H&R Block Doesn't "Support" Gay Civil Unions

If you’ve got one of those new-fangled gay civil unions, don’t bother trying to file a tax return with H&R Block says the Hartford Courant:

After 23 months of same-sex, civil-union bliss, Jason Smith and Settimio Pisu had grown accustomed to some institutions being not quite ready for the concept of gay spouses.

There was that long day at the DMV trying to jointly register a car, which ended pleasantly enough with an apology from a clerk.

And don’t even ask the Guilford couple about their adoption stories.

Still, Smith and Pisu weren’t ready for the online message that popped up as they tried to file their taxes on H&R Block’s website: “We don’t support Connecticut Civil Union returns.”

The ACLU thinks this is some bullshit and so do we:

As the American Civil Liberties Union noted Tuesday in a letter to H&R Block, that’s discrimination under a Connecticut law that forbids denying “full and equal accommodation” on the basis of sexual orientation or civil-union status.

“We therefore demand that H&R Block cease immediately this discrimination against taxpayers in civil unions,” Rebecca Shore, an ACLU lawyer, said in a letter to H&R Block’s interim CEO, Alan Bennett.

H&R Block, based in Kansas City, Mo., said in an e-mailed statement that it was evaluating ways to offer online support to couples in civil unions and domestic partnerships. The company said its competitors have similar problems.

“Please be assured that H&R Block values all of its clients and is committed to serving all clients fairly,” said Denise Sposato, a company spokeswoman.

Hurry it up, H&R Block. It’s almost tax time! For those of you who think you may run into this problem, the article says that TurboTax works just fine with Connecticut civil unions.

Same-Sex Couple Blocked By H & R [Harford Courant]
(Photo:Maulleigh)

Comments

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  1. hubris says:

    Uh oh, they’re not taking it “very seriously”. Maybe they’ll actually have some kind of solution.

  2. Isn’t there a problem in that the fed doesn’t recognize the few states that managed to get marriages allowed w/o the public voting?

  3. MickeyMoo says:

    All they had to do was re-word the error message and they could have avoided the hubbub – but knowing the bastion of freedom and tolerance that is KC, I suspect there’s a deeper issue.

  4. jeffjohnvol says:

    Its probably because they don’t have the forms programmed into their system. To say that this is a moral judgement by HRB is a little presumptive.

  5. sleze69 says:

    @jeffjohnvol: /agree. It’s a process issue and not a judgement issue. Everyone needs to chill.

  6. sickofthis says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: I am assuming they were trying to file a Connecticut state return. All the major online and computer-based tax services allow you to file state returns as well as federal.

  7. ndjustin says:

    This could take significant work to program in the ability to manage these unions, and with all the last second federal gov’t changes that effect nearly everyone, I’m sure they were just playing a numbers game.

    There amount of people who were going to use H&R block and were apart of a civil union in Connecticut probably did not justify H&R block including the support for it up against a dead line.

    Tax software is one of the few types of software that has a really hard deadline, and god forbid it has an error in it.

    I’m sure they will support civil unions next year after this black mark.

  8. JustAGuy2 says:

    I think they mean support as in “our website doesn’t support Safari,” not as in “I support Obama.”

  9. jeffjohnvol says:

    There are 47 or so different state forms they have to support, and I imagine they have a small team to handle changes. Like any software development projects, they probably ran out of time and had to prioritize. They probably evaluated their resources and the potential money they could make and made the decision to put that at the bottom of the list. It has to do with $$$, not homophobia.

  10. bohemian says:

    Turbo Tax figured it out. So either H&R is incompetent or they are passing some sort of moral judgment.

    Based on my past attempt to do my taxes with H&R’s crappy software a few years ago I am voting for at least incompetent with a distinct possibility they are also passing a moral judgment.

  11. BlondeGrlz says:

    @JustAGuy2: Exactly. It’s like the difference between “free speech” and “free beer”, not a moral judgement on same-sex couples.

  12. jeffjohnvol says:

    @bohemian: Get a clue on how software development works.

  13. LJKelley says:

    Regardless its not a complete Tax Software for Connecticut and what about MA, NJ, or VT? I think you would have to investigate those states to see if the discrimination extends to those states of they just happened to forget/not have time for CT.

    As it is, its an official CT Tax form that their competitors managed to include. So the least one can say is that the creators of TaxTurbo are more likely to be up to date with the lastest changes and thus prepare your taxes better.

    As a Gay, I’m gonna go ahead and pull the gay card on this one. I doubt many of you would be so ‘forgiving’ had it been a federal form or other vital change in a state form. Their comptitor had time to include the tax law changes, and they should have as well. And you really don’t have the luxury with Tax Software on picking and choosing what to finish.

  14. RokMartian says:

    I used to work for company that made accounting software, and I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to get all the major state/federal tax changes into the software.
    It has been a while, but I seem to recall that the software companies get the final tax changes at the end of October – that means they only have 2 months to get tax software ready by January.

    Like JustAGuy2 said – their “support” probably just means the software hasn’t been updated in time to handle it.

    Either that, or they just didn’t feel the time and expense involved in updating the software to handle it wasn’t worth it. I mean, seriously, how many gay civil unions are there in Conneticut :)

  15. savvy9999 says:

    General Q here… not knowing the details of the Connecticut tax form, does it actually ask whether or not one is male or female (in order to make the conclusion that a joint return of two like-gendered persons = civil union)?

    I just have never seen a checkbox anywhere on a tax form in any state I have ever lived in that asked whether I was M or F. Meaning, if I was gay and wanted to file jointly with a partner, why could I not simply attach any 2 SSNs (M&F, M&M, or F&F&) to the form and run with it? At what point in the process would the IRS deny a filing because it thought maybe you weren’t legally ‘married’ (by whatever state-contrived definition)?

    Along those lines, I never recalled having to send my marriage license to the IRS to prove to them I was married; one year I filed single, the next year joint. How would or does the IRS assume the same between unioned gays?

  16. Anitra says:

    Poorly worded, I agree it probably means software support. Although it cracked me up that part of their justification is “our competitors have the same problems”.

  17. TWinter says:

    @Git Em SteveDave: People’s basic rights – such as the right to have long-term relationships legally recognized – should never be up to the whims of voters.

    In a hundred years, I imagine that our descendants will look back on the various anti-gay marriage initiatives and amendments of the past decade as a dark episode in American government. The legal institutions of democratic nations should protect the rights of minorities no matter what the majorities think of those minorities.

  18. Juggernaut says:

    They will file returns for dwarves, whether they’re scary or not…

  19. jeffjohnvol says:

    @RokMartian: /agree 100%

  20. Traveshamockery says:

    So a privately owned company doesn’t have the right to set its own policies on who it services?

    If someone owns a restaurant, and wants to deny me service because I’m blonde, or white, or over 6 feet tall, they have EVERY FREAKIN’ RIGHT to do so.

    I may get really mad, and I may accuse them of discrimination, but unless they’re some sort of government funded entity, they DON’T HAVE TO SERVE ME.

    The same principle applies here.

  21. Traveshamockery says:

    I’ll probably get banned for that.

  22. wesrubix says:

    Don’t miss the point of the problem: &R Block doesn’t have the same reputation or market as Turbo Tax, and as a software AND professional services company, changes are more expensive than just software. Moreover, they are professional services first, and software second.

    Yes Turbo Tax got it in time for this year. Why? Because they work on their software every single year, because that’s what they are. A software company. And that’s it. Completeness and accuracy are tantamount of course, so testing and other QA are probably pushed every day. But they have no professional services staff. H&R Block does.

    H&R Block is known more for their locations and walk-in service, so their priority in terms of change management favors that. Their software has the same risks and complexities that Turbo Tax does, but the company make a decision that the couldn’t implement the change in time for 2007 taxes.

    When different types of write-offs came out (e.g. hybrid cars), I’m sure not all tax institutions handled them on time.

    So get over yourself (regardless of what the missing feature is in the software), and go somewhere else *cough* TurboTax.

    One last thing: H&R Block could have been more specific in their verbiage:
    – H&R Block does not support civil unions. OR
    – H&R Block software does not yet support civil unions.
    Tack on an apology for the inconvenience, maybe a suggestion to visit a brick’n’mortar H&R and we’re done.

  23. overbysara says:

    that’s just dumb business.

  24. @jeffjohnvol: Agreed. Not to mention the fact that for most people who work with computers (i.e. the guys who built the H&R site and supporting software) the use of the word ‘support’ refers not to a moral stance but rather physical possibility.

    @LJKelley: A poor business decision doesn’t necessarily amount to discrimination. I mean, I would probably be righteously pissed if I were gay too, but the upshot should be taking your business to a company that has updated their system to fill your needs. They don’t offer the product you need, therefore they don’t get your money. They may also lose the money of people who don’t need that particular product but still find it objectionable that the company has clearly made it a low priority.

    “And you really don’t have the luxury with Tax Software on picking and choosing what to finish.”

    Why not? It’s rather like suggesting that a grocery store doesn’t have the luxury to not offer gluten-free baked goods. A certain percentage of the population will have a gluten intolerance, and if they want gluten-free pasta or cake mix they’ll end up taking their business elsewhere, probably to a larger store that offers a wider selection of products. As a result, some of their family and friends will go with them, either for convenience or to support the business they see as better. Unfortunate though it may be for some consumers, it is within every company’s right to decide which products they want to offer. It’s not as though the first store is saying “no people with gluten intolerances may shop here”, or as though H&R Block is simply refusing to do taxes for all gay people or even just gay people in civil unions/marriages. They’ve just decided that their profit margin is not benefited by offering a product that some people want or need. Rather than complain that it’s not fair or right of them to not offer a product specifically targeted to a subset of a certain group of people, use your power as a consumer to show them that they’ve wrongly underestimated your demographic, and go to the business that does act like it wants your patronage.

  25. sophistiKate says:

    @InfiniTrent: First, you are mistaken. That is the point of much civil and human rights legislation, that public accomodations (the restaurant in your example) cannot discriminate. Second, H&R Block has a right to say anything they want about civil unions, and Consumerist has the right to publish those comments, and I have the right to call those comments homophobic. Their behavior isn’t illegal; it’s just repugnant.

  26. BStu says:

    @sleze69: You assume it can’t be BOTH a process issue and a judgment issue. The issue could be why they haven’t spent the effort necessary to serve gay customers in Connecticut. They are the ones mocking TurboTax in an ad company. If they got so many people, why haven’t they gotten this working yet? Its a question that merits asking.

    @InfiniTrent: You should be banned for speculating that you will get banned for saying something. Its insufferable enough when people have a smug “Oooh, I’m so edgy!” attitude, but it gets taken to another level when they actually open their mouth and SAY, “Oooh, I’m so edgy!”

  27. picardia says:

    It probably is a process issue, not a judgment issue, but OTOH, if I’m taking my taxes to somebody, I expect them to be up on every single aspect of the process, including new changes in the tax laws — say, like those affecting same-sex unions. If H&R Block isn’t up to date on this, how can you trust their knowledge in any other area? It makes them look amateurish.

  28. Traveshamockery says:

    @BStu:
    I wasn’t saying it to be “edgy”, I was speaking my mind.

    My “I’ll probably be banned” comment was made because the Editors above said that they think H&R Block’s alleged “policy” is BS. Not to mention that making any comment that could be construed as unsupportive of “gay rights” is considered neanderthal and unenlightened.

  29. Traveshamockery says:

    @picardia: I agree with you. Vote with your dollar.

  30. KJones says:

    H&R Blockheads are from Kansas, so why should this surprise?

    This is the same state that gave the world Fred PedoPhelps and his inbred cult/family, as well as a schoolboard that tried to outlaw evolution.

    How much more embarassment can the majority of Kansans take?

  31. Bye says:

    @InfiniTrent: Not banned, I hope. Just mocked.

    You are correct that a private business has every right to refuse to serve a customer (or community of customers), but they should at least be brave about their reasons and outline just exactly why they are discriminating against or are ill-equipped to serve segments of the population.

    Our tax guy brought up the tax filing situation in our tax meeting last year. He’s a true professional and was well-aware of California’s law that passed requiring domestic partners to file their 2007 State taxes as if they were married even though the Fed will not recognize it. It was fully on his radar and when we met with him this year, he had everything mapped out and things went as smoothly as possible.

    Incidentally, he’s a rather conservative Republican although not in the fakey-neocon style that’s emerged over the past several years – more like a Barry Goldwater. He fully disagrees with the feds attempting to trump states’ rights and says it’s only a matter of time before legal arrangements like domestic partnerships and civil unions must be fully recognized.

    H&R Block did our taxes many years ago before the domestic partnership option was even there for us and even with that and the lower-complexity of our returns at the time, their service was very lacking. I understand some folks don’t think they have another choice, but comparing what we used to pay for H&R Block against what we currently pay our taxman, they should really reconsider.

  32. BStu says:

    @InfiniTrent: You’re response might as well have been, “I’m not trying to be edgy. I just am, man. Oooh, I’m so edgy. Nobody is going to like me ‘cuz I’m speaking from the oppressed majority, but I don’t care. I’m gonna stand up for conventional opinions, and no one is gonna stop me, man! Ooooh, I’m so edgy!”

  33. KJones says:

    @InfiniTrent: So a privately owned company doesn’t have the right to set its own policies on who it services?

    [...]

    I may get really mad, and I may accuse them of discrimination, but unless they’re some sort of government funded entity, they DON’T HAVE TO SERVE ME.

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just poorly uninformed and not a bigot: Tax preparers are a government regulated entity.

    Your poorly thought out “analogy” is completely and utterly wrong. A far better one is the issue of pharmacies refusing to give women the “morning after” pill. A woman has a legal right to get a prescription from a doctor and use the pill regardless of what a pharmacist thinks, and gay couples in Connecticut have a right to file and claim a civil union deduction, regardless of how you or H&R Block feel about homosexuality.

    This is a matter of law, not a private company’s policy. If H&R Block don’t want to abide by Connecticut’s law, they shouldn’t be doing business there. The company does not have the right to dictate to taxpayers what is or isn’t legal to report on a tax return.

  34. JGB says:

    I was born and raised in Kansas City and have now lived on both coasts, several places in between and a couple of foreign countries.

    One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the general ignorance of geography by Americans even about their own country. I once had a (non immigrant) guy in Florida ask me if Missouri was near North Dakota where “Mount Rushmore is”.

    Fred Phelps nonwithstanding, Kansas City is in Missouri.

    There is a Kansas City, Kansas, but I, none of the employees of HR Block, and, I strongly suspect, Fred Phelps would be caught dead there. It is, for all intents and purposes, a war zone.

  35. RandomHookup says:

    It sounds like H&R needs someone to rewrite their system messages.

  36. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    If someone owns a restaurant, and wants to deny me service because I’m blonde, or white, or over 6 feet tall, they have EVERY FREAKIN’ RIGHT to do so.

    @InfiniTrent: Wrong. They do not have the legal right to deny you service because you’re white.

    Didn’t we already discuss this one? [consumerist.com]

  37. modenastradale says:

    @Git Em SteveDave:
    I’m not sure what you mean by getting “marriages allowed w/o the public voting.”

    Civil unions are not marriages, for one thing. They’re a creature of statute, which means the state legislatures mulled them over and then enacted them, as they would any law. That’s how most laws are enacted in a representative democracy.

    In any case, I don’t think the H&R Blockhead thing is really discrimination. I think it’s just a failure of an inferior service provider to implement particular software features that would only be used by a small number of filers. They’ll eventually get around to it, I’m sure, and then CT citizens in civil unions, like the rest of us, will be able to overpay for crappy tax service. :-)

  38. Traveshamockery says:

    @Rey: “Not banned, I hope. Just mocked. You are correct that a private business has every right to refuse to serve a customer (or community of customers), but they should at least be brave about their reasons and outline just exactly why they are discriminating against or are ill-equipped to serve segments of the population.”

    I think you’re right about people being upfront about their preferences in who they serve. However, I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. It’s bad phrasing that has spiraled into a ACLU circus.

    H&R Block is interested in making a profit, not turning away customers. Barring some big internal conspiracy, I think this was just someone who wrote bad copy for the website, trying to indicate their programs

    I’m not sure why you think I should be mocked – probably because I disagree with your opinions?

  39. Traveshamockery says:

    @BStu: Thanks for your opinion. You certainly know my motivations better than I.

  40. .
    You guys are being way too hard on H&R Block. After all, they said very straightforwardly that they “value every client.”

    (Kinda makes me wonder what value they’ve assigned to Connecticut domestic partners….)

  41. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    The answer to whether this is a crappy policy or just a development problem could be solved is someone knew whether they’ll help people in a civil union in person.

  42. Traveshamockery says:

    @KJones: “
    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just poorly uninformed and not a bigot: Tax preparers are a government regulated entity.”

    Just as I suspected – the name calling and heavy insinuations against my mental capabilities ensue. Whoops, that was a little “edgy”.

    Despite your double negative (“poorly uninformed”?) I must disagree. You make a pretty good point, if the problem was that they simply wouldn’t allow the deduction. It sounds like H&R Block effectively efused the business altogether because they weren’t capable of processing the appropriate paperwork.

    I choose to believe this is incompetence, not intentional discrimination. Most people here apparently think it’s an intentional conspiracy.

  43. jeffjohnvol says:

    @sophistiKate: You can call their decision homophobic just as I can call your argument incredibly stupid.

  44. RandomHookup says:

    Can we shut off the italics now?

  45. katylostherart says:

    um, why would they be filing civil union returns? there’s only three ways of filing – single, married separate, married jointly. civil union is two people considered single on a tax return. i’m not getting why this is h&r block’s fault. the government is who did the limiting. h&r block is a national chain and they have standardized programs for this stuff. i live in ct and on my tax forms there was no option for “civil union” on my state form since it’s not classified as a marriage.

    this is one reason same sex marriage should be legal. stupid stupid stuff like this would be so much simpler.

  46. bonzombiekitty says:

    As a programmer, I can MAYBE see the issue with having trouble supporting civil unions for state returns. Depending on the structure of the code, a civil union status might throw the rest of the system out of whack.

    Maybe.

  47. Traveshamockery says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: “Wrong. They do not have the legal right to deny you service because you’re white.”

    Even assuming you’re right, they don’t have to give a reason they’re denying service.

    I suppose we’re all debating semantics and opinion now, but why should that stop us? :)

  48. Traveshamockery says:

    @RandomHookup: “Can we shut off the italics now?”

    Yeah, how did that happen?

  49. Trai_Dep says:

    @sleze69: Uhh, wanna bet the H&R Block computers’ software are already updated to take into account the “rebate”? Which was implemented a month ago? Yet their piddly lil’ programmers couldn’t – in the five-odd years that domestic partners came into being – accommodate civil unions?
    I smell bullsh*t.

    Step 1: Use Turbotax (yay!). Or a non-chain tax preparer, feeding the local economy. H&R Block chooses to discriminate, we chose to flee them.
    Step 2: Let’s get marriage on a Federal level that doesn’t discriminate in the books. This is absurd, and unfair. We “allow” mixed-race couples to enjoy the 3,000 tax benefits of marriage, when just a few generations past we didn’t. We allow childless and infertile couples benefits. We don’t retroactively take back the benefits of couples if they divorce.
    Fair is fair.

  50. Bye says:

    @InfiniTrent: Please don’t misunderstand me. I have no problem with folks who have differing opinions as long as they’re steeped in some sort of logic.

    I believe you should be mocked solely for thinking yourself quite the ‘edgy’ man and double-posting in an effort to have others come to that conclusion as well.

  51. katylostherart says:

    hmmm, i like knowing the tax software wasn’t updated.

    buttheads.

  52. Peeved Guy says:

  53. Trai_Dep says:

    Grr. Thought the update before last fixed non-closing text styles.
    Sigh.
    Okay, fixed.

  54. Traveshamockery says:

    @Trai_Dep: “Uhh, wanna bet the H&R Block computers’ software are already updated to take into account the “rebate”? Which was implemented a month ago?”

    Trai, that rebate is automatically sent based on your filing status and income on your tax return – there’s nothing extra you have to do, other than to actually file.

  55. Trai_Dep says:

    Dang. You can’t close ‘em with a [/i]? Okay, THAT’S a bug. Please fix, Gawker?

  56. Blackneto says:

    it’s a process issue and a poorly worded message.
    Now if they said we don’t support Negroes…

    This is something new. Whomever is to keep an eye on the changes let this one slip through.

    I’ve had to file amended returns in the past because a change didn’t become final in TT or TC until April but I had filed in February.

    I thought gay people being overly sensitive was a stereotype…

    This is how you get a ban InfiniTrent

  57. Trai_Dep says:

    @InfiniTrent: Replace “rebate” with any of the other 1,000 recent changes to the tax code, if it makes you happier. This is routine, if you’re a competent tax preparer. I stress, “competent”.

  58. Consumer007 says:

    Why anyone would want to go there after they CHEATED ON THEIR OWN TAXES is beyond me, but what they’ve done here is wrong and should be sued for punitive damages…

  59. Traveshamockery says:

    @Rey: “Please don’t misunderstand me. I have no problem with folks who have differing opinions as long as they’re steeped in some sort of logic.

    I believe you should be mocked solely for thinking yourself quite the ‘edgy’ man and double-posting in an effort to have others come to that conclusion as well.”

    I don’t think myself to be “edgy”, despite the continued accusations to the contrary. I can see why my “banned” comment was taken the wrong way, and if I’d known it would obfuscate the issue so severely, I wouldn’t have said it at all.

    But please, by all means, continue to make judgments on my motivations and character.

  60. Traveshamockery says:

    @Trai_Dep: “Replace “rebate” with any of the other 1,000 recent changes to the tax code, if it makes you happier.”

    It won’t make me happier, but it will certainly make your comment more correct.

  61. Peeved Guy says:

    Good grief. I can see folks getting annoyed that they can’t file their taxes properly with Tax Cut, but to assume that the entire company is homophobic because of a generic error message is being a little silly.

    Rather than making a big deal about it, they should have asked for a refund (because the software does not perform as advertised) and bought the competitor. Done. No muss, no fuss.

  62. Trai_Dep says:

    @KJones: Mister Italics, you got some ‘splaining to do! :P

  63. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @InfiniTrent: You don’t have to assume:

    [www.legalzoom.com]
    [en.wikipedia.org]
    [www.eeoc.gov] (for definition of public accomodation)
    That isn’t opinion or semantics. It’s the law.

    My question was answered in the article:

    The giant tax preparer was willing to prepare the couple’s taxes at one of its offices for $199.80 – $155 more than the online price.

  64. bigpapi34 says:

    A few things here, speaking as someone who works in the tax prep industry:

    * The message is unfortunately easily misinterpreted. The issue is one of architectural support, and the capacity of the program to produce a civil union return, not support of the concept of civil unions. That should not have slipped past the User/Customer Experience teams.

    * No provider will be able to support same-sex marriage electronic returns because your federal return must be accepted by the IRS before the state return can be processed. Because the IRS does not recognize same-sex marriage this cannot happen for electronic filing UNLESS the provider supports true state only for states that don’t require a federal acceptance first. Massachusetts qualifies as this, but to my knowledge, neither H&R Block nor TurboTax supports true state only for electronic filing.

    * What’s failed to be mentioned here is that the TaxCut retail product that you can buy at Best Buy, etc., DOES support civil union/same-sex paper filing for Connecticut.

    Know that these limitations are software architectural issues, not political issues.

  65. GearheadGeek says:

    @katylostherart: I’m guessing that the state return allows some sort of deduction or different filing status for “Members of civil union filing (jointly or separately). Not only does the federal return not give us an option to file jointly, they tax me on what my employer generously contributes to my partner’s healthcare insurance under my plan, and they prohibit my employer from taking the part of my contribution that pays for his coverage post-tax rather than pre-tax as they would if we were a straight married couple. Ah, “equality”.

  66. Traveshamockery says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I stand corrected on that point – thanks :) – seriously.

    My analogy is proven partially incorrect (in most places, they could deny me service based on blonde hair or my ugly face). But there is no provision for prohibiting discrimination related to the topic of this article, discrimination based on sexual preference, in most states.

  67. Frank Grimes says:

    Silly state tax. Come to Texas where poor people buying $50 scratch off lotto tickets can fully fund your state. Yes, no state tax and $50…FIFTY! DOLLAR! scratch off’s. God I hate myself for living here sometimes.

  68. Blackneto says:

    @GearheadGeek: I never understood, that regardless of marital situation or sexual preference you couldn’t claim another person as dependant.
    About 18 years ago I had a roommate that practically lived off me for a year because he busted up his knee and rehab took a long time.
    If we could have filed jointly it would have solved a lot of problems.
    I was buying food and paying rent and most of the utilities. He wasn’t getting any disablility and his unemployment ran out. I was supporting him much in the way i support my wife and kids today
    We are like brothers and I did the goverment a service by keeping him off the public dole.

    It’s just silly I think.

  69. GearheadGeek says:

    @Frank Grimes: We do have a fairly significant sales tax in Texas, that puts money in the coffers alongside the Lottery funds. I haven’t seen a comparison of the state’s total take in sales tax and net gains from the lottery, that might be interesting.

    It’ll be even easier for the state to fund everything after Perry sells all the state roads to toll operators around the world.

  70. reznicek111 says:

    @InfiniTrent:

    But there is no provision for prohibiting discrimination related to the topic of this article, discrimination based on sexual preference, in most states.

    Correct, at this point in time most states do not have blanket bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, we’re talking about Connecticut, which prohibits discrimination based on “sexual orientation in categories that include public accommodations, housing, and private and public employment. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a – 81c-m.” [www.hrc.org]

  71. oakie says:

    for the love of anything holy, just let your wallet do the talking and go somewhere else who will take care of you properly. i hate it when someone feels discriminated against and feels like they need to take action. it’s not like H&R Block is the only tax preparer in the state of Conneticut. besides, if they’re willing to give their business to them even after the fact, they’re just plain retarded to boot.

  72. Flame says:

    One thing that I don’t think anyone has pointed out is that civil unions have been legal in Connecticut since October 1, 2005. So would this not have come up for the 2006 tax season, if not the 2005? They have had 2 years to re-write their software. If they have chosen not to, we have to think of the real reason why.

    Source: [hartford.about.com]

  73. consumerd says:

    test

    Why is the page showing up and everyone’s posts in italics?

  74. BillyMumphry says:

    ACLU, the only organization that will fight to remove a nativity scene but defend the guy that ass rapes one of the animals.

  75. Squeezer99 says:

    i don’t support civil unions either. go H&R block!

  76. BStu says:

    @InfiniTrent: Nah, I’m just pointing them out. But go ahead. Keep being the guy who “dares” to be “politically incorrect” while continually and publicly congratulating himself for being politically incorrect. That’s a good look.

    Oh, and italics be gone!

  77. Mary says:

    @sleze69: Agreed. It’s a long argument about semantics. They don’t “support” it because their software can’t handle it yet. That’s lame, but the way the wording is being used, it is not discrimination, it’s being slow on the uptake to change your systems.

  78. Bye says:

    @Blackneto: Are those overly-sensitive gay people acting “uppity” in your eyes?

  79. modenastradale says:

    @BillyMumphry:

    Wow, classy.

  80. BStu says:

    @Meiran: And being slow on the uptake to change their systems is potentially discrimination. The response to that explanation isn’t, “Oh, well okay then.” Tax codes change ever year in every state. You’re telling me H&R Block is incapable of dealing with this? What about in Massachusetts where we now have to prove that we have health insurance to get our personal exemption. Is H&R Block not bothering to support that? Maybe it isn’t discrimination, but that they need to change their systems doesn’t immediately prove that.

  81. radio1 says:

    This is no issue.

    I worked for Block for 7 years up until 2006. This no is not discriminatory issue. It is a simple software issue.

    How Block works is that the Federal Program sets up figures for the State Program (like most 3rd party tax software).

    The Federal Government does not support marriage benefits for gay people. Like, say in MA, that has gay marriage, which is where I live and work. So, civil unions will have neither of these benefits also.

    Therefore, there will be no correct status to carry over to the State forms.

    Now, Block may or may not decide to write in whatever state benefits married or civil union gay people deserve; figuring that the expense vs. benefit does not merit inclusion into their (appropriate) state tax forms. Furthermore, Block can not write any changes into their programs until whatever state has ironed out whatever benefits such couples will have. Usually these things are figured out and hopefully written into the next tax season’s programs during the off season.

    The upshot is Block will support your union in CT, just by filing a paper return (if those benefits have been clearly determined before the tax filing date). If they do not it’s because one of two issues: 1) actual discrimination or 2) tax law ambiguity.

    If it is #2, you can always ammend the state return the next year.

    If it is #1, call your local EEOC.

  82. Peeved Guy says:

    @BStu:

    What about in Massachusetts where we now have to prove that we have health insurance to get our personal exemption. Is H&R Block not bothering to support that?

    Did you even bother to RTFA?

    H&R Block has managed to rewrite its software to handle gay marriages in Massachusetts, but not so with civil unions in Connecticut or Vermont, Smith said.

    The more I think about it, the more I am beginning to think this is some sort of “protest” that these guys decided to stage. I’m wondering if they knew that the H&R Block site didn’t “support” the CT civil union before they bought….?

  83. disavow says:

  84. ExecutorElassus says:

    Jeez, why do the trolls always come out of the woodwork for articles like this?

    I’m giving HRB the benefit, and assuming they’re just incompetent; still, they should catch enough hell from this to fix it. It’s only a sign of how backwards we are that anybody even cares about this still; having a generalized return, with two de-gendered parties, would be much simpler to use, anyway.

  85. BStu says:

    @Peeved Guy: Did you read my comment or did you just see the word “Massachusetts” and jump to a conclusion? I wasn’t talking about gay marriage. I was talking about annual changes in the tax code. Massachusetts had a significant change in the tax code this year that has nothing to do with teh gays. It had to do with health insurance. The argument is that H&R Block can’t handle an annual tax code change. When answering whether this is discrimination, we should ask whether they were similarly incapable of dealing with other changes.

  86. AndrewJC says:

    I hope this fixes things with the italics.

    Don’t forget Hanlon’s Law, folks: Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity.

    However, having said that, discrimination is all about intent. Just think back to those two girls who complained that they were considered “too hot to fly”. Kicking them off a plane because of their looks is discrimination; kicking them off because they were being bitches is not.

    It’s the same here. In this case, I have to wonder as to HRB’s actual intent, given that they were able to program their software to comply with Massachusetts’ laws, but not Vermont’s, which are MUCH older than MA’s. Had that not been the case, I would simply have assumed that it was because of Connecticut’s relative recency with the law and not being able to reprogram in time. But civil unions have been legal in Vermont for years, and to think that the software still can’t support that after all this time makes things smell a little fishy, in my opinion.

  87. Peeved Guy says:

    @BStu: D’Oh! I beg you pardon. My bad. This italicized text is throwing me off my game (as if I had any to begin with)…

    To your original point…
    Maybe H&R Block really busted their collective ass to get the MA change done in time for this tax season as it would effect EVERY citizen on MA, not just the (relatively) few who have to be in a same sex marriage…?

  88. BStu says:

    The tax code changes all of the time, though. This shouldn’t throw H&R Block for a loop. While the health care schedule was the biggest change, my tax instructions list 11 other “major” changes in for the 2007 state income tax. H&R Block’s Tax Cut software actually has a page dedicated to downloading updates, so this is clearly an anticipated part of their business. So then the question does become, why was this time such a problem.

  89. Peeved Guy says:

    @BStu: I agree that H&R Block screwed up. No defense for not providing a required tax for to allow people to file taxes in their state, especially when they paid extra to do that (I’ve only ever used the ‘offline’ software, and you do have to pay a premium for that feature, so I am making an assumption here). I do not, however, think that this is a malicious snub a same sex couples, otherwise, why single out just those in CT? The gay folks in VT and MA are cool, but not the gays in CT? I’ll just chalk it up to simple lack of planning on H&R Block and assume that some project manager got his ass handed to him because of it.

  90. radio1 says:

    @BStu: It may be a clearly anticipated part of the business. But you can not just simply code for the change and release the update; if there is any ambiguity in the tax law.

    Clearly, you do not understand how new tax laws do affect software coding which then must be tested with multiple scenarios before being determined robust enough to be integrated into a state program. Would you really want your ‘married filing jointly’ to be affected on your state return because the coding also denied you some deductions in a special circumstance that should only apply to civil unions?

    The only thing worse than telling a client they owe money or aren’t getting as much money as they anticipated because of their stupid mistake; is when I would have to tell them the same thing, and explain that it’s my fault or the software’s fault.

  91. radio1 says:

    @Peeved Guy: Neither do you. Please tell me when the actual civil union laws and tax benefits were finalized.

  92. savvy9999 says:

    will this close the italics?

  93. Peeved Guy says:

    @radio1: Say what now?

  94. savvy9999 says:

    @savvy9999: nope

  95. jimconsumer says:

    @TWinter: “People’s basic rights – such as the right to have long-term relationships legally recognized – should never be up to the whims of voters.”

    Oh, shut up. Fact is, this is the first time in our nation’s history that our government has legislated protection for a behavior. If homosexuals didn’t advertise their sexual tastes, they wouldn’t need legislative protections. I don’t walk, talk, and dress in a manner that screams, “Overweight women with big floppy breasts get me off.” That would be inappropriate. Equally inappropriate are flaming gay men who act like little girls to ensure everyone around them knows exactly how they like to take it in bed, and I take great offense to being told by my government that I have to pretend this is acceptable. It isn’t.

    Look, I don’t care if gay people want to live together and be gay together. More power to them, this is a free country. I do mind being forced to financially support their homosexuality in the form of benefits for “partners.” I’m not saying they can’t be gay, just saying I want nothing to do with it.

    Interestingly, and just to be fair, I feel the same way about heterosexual marriage. I don’t get why we give tax breaks to people for hooking up and producing children. Why should I have to financially support someone else’s kids? I shouldn’t.

  96. BStu says:

    @radio1: It can be fixed, though. I’m not saying the press a button and *poof* its done. But they do program for these sorts of things and did respond to a similar situation in Massachusetts with gay marriage here. “It’s too hard” just doesn’t cut it as an excuse.

  97. Jamie Beckland says:

    There seems to be much confusion about the tax filing status of CT civil union-ites. Lemme break it down for you:

    Each fills out the Federal return.

    Then, they fill out a “phantom” joint Federal return.

    Then, they use the numbers from the “phantom” return to populate the State field. This is the same in several other states.

    So, it seems that this would be a very simple fix from a programming standpoint. H&R just needs to take the information that they already have from each individual return, combine them, and produce the “phantom” return.

    That seems like something they would not have to work very hard at. The joint return processing parameters are already set up for the straights.

    Some people have commented that they should just file as a couple on the Federal return. That would be a bad idea. They would be committing tax fraud, which is punishable with fines and jail time.

    While I believe that this was an oversight, and a programming error, this software is discriminating. It cannot comply with the tax code for a specific group of people. The intent is not discriminatory, but the affect is.

    A gay state congressman in CT should try to get their license revoked in that state. That would be great PR for the congressman…

    Finally, it is not really clear from the tax code whether gay couples would pay more or less in taxes if their relationship were recognized. Pluses from deducting a partner’s healthcare costs, minuses for the marriage penatly, pluses for shifting shared deductions, minuses for lower phase-out limits for tax-deferred and tax-free accounts…It’s a sticky wicket, and some gays would do better, others would do worse.

    But, the point is still equality.

  98. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @jeffjohnvol: “it has to do with money, not homophobia.”

    That’s the same argument I have heard from a lot of people as to why it’s perfectly alright for the U.S. to pass laws which allow us to legally discriminate based upon sexual preference.

    Doesn’t it make you wonder if our parents and grandparents thought it was nitpicking when people said it wasn’t right that blacks and whites were not allowed to drink from the same fountains?

  99. Trai_Dep says:

    @jimconsumer: Yup. And if only teh negroes would bleach their skin, learn to speak like William Buckley and straighten their hair, they wouldn’t have needed to hang so darn many of them a couple years past. It’s their fault that they didn’t simply try to Pass.
    Shrugging off The Gays because of their “behavior” is like shrugging off racial minorities because of their color. It’s wrong, even if a majority (for a time) was fine with punishing them for it.

  100. Trai_Dep says:

    @jimconsumer: “First time EVAH we legislated protection for a behavior”
    Behavior like speech, publishing, self-incrimination, religion, possession of muskets?
    What kind of American are you?!

  101. Mary says:

    @BStu: I do agree with you there. It’s a big problem that their software isn’t up to date with current codes and situations that their customers will encounter.

    But saying that H&R block doesn’t support Gay Civil Unions is needlessly inflammatory and distracting from the real issue. Their software doesn’t support that type of filing. Still a problem, but a seperate issue.

  102. jimconsumer says:

    @Trai_Dep: I’m sorry, I must not have been clear enough. I’m talking about anti-discrimination protection. This is the first time we’ve passed discrimination protections for a behavior.

    There is a big difference between the government saying, “You have the freedom to do x; we’re not going to lock you up for it,” and, “You have the freedom to do x, and if anyone refuses to hire/serve/help you because of it, we’re going to fine and/or lock them up for it.” I fully support the former. I do not support the latter when it comes to a controllable behavior.

    Of course, you had to bring race into this. You people always do and it’s clear what you’re doing – trying to paint me as a racist bigot since you can’t win your argument without attacking my character. The comparison is invalid, and I’ll tell you why: A black man can’t help that his skin is black. Anyone who sees him will immediately know he is black and there’s nothing fair he can do about that (clearly asking black people to bleach their skin is barbaric).

    A gay man, on the other hand, can very well help his behavior in public. He does not need to behave in a manner that informs everyone what type of sex he likes and it’s perfectly fair for others to ask him not to advertise what turns him on. This is what I, and for that matter most of the rest of the American population, find offensive. The stereotypical homosexual behaviors – limp wrist, dressing outrageously, giggling like a schoolgirl, etc – can be controlled and we should not have discrimination laws that protect these controllable behaviors. Note that I feel the same about heterosexuals who dress, talk and/or behave in a manner that advertises their sexual desires.

    Now, I realize that not all gay people behave inappropriately. I work with and have friends who are gay and I like them all just fine. What they do behind closed doors is no more of my business than what sexual positions my wife and I use is of theirs – and that’s the key: The gays I like and respect don’t advertise their sexual desires. In fact, you’d never know they were gay until you really got to know them.

  103. Gorky says:

    @sophistiKate:

    You know I really HATE that term homophobic. The definition of homophobic is an irrational FEAR or homosexual people. There is a BIG difference between not agreeing with a chosen lifestyle and being SCARED of and running at the sight of seeing a homosexual person. Its almost as bad as the misuse of the term “organic” which actually means an object whose molecular composition is based around carbon.

  104. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @jimconsumer: Your rant has nothing to do with the issue at hand. You don’t like people who behave differently from you, we get it.

    The issue is whether the LGBT community should be allowed the same right you and your wife have – to make a commitment to share your life together along with all the same legal benefits a marriage contract allows for heterosexuals, and then to have companies recognize that just as any hetero they merit the benefits of said contract.

  105. Orv says:

    @jimconsumer: It’s not the first time there’s been anti-discrimination based on behavior. In many places it’s illegal to discriminate based on marital status, for example, even though people can choose whether or not to remain single. Likewise, it’s illegal to fire someone out of concern that they might become pregnant, even though pregnancy is also a behavior.

    This isn’t a question of whether people are allowed to act “flaming” or not. I knew someone who lived in the South who was gay but wasn’t at all in your face about it. To meet him on the street you’d never have known. However, his landlord was suspicious of him because he’d been single so long, and threatened to throw him out if he ever had a male guest stay overnight. That’s the kind of discrimination gay people have to put up with.

  106. Vanvi says:

    Haven’t read all the comments and not entirely on topic, but in case anyone’s getting ready to do their taxes soon, I’ve used both H&R Block Taxcut and Turbotax and Turbotax is far superior. Taxcut couldn’t even figure out a way for me to save my return as a pdf. Seriously, that program sucks and their customer service was entirely unhelpful. This story doesn’t surprise me. Not as a discrimination thing, but sheer incompetence.

  107. Trai_Dep says:

    After H&R sent out mass mailers trumpeting TAXCUT with the addressee’s social security number ever so conveniently printed on each outside mailing label, they’ve been dead to me. And any thinking consumer.
    The fact that they’re either four years behind in tax law or discriminatory is even more reason to avoid them like the plague.

  108. sibertater says:

    @sleze69: I honestly get that people need to use a tax service, but H&R block is the most expensive one I’ve ever used. My taxes are fairly simple now that I’m in college. I generally use Turbo Tax and I can do it for family members as well.

  109. RandomHookup says:

    @jimconsumer: So should hand holding and wolf-whistling and other overly sexual acts by the straights be banned? Heaven forbid two Saudi men walk down the street holding hands as is their custom. I’m tired of the motormouths who think swearing loudly in public is perfectly okay and jerks who fly the flag until it is in tatters and don’t replace it.

  110. Trai_Dep says:

    I think some part of ConsumerJim is longing to have a ball-gag stuffed in his mouth by a leather-clad, masculine Mac Daddy, bent over a Harley and vigorously given the business. Handcuffed, so he can swear (swear!!) that he isn’t enjoying it. All THAT much.
    On a more serious note, the ones that are secure in their selves don’t really pay attention to what other people opt to do, do they?

  111. Starbright says:

    My take on the situation is a little different. I agree that H&R Block used poor semantics to convey that their software doesn’t currently support civil unions. However, even if H&R block isn’t intentionally discriminating against gay people, failure to provide their serivces to gay people in civil unioins does have a discriminatory effect. This is referred to as “adverse effects discrimination” in Canada. This means that the motivation for not providing a service is irrelevant, the Courts will look at whether the effect of failing to provide the service results in discriminatino. For instance, it doesn’t matter whether H&R Block’s reason is “not enough time, money or resources to update the software” or the reason is “we don’t like gay people and don’t want to recognize civil unions”, the result is the same: gay people in civil unions are not being provided a service that is being provided to everyone else, they are not treated equally.

    When you are providing a service to the public, you have an obligation to acccomodate differences among groups of people (at least those groups that are protected by human rights legislation). It doesn’t matter if H&R Block doesn’t think that it is worth their resources to update the software on time, because they have an obligation to keep their software up to date with the law and there is no reason to treat the civil union law any differently then any other amendement to tax legislation.

  112. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @SomewhereOutThere: Well said.

  113. Trai_Dep says:

    @SomewhereOutThere: Geez, if we could swap our illustrious Southerners with Canadians tomorrow, I’d vote for it in a NY second…

  114. MorganButeo says:

    Comment on H&R Block Doesn’t “Support” Gay Civil Unions Hi. I tried to audition and there doesn’t appear to be any
    space to actually insert a comment. (It’s probably a browser issue:
    I’m using Safari 3.0.4, if that means anything to anyone.)

    Do you suppose that “company spokeswoman Denise Sposato” is
    actually named Denise Sposato? Because her surname is the Italian
    word for “married”, which seems, at the very least, like they’re
    rubbing Smith and Pisu’s faces in it.

    Robert Matthews

  115. sophistiKate says:

    @Gorky: I realize I’m extraordinarily late responding to your comment, but I think it’s important to address your interpretation of the term “homophobic” since it is a common one. I agree that the term is confusing to many, and I would avoid it if I could, but I don’t think there is a sufficient alternative.

    I used this term to refer to a strong aversion to homosexuals. A hydrophobic molecule is not afraid of water. It is averse to water. This is an accepted use of the suffix “-phobic”. While clinical homophobia indeed refers to an irrational fear of homosexuals, the more common use of the term refers to aversion or hatred of homosexuals.

    The old argument “I’m not afraid of gay people,” is simply a diversion. No one stops to say “I’m not afraid of Mexicans” when they’re accused of xenophobia in a conversation about immigration, because we all know what the speaker intended in that case. Aversion. Hate. It is distracting from an important conversation to use this tired argument when addressing an unambiguous – albeit apparently controversial – statement (such as, “It’s very homophobic of H&R not to adequately consider the needs of its gay customers.”)

    ***

    Oh, by the way, that “organic” thing? I couldn’t agree more; it drives me CRAZY.