Weekly Reads
Weekly Reads - March 13, 2023

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TurboTax’s stranglehold on the tax filing industry could be in jeopardy with the launch of a free filing tool by the IRS that could erode TurboTax’s pricing power and market share over time. 

The IRS might be getting into the online tax prep business with over $80 billion in the coffers to help a design a free alternative to Intuit’s TurboTax. The Inflation Reduction Act that was signed last August allocated $80 billion to help modernize the IRS which entails building the most expansive version of a direct e-file program. Wall Street remains skeptical that the government will be able to build a competitive filing system, but regulators continue to push for more competition in the space. There has been growing dissatisfaction around TurboTax with government officials accusing TurboTax of tricking low-income customers into paying for services it described as free or upselling customer packages they did not need. In response to these criticisms, Intuit has increased its spending on government lobbying hoping to derail any chance of a government funded e-file program. Intuit’s management has claimed that this news is a “non-event” and the IRS has had plans to launch its own filing system as far back as 1998 with no significant traction. Advocates for a government-run filing system agree that the IRS has failed in the past to create a worthwhile competitor but now with new funding the IRS can build a functional alternative to TurboTax. While Intuit continues to express that this remains a non-issue the convenient rise in their lobbying expense alongside growing dissatisfaction from regulators and consumers indicates otherwise.

Loosening U.S. regulation of the mining and metals industry could help drive the development of clean technologies faster and help return jobs back to the U.S that were lost to other countries the last few decades.

The recent enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act(IRA) last August has kicked off a meteoric rise in proposals for new mining operations, mineral facilities, and battery plants. A stipulation in the IRA restricts EV tax credits for vehicles with batteries using a significant portion of minerals from U.S. or countries that have a free-trade agreement with the U.S. EV batteries use a multitude of different minerals such as cobalt, graphite, lithium, manganese, and nickel; most of it coming from countries like China. The IRA could set up the onshoring of mining jobs back into U.S. that have been lost historically to emerging countries. The problem remains that getting mining permits and meeting environment regulation is tough in the U.S. which could slow down the development of clean energy since mining capacity can not grow as quickly domestically as it can in emerging countries. David Turk, deputy secretary of the Department of Energy, spoke with MIT and shared his vision on the future of U.S. mining and manufacturing. Mr. Turk expressed a need to move away from Chinese dominated raw material supply chains and to reduce the timeline in getting mining proposals approved. There seems to be both government and corporate motivation to accelerate domestic mining and manufacturing operations to help reduce our reliance on foreign supplied raw materials and speed up the development of clean technology.

The failure of SVB has put into the question the viability of regional banks and is pushing the movement of deposits into the largest U.S. banks setting up these giant banks as potential long-term beneficiaries of this crisis.

The failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has resulted in what executives are saying is the biggest movement of deposits in more than a decade with the largest U.S. banks absorbing funds from smaller institutions. There is a growing fear that the failure at SVB might be the start of a financial contagion that may cause the fall of other regional banks. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America are speeding up the onboarding process to help new customers move their deposits into these large banks. These banks have cut the timeline to open anew account from a few days to less than one day and are reassigning employees to help deal with onslaught of calls for new account openings. These big banks are much better capitalized than their regional competitors making them a safe haven for fleeing regional bank customers. Once these customers are fully onboard it is unlikely that they return back to regional banks giving the large U.S. banks a greater command of banking market share.