disclosures.

In May, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it would create a Direct File pilot program, something that Intuit and the for-profit tax prep industry had been vehemently opposed to in their lobbying.

The announcement came after the IRS conducted a feasibility study with liberal think tank New America and Loyola Law School Associate Professor of Law Ariel Jurow-Kleiman in which it was found that 72% of Americans would be interested in using the program. The feasibility study had been mandated by the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed into law in August 2022. In October, the IRS announced that the pilot program may be available for individuals in 13 states to file their federal returns for free, electronically for the 2024 tax year, and that four states had decided to work with the IRS on their state taxes into the program.

Intuit, which holds a large majority of the tax prep market share through TurboTax, has been engaged in a decades-long, all-out lobbying campaign against the development of a Direct File option. Along with industry players like H&R Block, Inuit has been at the forefront of more than $90 million in industry lobbying since 2003, according to an OpenSecrets analysis. ProPublica journalists estimated in 2020 that tax software companies bring in about $1 billion in extra revenue per year from taxpayers who qualify to file their taxes free of charge—part of Intuit’s $14.4 billion in revenue in its 2023 fiscal year.

Intuit is on track to spend more on federal lobbying this year than ever before, according to OpenSecrets, with more than $2.8 million spent through the third quarter. Intuit’s new registered lobbyists began being disclosed publicly on a noteworthy date: October 17, the same day the IRS announced the states where the Direct File pilot would be on offer. 

Several of Intuit’s new lobbyists have worked for Republicans in Congress who are now trying to strip the IRS of billions in funding that was provided to it by the IRA and prohibit it from going forward with the Direct File pilot program. 

One new Intuit lobbyist is Jeff Wieand, public policy advisor at law firm WilmerHale, who worked for more than five years as counsel to Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, now the House Majority Leader. Wieand’s biography at the firm mentions his service in counting Republican votes when Scalise was party whip. Wieand is newly-traveled through the revolving door: he worked for Scalise through 2022, according to his disclosure. Scalise recently defended a GOP bill passed early this month that would rescind IRS funding. Also with WilmerHale, Ron Lehman, a senior public policy advisor who joined Intuit’s lobbying corps, was a former chief of staff to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The firm’s registration says it will weigh in for Intuit on “tax administration” issues.