H&R Block: Working Hard to Gouge the Lower Class
March 9, 2015 1:27 PM   Subscribe

H & R Block's lobbyists shaped the Affordable Care Act behind closed doors. Now they're advertising heavily on the premise that "no one can understand" the ACA (aka Obamacare) tax filing requirements.

H&R Block spokespeople have been candid about its anticipation of the millions of extra fees they expect to rake in. It has been running scare ads since January warning people that if they do their own taxes, they will probably screw them up.

The Affordable Care Act's subsidies program requires that thousands of people file a return who have never had to file before. Many people are discovering that they didn't qualify for subsides and now have to pay them back, and many people are discovering that they qualified for more subsidies than they actually received. H & R Block is charging people for this extra paperwork.

(Its principal rival, TurboTax, says it doesn't intend to charge anything for completing and filing ACA related forms. It is also advertising that many people who qualify for a waiver of the penalty fee won't claim the waiver, and it has provided a quick onine tool that helps determine if a taxpayer qualifies for one of the 30 exemptions.)

Although TurboTax is coming out as the hero in this particular battle, in the past, it, along with H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, Liberty Tax and others, has been working hard for years to keep the US tax code complicated, opposing all attempts from both sides of the Democrat/Republican aisle to simplify filing, including the European style pre-filled out, automatic filing called Free File. This coalition also unsuccessfully lobbied against state efforts, including California's CalFile, which lets California residents who fit a very strict, simple profile, to file their state returns for free.

(Another free California program called ReadyReturn was also the target of TurboTax's lobbying. ReadyReturn was combined with CalFile) TurboTax's disingenuous rebuttal is here. It says that the IRS sponsored, volunteer staffed VITA program (which has a much lower income maximums allowed- CalFile's $254,000 max vs. VITA's $57,000) already meet the need so why would individual states need to duplicate the efforts? What the rebuttal does not make clear is why TurboTax cares so deeply about individual states wasting their money. Here is the LA Times's rebuttal of the rebuttal.)

More tax filing links: Here's a map of which states offer free filing of state tax returns. California's are very limited and it populates its forms via MyFTB, which is your federal tax return account. That means you need to file your federal return first. I expect that other states have similar restrictions.

Also, here is an article comparing online, do-it-yourself tax programs. It includes a couple of programs I hadn't heard of before.
posted by small_ruminant (47 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
It has been running scare ads since January warning people that if they do their own taxes, they will probably screw them up.

The commercials/ads in question are for HRB's brick-and-mortar tax prep offices, right? The ones I've seen seem to be, anyway.

It's an an odd message to broadcast. I mean...Most people who DIY their taxes are going to use software, including HRB's software, and not sit-down with IRS forms and a calculator. This message seems to say that HRB's own consumer software is inaccurate.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:43 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Always glad for more reasons never to use H&R Block. Their repellent ads are among the worst on TV and make the local ambulance chasers and subprime auto loan sharks look like saintly do-gooders.

Re TurboTax, it should also be noted that the company has just been through a widely-reported significant increase in the filing of fraudulent state tax returns using their service. Minnesota stopped accepting state tax returns filed through TurboTax.
posted by blucevalo at 1:44 PM on March 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Thorzdad, I think they're specifically targeting people who are afraid to do their own taxes and either didn't have to file or could just fill out a 1040EZ but now have an ACA subsidy to report. That, by its nature, means poor and often uneducated people.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yet another reminder that basically all those forms you are filling out are unnecessary and simply enhancing the profits of corporations with business models that belong in the dustbin of history.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


H&R lost my "business" this year (I've been using their free file option). In part because they no longer import last year's data. But mostly because they charge extra if you want to file for EIC.
posted by zinon at 1:57 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Do they really, zinon? That's outrageous!

Full disclosure: I volunteer a couple hours a week at a VITA site, but I recommend you get them to do your taxes. It's FREE!
posted by small_ruminant at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2015


(Its principal rival, TurboTax, says it doesn't intend to charge anything for completing and filing ACA related forms. It is also advertising that many people who qualify for a waiver of the penalty fee won't claim the waiver, and it has provided a quick onine tool that helps determine if a taxpayer qualifies for one of the 30 exemptions.)

We have to file amended returns because this year's TurboTax was bug-ridden. Buyer beware, where Intuit's ecosystem is concerned. Especially when the product is "free", which is suspicious behavior given them ramping customers to higher-cost products as the years go by.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This message seems to say that HRB's own consumer software is inaccurate."

In Canada; this may be the case. I wish that a CPA would look at the forms it produces and make sure, but when I did my taxes with other software I got VERY different, but very consistent results, whereas with H&RB I got a wildly differing result and a subtle ad to go to a Brick and Mortar Rep. Add to that that the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) held off on certifying them (again) and it all adds up to a worrisome thing.

I went with another [free] vendor this year and may not go back after over a decade of using H&R Block's software at cost to me.
posted by NiteMayr at 2:08 PM on March 9, 2015


I haven't used TurboTax. In researching this post, I did read that they refunded everyone's "extra" money they had to pay this year, though, after people flipped out. I didn't know about the bugs, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:10 PM on March 9, 2015


The ACA is such a large bill that touches such a large sector of the economy that I can't imagine any other design of the bill (outside of single payer, of course) that wouldn't have led to some opportunities for accountants to make a buck. You go to war with the Medical Industrial Complex you have, not the one you might wish to have.

And can anyone find a more reputable source for the claim about H&R block's impact on the ACA than the Daily Caller? There's no link to anything more authoritative in the article, and the author's phrasing ("worked on the tax preparation company’s behalf to shape") is something that could be said about any lobbyist working to influence any politician on pretty much any piece of legislation whatsoever. How much lobbying did they do? Who did they lobby? Were they successful in "shaping" it?

On the general subject of taxes, I've done ours with TaxAct Online for many years now and never had any problems. They have started trying to up-sell you on bogus audit protection and record archival B.S., but as long as you steer clear of those, it's a really cost-effective way to file assuming your tax situation isn't complicated enough to need help from an actual accountant.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:11 PM on March 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


What's a regular person to do? It's not that I've used H&R Block, nor would I ever but it's just another example of a government for, of and by the corporations. I'd write my congressperson but really, what the hell good is that going to do? I'm seriously confused what we the people should do about something like this and the myriad other examples of events like this.
posted by damnitkage at 2:11 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The tax prep industry cannot die fast enough, but I don't know how to get there. They have the perfect business model:

1. Convince people that taxes are hard.
2. Convince people that their tax situation is a special unicon.
3. Convince people that the IRS is evil and unforgiving and you will have a bad_day if you screw something up.
4. Convince people that $x is worth peace of mind that #3 doesn't happen or that they would have an error greater than that if done by hand.
5. Use that $ to make the tax process more complicated and fund 1-4

I have always done mine by hand and MAILED them in, and everyone I know thinks I'm crazy. I've screwed up a couple times, but always got friendly correction notices and never felt cheated. It's even more infuriating now that the IRS has electronically received all of the numbers I type into the forms. I want so badly to have something like the Euro Free File.

Even if you try to avoid H&RB or TT, the e-file system is a mess of shady third parties. Why can't I just upload my PDF to IRS.gov? And have them send the relevant info onto my state?
posted by stobor at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2015 [20 favorites]


tonycpsu, no, I don't have another source. Everyone else reporting it is citing the Daily Caller article, including investors.com.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:22 PM on March 9, 2015


I bet they're behind the lack of forms being sent to your local library - we're only getting a smattering of 1040s and one (!) copy of the instructions this year. Everything else has to be printed off the website, but because we can't give tax advice, doesn't help people get what they actually need.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:23 PM on March 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


But mostly because they charge extra if you want to file for EIC.

That is comically evil.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


I have used both HRB and TT software in the past, with general success and satisfaction. But this year HRB turned out to be a confusing, bug-infested disaster and my taxes are double-plus-extra-complicated, due to life circumstances unrelated to the ACA or tax software. And what I have heard in the news and from people employed by tax prep storefronts doesn't fill me with confidence; you won't get me in that door.

I've hired an actual accountant to get me through this year. Hoping next year will be less difficult and I can take it back into my own hands.

In the meantime Mr Elizilla and I have been doing taxes for a few younger and poorer friends, and we have ended up covering the state e-filing fee ($20) for them, since the HRB software charges an extra $35 to deduct it from their refund. It is a scandalous cash grab from those who can least afford it: the unbanked.
posted by elizilla at 2:28 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The funny thing is that from what I hear, H & R Block brick-and-mortar isn't cheaper than what my tax preparer friends charge. So what's the point?
posted by small_ruminant at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unless I had some serious assurances about the information security of places like HRB, I'd avoid them like the plague for that concern alone.

I don't know what they look like now, but years ago when a friend worked there he figured out as a temp he had access to everything ever filed there (he might have elevated his privileges to make this happen).

[a quick google tells me that their security current compliance officer worked at a firm that I consider quite reputable before getting his job at H&R; it's undoubtably better than it was in the mid-'aughts']
posted by el io at 2:34 PM on March 9, 2015


Which corporation is responsible for us not educating people on things essentially all of them are going to have to do as adults?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:36 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Much like private student loan debt, when I explain our outright stupid tax system to friends in Europe, they don't believe me. How can a modern country operate such a backward system of taxation? It's a question that unfortunately already contains its own answer.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:53 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sitting in our tax advisor's office (aka his living room) right now, having taxes prepared.

I am watching him refer to a fat spiral book of tax guidance. He just told us one of our bank tax forms has the wrong code on it for a tax-exempt Roth IRA distribution.

Its totally worth it to not deal with this stuff by myself now there are multiple incomes, properties, and states to account for. I used to do it all myself... the easy forms really are easy.

But H&R Block are evil vampires.
posted by zennie at 2:57 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Re TurboTax, it should also be noted that the company has just been through a widely-reported significant increase in the filing of fraudulent state tax returns using their service.

Full disclosure: I work for TurboTax. Telephone technical support [1], currently working 10 hour days most days. It's pretty satisfying to help people get their stuff sorted out, if a bit exhausting. (OK, talking on the phone for 10 hours is a lot exhausting.)

It isn't just TurboTax that has seen an uptick in fraudulent filing. It's EVERYONE. The difference is that TurboTax stepped up and added more security measures without even being asked. For instance, if you forget your User Name, you can't just answer one security question and get it back. You have to provide your SSN and go through an ID verification process through Experian. Yeah, it's a pain in the ass, and if you don't pass the Experian screen because you forgot who your car lender was in 1997 or whatever question trips you up, you have to go to the Security team and submit photo ID, but we're not letting J. Random Russian Dude into your account just because he knows your mother's maiden name.

Contrary to what the media have been breathlessly reporting, TurboTax is not being investigated by the IRS or the FBI, and neither is any other online tax prep service. What are being investigated are the fraudulent returns themselves, and TurboTax is cooperating fully with all requests from Law Enforcement. Fraudulent Federal filings are not a new thing at all, we even have a team dedicated to helping people who find that their information has been used to file without their knowledge and consent. The team works really hard to help customers dealing with a horrible situation, and I'm quite annoyed that the media is reporting sensationalist horseshit rather than actual facts.

What's new this year is that some criminals are trying it with State returns as well. Generally, people get very small refunds from their State, if they get any at all. These are small potatoes, and inept crooks.

Minnesota stopped accepting state tax returns filed through TurboTax.

That's not quite accurate.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue contacted TurboTax after 2 MN users reported that their tax returns had been fraudulently filed. We IMMEDIATELY suspended e-filing for ALL State returns - the teams even got pop ups notifying us that we were about to get deluged with "why can't I e-file my state return?" calls, and explained why.

State e-filing was completely suspended for two days while we had Palantir Security come in and investigate. Palantir determined that criminals had obtained legitimate credentials through other means - lists released from other data breaches - that they were testing against multiple websites. Anyone who spends half a minute on tech support is well aware that many people use the same log in credentials across all of the sites they frequent on the internet. Hack one account, you've hacked 'em all, and that's largely been what my customers experiencing this have told me - "My email was hacked, and they changed everything and got all of my credit card information and banking information!" (Before I send them to our security team, I talk to them gently about good password security, and tell them about my own experience with identity theft. It sucks, and they will be going through hell for a good long while, and it does help them to know that some cares.)

Once Palantir determined that we had not suffered a data breach, we began working with the states one by one to turn e-filing back on. Minnesota resumed accepting returns from TurboTax on February 7th. Kentucky was the last state to come back on.

The media are falling all over themselves to yell "FIRST!". I wish they'd be as diligent with accuracy.

So, to drag this back on topic:

I HATE H&R Block and their horrific commercials with a mad passion. I am sick of their "Refund Season" nonsense, and don't even get me started on the ACA scare tactics. I have had a few folks call in, mad as hell that they're not getting back all of the money withheld from their pay. "H&R Block says they can get ALL my money back!"...and I have to do a quick "Taxes and You" educational bit. They are counting on people being uneducated about how taxes work, and once they get them in the door, they take 'em for every dime, including charging extra for the EIC. WTF?? TurboTax just does the EIC, period. No extra charge, it's not like it's complicated for the software to figure out.

It's the ACA stuff that is really chapping my ass, though. I have spoken to literally HUNDREDS of people who need help with the ACA forms. The young folks seem to have it mostly figured out by the time they call me, but the old folks are just breaking my heart. Some of them are calling in on the verge of tears, some are already actively crying. I spend a lot of time with them, first giving them some gentle chit chat, then walking them through the process of sharing their screens with me so I can help them navigate the forms. Just having someone talk them through it helps them a lot, and by the time I've gotten them through to the point that they can go to our ACA team to finalize things, the tears have stopped and they're telling me about the grandkids. Block should be ashamed for 1) needlessly scaring the shit out of them and 2) charging these frightened folks an arm, a leg, and the goddamned dog. Stop making people's grandparents cry, you assholes.

[1] In addition to working out technical problems, I hold a lot of hands, soothe a lot of nerves, and give away a lot of software. Yes, I'm working for a big company, but I'm working for a big company that is inclusive and progressive, as well as filled with people who actually give a shit about the folks who call us every day for help. I'm proud of my team, and of the work we do. We're a tiny cog in a corporate machine, to be sure, but I'm not at all ashamed to be part of that tiny cog.
posted by MissySedai at 3:03 PM on March 9, 2015 [69 favorites]


I haven't used TurboTax. In researching this post, I did read that they refunded everyone's "extra" money they had to pay this year, though, after people flipped out.

Yep, and anyone still being prompted to upgrade is getting it for free. The software is reverting back to "normal" next year. I picked a hell of a year to work for TurboTax, I tell you what.

I didn't know about the bugs, though.

Software will occasionally be buggy. This is never more true than in cases where the software is being revised right up to the dead last minute because the IRS has updated and/or added yet another form. Squish one bug, another one pops up. My customers have brought me some doozies to work out! Most of them are easily sorted, for which my hair is grateful (else I'd tear it all out).

I spent 4 hours on the phone last Monday with a fella whose problem ended up being a nasty Windows problem. Fixed him, too! It was easy once we beat Vista into submission.
posted by MissySedai at 3:15 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Much like private student loan debt, when I explain our outright stupid tax system to friends in Europe, they don't believe me. How can a modern country operate such a backward system of taxation? It's a question that unfortunately already contains its own answer.

All it would take is to show them some official government correspondence. As an immigrant to the US I was stunned (gobsmacked) by how antiquated government correspondence was. We're not talking poor font choices. We're talking unchanged from 1945. If the ink was blue I would have sniffed it hoping for a mimeograph ink buzz. Even the Department of Homeland security is curiously retro.
posted by srboisvert at 3:20 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a smart guy. I am an accountant, although not a tax accountant. I always do my own taxes, as it seemed fairly straight forward. Due to a period of unemployment last year I qualified for ACA and EIC. This year I did the ACA and the EIC forms for the first time. I sat there going back and forth on them, walking away and coming back later, and trying to understand the logic. Eventually I figured it out, but during the ordeal I was declaring to anyone who cared that 90 percent of the tax filers who tried to tackle these forms would be confused to the point of drinking, swearing, or crying.

So, screw the complicated tax laws, the IRS forms, and the predatory tax filing services.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:29 PM on March 9, 2015


This year, I used TurboTax, but if you're looking for an e-file solution that costs $0, you should use free-file. (I used it last year, when my taxes were the most complicated they've ever been.) If you make too much money, you have to know how to actually file your taxes, but at least you get some auto-completion of fields, and you don't have to mail anything in.
posted by TypographicalError at 3:43 PM on March 9, 2015


I'm ashamed to admit it, but I ended up going with an H&R Block outfit this year. I usually prefer doing my own via software (usually TurboTax), but my tax situation is very complex - to the point that I wasn't trusting the numbers that TurboTax gave me. Ideally I would've preferred an independent tax advisor, but the wife and I are in Germany and US tax experts are hard to find around here. Fortunately, a nearby US military base has a small H&R Block franchise. I was actually happy with the results - the extra deductions/refund the preparer was able to find that I missed was 3-4x what I'm paying in fees. However, this was an unusually complicated year and I knew we'd be getting a good-sized refund.

That being said, I still really, really wish the tax code was simpler - not everyone can afford to hire someone figure out the tax code for them. Better yet, why don't we have a "ready file" system, where the government simply sends you an estimated bill or refund statement (which you can then dispute, if you choose)? Sweden's system works like this - you can even approve it by text message. Even the IRS Commissioner floated the idea at one point. Sadly I think most Americans are too mistrusting of their own government for something like this to ever work in the US.
posted by photo guy at 3:46 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Does anyone know how H & R Block reps get paid? I thought it was (something tiny) per hour, but the terrible stories I hear makes me wonder if they're on commission somehow.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:55 PM on March 9, 2015


free-file sounds good until you look a little closer. It's run by Intuit (TurboTax) and H&R Block, they only support a subset of the forms, they charge to file state, and they have intentionally closed some state's free-to-file systems.
posted by stobor at 4:02 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sadly I think most Americans are too mistrusting of their own government for something like this to ever work in the US.

Actually, most Americans would leap at such a system (look at the response to the CA version.) The only reason we don't have it is because the tax preparation industry lobbies against it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:23 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I friggin' hate H&R and all of the wannabes that pop up like dandelions in the spring. I was always a fill it out by hand person. And then I got married to someone with unique snowflakes for income. And bought a house. And started working in one state while living in another (with no reciprocity agreement). I did taxes by hand the first year of this situation and majorly screwed myself. I spent an entire weekend puzzling that return out only to lose $2500 that I qualified for (or so I thought).

The fact that the "voluntary" individual income tax is such an unintuitive mess of forms and ill-defined terms that it takes me--someone of at least average intelligence--days to figure out drives me bats. It shouldn't be that way. I know it is that way because there is an entire sector of the economy keenly interested in ensuring it stays that way.

And so I made my peace with the evil that is H&R Block. I show up with several manila folders and envelopes. I dump it all on their desk and watch some dude who uses an RPN calculator add stuff up and enter numbers into an interface right out of 1993 for about an hour. At the end of the appointment I pay ~$450 and get a check for almost twice that in four to six weeks. I know I'm getting screwed. I know some percentage of that money is going to lobby for increased complexity. And, honestly, I'm out of fucks to give on that front. $450 is painful, but not so painful that I lose a weekend trying to recoup it.

Also, when the IRS deemed my claim to mortgage interest credit insufficient I merely popped into the local office with the letter and was able to say: deal with this. And they did.
posted by Fezboy! at 4:27 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the wirecutter's recommendation, I used TaxAct last year. The UI was a little quirky (but no more so than the last H&R UI I used) and it kind of requires that you know what you're doing (I do) and it was REALLY cheap. I used it again this year because they ran a promo that I saw on some deal site to get their deluxe package for $11.99. They also kind of nickle and dime you (though it still ends up way cheaper than anyone else) and they don't guarantee their returns like H&R or TT either. But still $11.99 for even the most complicated filers! I'm half a step away from being able to do it myself so I mostly need something to fill in forms for me, file electronically, and give me a quick once over to make sure I didn't miss anything (they're actually pretty thorough). TaxAct does that well enough for twelve bucks that I'll keep on using them.
posted by VTX at 4:29 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Its totally worth it to not deal with this stuff by myself now there are multiple incomes, properties, and states to account for. I used to do it all myself... the easy forms really are easy.

This, oh so much this. The $400 or so I will pay my independent accountant to do our taxes is money very well spent, because of exactly this kind of mess -- multiple state incomes and residences (and for varying amounts of time), buying and selling a house, etc etc etc. I'm a smart person and fully capable of working my way through the tax process, but the time required is huge and there are ridiculous intricacies to the system that make it worth it for me to rely on a professional.

I wish we had a better system but most of the tax reform proposals seem to be regressive systems hidden behind a veneer of simplicity, and I don't want that either.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:44 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The media are falling all over themselves to yell "FIRST!". I wish they'd be as diligent with accuracy.
Among other things, 'the media' have as much responsibility as anyone else for the problems with the Affordable Care Act. And as much to profit from its problems. But that applies to pretty much everything that comes out of Congress (or doesn't come out of Congress).
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:04 PM on March 9, 2015


DEAR GOD EVERYONE WITH THE TINIEST LITTLE ECONOMIC NICHE IN THE CURRENT REGIME IS SO PETRIFIED THAT IT MIGHT GET TAKEN AWAY THAT THEY FIGHT TO PRESERVE THEIR PETTY LITTLE LEGALISTIC SHELF WITH NUCLEAR LOBBYING ITS SICKENING
posted by JHarris at 6:12 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Drinky Die: Which corporation is responsible for us not educating people on things essentially all of them are going to have to do as adults?

Is "filing income taxes" in Common Core? Is there some way to blame Republicans? I remember filling out tax forms in High School as an exercise and have done my own ever since. Mostly TT, but a couple times HRB and TaxAct this year.
posted by achrise at 6:35 PM on March 9, 2015


Don't worry; unless you make 7 figures, nobody is going to audit you. Just do your best on the poor people forms, folks.
posted by Renoroc at 7:25 PM on March 9, 2015


MissySedai you are my hero.
posted by evilmomlady at 7:53 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


MissySedai you are my hero
As I am a QE Dev in internal tools (CTODev), MissySedai is my hero too.
posted by jon_bristow at 8:17 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nobody is going to audit you. Just do your best on the poor people forms, folks.

So I filed my taxes this year, and then I got a 1099 for an account I forgot I had--turns out I'd earned about two bucks in interest I'd neglected to report. And I'm kinda freaking out a little, so thanks for the reassurance.
posted by box at 8:39 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got audited when I was a grad student on a stipend - there are more audits for us poors than you'd think.

In 2010 30% of audited people had claimed earned income tax credit, not exactly your high rollers.

BUT the IRS people are nice and helpful if you do get audited- it is not that bad if it happens.
posted by winna at 9:49 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hey, if you're a sufficiently high roller, you might not actually have any reason to illegally reduce the pittance in taxes you pay. You can afford to pay other people to allow you to pay a lot less entirely legally. The truly high rollers won't be paying taxes in America at all.

But yeah, audits aren't so bad if you haven't actually been criminal in your actions. Even better if you have a shitty records keeping system. Let them tidy it up!
posted by neonrev at 11:39 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


The commercials/ads in question are for HRB's brick-and-mortar tax prep offices, right? The ones I've seen seem to be, anyway.

It's an an odd message to broadcast. I mean...Most people who DIY their taxes are going to use software, including HRB's software, and not sit-down with IRS forms and a calculator. This message seems to say that HRB's own consumer software is inaccurate.


Poor people don't use software, where "poor" means "doesn't have a computer with internet access at home" (or uses a smartphone for internet access).* Basically, the storefront tax preparers exist to gouge this demographic and sell them "refund anticipation loans" or whatever H&R Block is calling them this time around.

I suppose suggesting you can't do it yourself (with or without software) reflects badly on the H&R Block brand, but they've been walking that tightrope for a while and I suspect they're coming out ahead.

*My dad is "poor" by this definition, but not any sane definition. He pays someone to do his taxes. His taxes are more complicated than mine, but I'm guessing they're still pretty painless with software.
posted by hoyland at 4:52 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I filed my taxes this year, and then I got a 1099 for an account I forgot I had--turns out I'd earned about two bucks in interest I'd neglected to report.

As I recall, if it's less than $10 in interest (I don't remember if that's all interest in aggregate or if it's per source), you don't need to declare it. IANA tax accountant though so best to double check but I'm 99% confident that you don't need to do anything.
posted by VTX at 5:53 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


My father has worked for the past decade or more with a volunteer tax preparation service that is free of cost for those who use it. I know he takes several weeks of classes every year in preparation for tax season, and he puts in a lot of time this time of year helping low-income and elderly tax filers through the process.

I will ask him what sort of group he is with and see if it exists in more than just the city in which he lives.
posted by hippybear at 2:04 PM on March 10, 2015


Might be VITA/TCE--people do that at some of the libraries in town. It's a great program.
posted by box at 5:24 PM on March 10, 2015


Among other things, 'the media' have as much responsibility as anyone else for the problems with the Affordable Care Act.

My complaint with the media lies it their rush to report on TurboTax's "problems with fraud", when that's not actually what's happening.

The ACA issue is a whole other pile of obnoxious paperwork entirely.
posted by MissySedai at 6:41 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


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