Intuit Opens TurboTax to Developers to Create New Apps, Services

The maker of TurboTax is offering select developers the opportunity to reach more than 30 million customers who use Intuit’s flagship tax preparation program.

Intuit Recruits Developers 2

Intuit has opened its TurboTax online software platform to developers, a move it expects eventually will lead to a range of new financial services and products. The key word here is “eventually,” because Intuit is being picky about which developers get access to TurboTax.

As part of its Dec. 13 announcement, Intuit specifically mentioned online lender Earnest as the first developer in the program. Earnest has completed more than $1 billion in loans since January 2015, and says it has saved clients $300 million overall.

Intuit estimates some 5 million TurboTax customers who have student loans will be able to use their own data and the new offering from Earnest to get a free estimate on refinancing those loans. Over the coming year, Intuit says it plans to add more partners to create a “consumer marketplace” that will give developers the ability to offer a larger variety of financial services.

“Earnest is simply the first example of an app that leverages a small fraction of our student loan data,” Varun Krishna, vice president of product at Intuit TurboTax, told eWEEK.

“Overall, we want every app to find and save money for consumers. We want to work with the best and most trusted brands and those already familiar with solving financial problems,” he continued. “To me, this is all about what can be made possible when this data is made securely available for the first time.”

Krishna said Intuit is being deliberate in deciding which developer partners to invite to the program to be sure they bring value and can scale up quickly.

While there are many software vendors that offer software development kits and other means for independent developers to write apps for their software platform, Krishan said Intuit’s program is unique in at least one respect: “We’re doubling down on letting users always control their own data.”

For example, in the case of the Earnest service, users are able to get an initial quote for a loan based on anonymized data. Customers simply enter the amount of the loan and other information about it, but nothing about their identity, to see what’s available in terms of a refinance. Customers who want to start an application process would then, at that point, share information about themselves specifically to the third-party lender.

Krishna emphasized that the developer program is in its early stages, but Intuit thinks it’s going to be a big deal. “We believe we’re creating a category that’s brand new based on data that hasn’t been seen before at this scale. There’s going to be plenty of room for developers to innovate,” he said.

At this point, he noted, Intuit isn’t limiting itself to a single business model and is open to exploring paid apps as well as subscription and advertiser-based services. “There are going to be many different kinds of services coming out of this,” Krishna said.

Historically, TurboTax has been a seasonal business centered around filing taxes. As it expands to other offerings via partnerships like the one with Earnest, TurboTax has the potential to become more of a year-round financial services business.

In its fiscal first quarter earnings report last month, Intuit said the number of QuickBooks Online subscribers rose 41 percent to 1.6 million.

Developers interested in finding out more about Intuit’s developer program can contact openplatform@intuit.com

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...