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IRS Reforms Free File, Drops Agreement Not to Compete With TurboTax

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IRS Reforms Free File, Drops Agreement Not to Compete With TurboTax

Justin Elliot and Paul Kiel for ProPublica

Finding free online tax filing should be easier this year for millions of Americans.

The IRS announced significant changes Monday to its deal with the tax prep software industry. Now companies are barred from hiding their free products from search engines such as Google, and a years-old prohibition on the IRS creating its own online filing system has been scrapped.

The addendum to the deal, known as Free File, comes after ProPublica’s reporting this year on how the industry, led by TurboTax maker Intuit, has long misled taxpayers who are eligible to file for free into paying.

Under the nearly two-decade-old Free File deal, the industry agreed to make free versions of tax filing software available to lower- and middle-income Americans. In exchange, the IRS promised not to compete with the industry by creating its own online filing system. Many developed countries have such systems, allowing most citizens to file their taxes for free.

The prohibition on the IRS creating its own system was the focus of years of lobbying by Intuit. The industry has seen such a system as an existential threat. Now, with the changes to the deal, the prohibition has been dropped.

The addendum also expressly bars the companies from “engaging in any practice” that would exclude their Free File offerings “from an organic internet search.” ProPublica reported in April that Intuit and H&R Block had added code to their Free File pages that hid them from Google and other search engines, diverting many users to the companies’ paid products.

“The improved process will make Free File stronger and give taxpayers another reason to consider this valuable software option,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. The agency hopes the changes will make the free option more accessible for taxpayers in the 2020 filing season, he said.

Under the new rules, participating companies also have to standardize the naming convention of their Free File version as “IRS Free File program delivered by …”

In the past, many tax filers reported being confused by the difference between, for example, TurboTax Free and TurboTax Free File.

In a blog post on the Intuit website, the company said, “Intuit strongly supports these changes to the Free File program and associated Free File offerings because they increase the focus on the taxpayer experience.”

Intuit faces multiple ongoing lawsuits and investigations into whether the company deceived customers. The company has said such accusations are baseless.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.

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The Most Expensive Home in LA Cost Jeff Bezos Only 0.13% of Net Worth

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LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Times) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks onstage for the launch of the Fire Phone in Seattle. It can be hard to grasp the wealth of Jeff Bezos, the planet’s richest man.

Thankfully his decision to spend $165 million on a Beverly Hills mansion last week — a California record — offers some clarity.

For starters, there’s this easy calculation. Amazon’s stock, the source of Bezos’ fortune, bounces around daily, but as of the close of markets last week, Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index calculated his net worth at $130 billion despite a $833 million stock market hit Friday.

That means the nine figure sum he’s shelling out for the former estate of movie mogul Jack Warner amounts to only 0.13% of his net worth, rounded up ever so slightly. Not too many Angelenos could […]

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Faring Seeking $375M in Construction Financing for WeHo Mixed-Use Project

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Faring Seeking $375M in Construction Financing for WeHo Mixed-Use Project

WEST HOLLYWOOD (Commercial Observer) — Faring is seeking $375.2 million in construction financing for Robertson Lane , its mega mixed-use development in West Hollywood, Commercial Observer has learned.

The five-year, floating-rate lending opportunity is being marketed by Cushman & Wakefield ’s Rob Rubano , Brian Share , Ernesto Sanchez , Joseph Lieske , Becca Tse and Keith Paden , according to an offering memorandum shared with CO. Officials at C&W declined to comment.

Sources said the deal hit the market on Tuesday.

When completed, the 1.92-acre project— located at 652 North La Peer Drive , at the edge of Beverly Hills—will include a 5-star, 182-room hotel, a private members’ club with 19 guest rooms and high-end retail, restaurant, office and banquet space. The development will also feature a three-level subterranean […]

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Amoeba Hollywood is Moving to El Centro Complex

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HOLLYWOOD — Amoeba is the community’s source for music, music, and more. It is going to have a new space by labor day on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Argyle, in the heart of everything.

It will cover a large ground level space in the new “El Centro” complex in downtown Hollywood. This is just 2 blocks east and 2 blocks north of the current location, and right next door to the Fonda Theatre. 

While it is a bit smaller, Amoeba will be able to house all the usual formats and goodies. It is a virtual Hollywood institution. The store expects to close temporarily to get set up. In the interim, the store will continue to have live shows, signings, DJ Sets, and meet-and-greet events every week, as they do now.

In addition, the trade counter will be right up front in the new location, like it is now. There will be a few short-term meters on Argyle for easy unloading.

In the El Centro complex there will be great L.A.-based businesses such as Urban Radish Market & Healthy Spot as our neighbors. Next door is the always rockin’ Fonda Theatre, and just across Hollywood Blvd. is the new Funko Pop store and Shake Shack, with the historic Pantages Theater and Frolic Room just west of us on Hollywood Blvd. Additionally, there are many eateries, coffee shops, retail shopping, and the huge W Hotel all within easy walking distance.

According to Mayor Garcetti, “Los Angeles is a creative capital — a place filled with dreamers who move and inspire us every day. Amoeba Music reflects the best of this creative spirit, and Angelenos are fortunate this beloved cultural treasure has found a new home guaranteeing its place in our city for years to come.” 

In the words of Mitch O’Farrell, Los Angeles City Councilmember, “I think I speak for most Angelenos when I say that we are thrilled that our beloved Amoeba Music is staying in Hollywood.”



Follow Amoeba’s social channels (FacebookInstagramTwitter) and/or sign up for the weekly email newsletter in the space below. They’ll be posting updates online at amoeba.com/moveupdate.

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