Intuit agreed to pay $141 million in a settlement over “free” TurboTax advertisements.
Customers in every state who were duped by deceptive claims of free tax-filing services will get $141 million from the company that created TurboTax, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James. The attorney generals of all 50 states agreed to a settlement requiring Intuit Inc.’s Mountain View, California-based firm to cease advertising TurboTax as “free” when it isn’t.
The settlement comes after a nearly two-year investigation by a coalition of state attorneys general, who alleged that TurboTax used deceptive practices to trick customers into paying for tax-filing services that should have been free. The goal of her research into Intuit, according to Letitia James, was sparked by a ProPublica expose published in 2019 that revealed the firm was using deceptive tactics to persuade low-income tax filers away from federally sponsored free services for which they were qualified — and toward its own commercial solutions.
“Intuit has misled the most vulnerable among us for years to make a profit,
and today every state in the country is holding them accountable for defrauding millions of taxpayers. We’re putting millions of dollars back into the pockets of those who were scammed,” James said. “This settlement should serve as a warning to businesses that we will not hesitate to take action against those who seek to exploit New Yorkers for their own gain.” Intuit acknowledged no guilt, agreed to pay $141 million to put the matter behind it and made certain undertakings in connection with its advertising practices as part of the settlement. Intuit already follows most of these advertising rules and is confident that implementing the remaining changes will have little effect on its business going forward.”
Intuit (INTU) will also have to change the way it advertises TurboTax, and make it clear that the “free” version of the software is only available to those who qualify. The company will also have to stop using paid celebrities or endorsements in ads for TurboTax unless it’s clear that they’re being compensated. Intuit formerly offered two free versions of TurboTax, one through its membership in the IRS’s Free File Program. The other was a free edition that Intuit marketed as “free if you file your taxes with us.” In July 2021, Intuit announced it was withdrawing from the program because it could provide more services without the restrictions imposed by the program.
Intuit isn’t the only company that has come under fire for its tax-filing practices. H&R Block, which also offers a free tax-filing service, was sued by the city of New York in March 2021 for allegedly deceiving customers about the true costs of its services.
Intuit also provides a commercial product called “TurboTax Free Edition,” which is only for clients with “simple returns,” as determined by Intuit. According to ProPublica’s leak of documents, Intuit executives were aware that they were lying to consumers by advertising free services that were not free. Consumers who began using the commercial TurboTax Free Edition for tax years 2016 through 2018 and were told they had to pay to file even though they were qualified for the version of TurboTax offered as part of the IRS Free File program will be eligible for compensation.
Consumers will get a straight payment of roughly $30 for each year they were duped into paying for tax filing services, according to James. By mail, they will receive notifications and checks automatically. “We equip our customers with the control over their financial lives that includes being in command of their own taxes,” an Intuit representative told ProPublica in a statement. “When we make a mistake, we work hard to make it right.” In the meantime, the IRS has said it will provide free online tax filing for 2021 through its own website. The service is available to anyone with an annual income below $72,000.
A company spokesperson said, “Because the tax collector (who is also the investigator, auditor, and enforcer) is now the tax preparer in a government-run pre-filled tax preparation system, there are conflicts of interest.” The spokesperson also said, “There are better ways to provide free tax preparation to those who need it.” While some competitors have criticized the company for its handling of the situation, others have praised it. “Intuit has always been committed to providing the best possible experience for our customers,” said Dan Maurer, Intuit’s general manager of TurboTax. “We’re sorry for any confusion or frustration this may have caused.”
“Intuit took some important steps to remedy the situation and make things right for their customers,” said John A. Byrne, a tax attorney with the firm Caplan & Earnest LLC.
TSMC to Continue Pushing in 2023
Still has momentum.
We still issue a buy rating on the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE: TSM). Our optimistic outlook on TSMC is based on our belief that the firm is better positioned to outperform now, as the semiconductor industry slowly but steadily improves and the company accounts for lower demand in FY2023. TSMC’s fourth-quarter earnings reports were mixed; the company beat profitability projections but fell short on sales. Despite this, the stock climbed roughly 5% when earnings were released. We believe TSM is attempting to counteract reduced end-market demand and inventory corrections, which have hurt sales and lowered forecasts for the upcoming quarter. It is likely that a bottom in TSM and the semi-space in 1H23, followed by a significant recovery in the year’s second half.
We feel that TSM’s stock is a good entry place before the semi-space rebounds. Since our last post on TSMC in late October, the company has already gained 41%, surpassing the SOX index, which has gained only 21%. The graph below depicts our rating history for TSMC.
We urge that investors disregard the market hype surrounding fears of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and instead focus on the company’s industry-first approach. We believe that TSMC is best positioned to benefit from chip demand once the semiconductor market recovers. Furthermore, we anticipate the company will have the additional power to raise ASP in the second half of 2023. We recommend that investors purchase the stock at current levels in order to benefit from TSM’s rising growth trend in 2023.
The leading pure foundry space allows for ASP gains.
We favor TSMC’s position in the foundry industry, with a 60% market share in 4Q22, and expect it to boost ASP on advanced nodes. We predict TSMC’s market share will expand significantly in 2022 as a result of the increased manufacture of smaller, more sophisticated 5nm wafers. Nanometer size is at the heart of technical developments in the semiconductor industry and, by extension, the world. To be more specific, nanoscale size refers to the distance between transistors on a chip; the smaller the chip, the more advanced and high-performing it is. Our positive outlook on TSM is predicated on our expectation that the company’s growth would be driven by increased adoption of advanced nodes, which are gradually accounting for a larger portion of TSMC’s revenue by technology. TSM has also begun the manufacture of 3nm processors for Apple (AAPL), sustaining Moore’s Law and looking ahead to next-generation technologies.
We anticipate that the rising global adoption of advanced nodes to meet the surging demand for semiconductors will fuel TSMC’s medium- to long-term growth. As a result, we anticipate that TSMC’s position will allow it to improve ASP on advanced nodes in 2H23, owing to the fact that it retains big semi-players as top clients, including Nvidia (NVDA), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), and AAPL, among others.
Headwinds still persist
TSMC is not immune to the demand slowdown caused by macroeconomic headwinds, as seen by a dip in 1H23 followed by a fast recovery in 2H23. In Thursday’s results call, TSMC CEO C.C. Wei clarified, stating he anticipates 2023 to be a “slight growth year.” We expect TSMC will face inventory corrections in 1H23 as a result of the deteriorating chip-demand environment. We estimate CAPEX reduction in TSMC during 2023, largely as major client AAPL forecasts reduced demand despite weaker consumer spending. TSMC management warned that revenue would fall by roughly 5% in 1Q23, and that annual spending would be reduced. TSMC announced a CAPEX of $36.3B in 2022 and expects CAPEX to be $32-36B in 2023. We are not concerned by TSMC’s lower 1Q23 prediction because we believe the firm is de-risking guidance due to the challenging macro environment.
Despite the macroeconomic challenges, we expect TSMC to continue growing its foundry operations outside of Taiwan in order to mitigate the risks of geographically concentrating manufacturing on the disputed Island. We believe TSMC will play a larger role in the global shift to manufacturing chips in the United States after the CHIPS Act is implemented in 2022. The business intends to more than increase its investment in US foundries to $40 billion by 2026, establishing the US as a hub for advanced chip manufacturing. We estimate that it will take three to four years for US semiconductor companies Intel (INTC) and TSMC to meaningfully produce chips on US territory. Nonetheless, we anticipate that TSMC’s US fabs will be a long-term growth driver.
We predict TSMC stock to rise in the second half of 2019 as the semiconductor sector recovers from a 15-month slump. We anticipate that product introductions and expanded manufacturing of 5nm wafers will help the semiconductor industry recover.
We feel TSMC is a value investment since it is selling at a discount to its peer group average. The company is trading at 14.4x C2023 P/E, compared to the peer group average of 21.9x. The company is currently selling at 0.2x EV/C2023 Sales, compared to the peer group average of 4.8x. We believe TSMC stock offers an appealing entry point at current levels, and that investors who purchase the stock now will be well rewarded in 2023.
What should be done with the stock?
We remain optimistic about TSMC. We believe the stock is reacting to lower chip demand in 2023. While we expect the stock to remain volatile in 1H23 as the semiconductor space bottoms, we believe TSMC will benefit from demand tailwinds as the semi-space recovers in 2H23. We also anticipate that TSMC’s growth will be fueled by higher 5nm production and the company’s capacity to boost ASP on advanced nodes in 2H23. We feel the stock offers a good entry point at the current price and propose that investors acquire it.
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Solana is Coming Back to Life With a Massive Surge
It’s a true comeback: the triumphant return of Solana that many experts and industry insiders had written off after the bankruptcy of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX on November 11.
They predicted that SOL would not be able to withstand the earthquake symbolized by the collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange and its sister company Alameda Research, a hedge fund that also serves as a trading platform for institutional investors.
In the crypto world, FTX and Alameda were the major corporations representing the Bankman-Fried crypto empire, abbreviated SBF.
Solana did, in fact, have intimate ties to Bankman-Fried. Sol, also known as “Sam coin,” is a token produced by the Solana Blockchain that enables the development of decentralized finance or DeFi projects that provide financial services such as loans, mortgages, financial products, and so on.
The coin is linked to an on-chain crypto exchange dubbed project Serum, which was founded by Bankman-Fried, who resigned on November 11 when his enterprise declared bankruptcy.
Serum is one of the infrastructure’s pillars, as it is the protocol and ecosystem that enables Solana DeFi’s fast speed and low transaction cost. It provides an on-chain central limit order book and matching engine, allowing institutional and retail investors to share liquidity and use strong trading features.
It allows developers the freedom to create trading applications without limitations, as it is not tied to any specific assets. This allows them to utilize Serum’s liquidity and ecosystem advantages in their trading application.
As if to prove Cassandra correct, Sol prices plunged by 73% between the onset of FTX’s issues on November 6 and December 31.
They finished the year at $9.96, down from $32.72 on November 5.
SOL has increased by 79%.
However, as quickly as they fell, so did the prices of Sol. According to monitoring firm CoinGecko, they are up 79% in the last seven days. Sol is currently knocking on the doors of the top ten cryptocurrencies in terms of market value. Before the club’s demise, the token belonged to it.
Prices are currently trading at $23.39, a 134% increase from the beginning of the year.
After a statement of support from Vitalik Buterin, one of the most important voices in the crypto world, sentiment toward Solana shifted.
“Some clever people tell me there is a sincere brilliant developer community in Solana, and now that the nasty opportunistic money people have been washed out, the chain has a bright future,” Buterin, one of the co-founders of Ethereum, the most powerful crypto platform, wrote on Twitter on December 29.
“Hard for me to know from the outside,” he said, “but I hope the neighborhood gets a fair shot to grow.”
According to numerous industry sources, the resurrection of SOL is also attributable to an increase in demand for decentralized financial projects. The Solana blockchain enables developers to create decentralized apps, or dApps, at a low cost and provides fast transaction execution.
Its scalability, speed, and affordability make it an appealing alternative for DeFi initiatives that require significant volumes of transactions to be processed rapidly and at a cheap cost.
“While traders are cheering the return of Bitcoin (back over $21,000), and Ethereum (back over $1,550), #Solana is the real star as the weekend begins,” said Santiment, an on-chain analytics business. “$SOL has gained +22% in the last two hours alone, fuelled by liquidated shorts.”
According to Santiment, the significant comeback in Sol prices is the result of a “short squeeze,” which is a fast increase in the price of an asset caused by investors who bet against the product, being forced to purchase it in order to limit their losses.
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Is Alibaba Now Poised to Rally?
After reaching record lows not seen since 2016, 2022 was merciless for Alibaba Group Holding (NYSE: BABA). This comes as no surprise given all of the recent China-related news. A zero-COVID policy has stifled output and demand, while antitrust laws from the ruling party have targeted its tech companies. The continued supply chain and labor constraints haven’t helped matters either. Was 2022 always a difficult year with such headwinds?
Maybe, but things are starting to turn around, and it appears that the bulls have returned. Major tailwinds are expected to carry Alibaba into 2023. Let’s look at a few of them.
For openers, analysts have identified numerous stocks as poised for a comeback bounce in the coming year. Alibaba is one of the most recent example. On Monday, Morgan Stanley named the e-commerce behemoth their favorite in the tech sector. According to Gary Yu and his team, investors have “underappreciated Alibaba’s leverage to a Chinese consumption rebound.” This is mostly owing to its retail success in areas such as consumer products.
Yu also anticipates an improvement in China’s regulatory environment, which will go a long way toward reversing the selling pressure that has brought shares down as much as 80% from their 2020 highs. But it isn’t all. Founder Jack Ma recently announced his intention to step down as CEO and pass over the reigns to someone else.
With his name now being disassociated with Alibaba, one more risk and possible headwind has been removed.
Along with the bullish outlook, Morgan Stanley reiterated its Outperform rating and set a $150 price objective for Alibaba shares. This indicates a 30% upside from current levels based on where they closed on Wednesday. Shares are already up almost 100% from their lows in October, so this outlook, simply adds gasoline to the belief that a significant recovery rally is in the works.
Additional tailwinds exist in the shape of the zero-COVID policy being reversed, which will finally allow the Chinese economy to recuperate after living in constant dread of a lockdown. This comes after widespread rallies caused the government to cave, which is unusual in China.
Alibaba’s Risk Factors
There are risks, the most visible of which are geopolitical tensions. When compared to a decade ago, the United States and China are no longer on good terms. The conflict in Ukraine and escalating tensions with Taiwan have not helped the relationship.
This has filtered down to corporations, with the United States refusing to transfer semiconductor chips to China for fear that they may be used against them in the future. Chinese retaliation is not ruled out and would almost certainly aggravate the situation.
Furthermore, the delisting risk that has dogged Alibaba and its counterparts in recent years has not materialized as many bears predicted. It still exists, but the longer Alibaba remains on the good side of US auditors, the more likely its shares will become a permanent fixture on the New York Stock Exchange.
Indeed, there was news on this front as recently as the last week of December, when it was reported that numerous US-listed Chinese companies had abandoned intentions to list in Hong Kong. This approach was positioned as their backup option for remaining listed outside of China if the US followed through on the threat of delisting.
Still, this is the beast from the east, Alibaba. While shares have been heavily discounted in recent years, a specter of their former self remains, as indicated by the stock’s doubling in value in less than three months.
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