Tax Preparer Charges $250 For Services I Could Have Gotten For Free

Dustin provided a case study in why it’s a good idea to attempt to do your taxes on your own before shelling out money for professional help. And at that point, it’s smart to get an estimate about how much services will cost. After going through an hour of hassle and spending $250, he discovered he could have saved himself time and money by going it alone.

He writes:

Like many Americans 2010 was a bad year for me. I lost my Job and had to go on unemployment, and I am also a full time student. After I lost my job I chose to take my 401K distribution as I wanted to wait as long as possible before having to apply for unemployment. When I sat down to do my taxes I had 4 different forms to enter, one W-2, a form for my 401(k) distribution, one for school, and one for unemployment. I went to H&R block’s website and tried to enter the information as best I could and realized I was getting a pretty good sum back from Federal.

Since this is the first time I have had this many forms, and I had never gotten this much back from taxes I decided to set up an appointment with one of H&R Block’s “Tax Specialists” just to make sure it was correct. The first sign of trouble was that I was having to correct my rep multiple times, as she didn’t seem to be reading my forms correctly. H&R block has a shady practice of telling you how much you have to pay them right after you finish inputting information about your state taxes, so when we got to that part I thought she was telling me how much state tax I owe. The amount didn’t seem weird because I have always had to pay Arizona money on my taxes.

After this she asked if I wanted to pay by check or have it deducted from my Federal refund, which I said check (still thinking we were talking about my state tax). After realizing she had submitted my taxes I asked how much her services were going to cost. I was dumbfounded to hear her tell me it would be $211, considering I had helped her fill out a lot of the form myself. I told her I don’t have $211 (being that I am still unemployed) and I would rather file online, since I got the same results on my own for free, to which she replied “I’ve already submitted your taxes, it cannot be canceled.” We ended up setting it so that they would deduct their fees from my federal return which they charged me an extra $39 to do. All in all, I ended up paying $250 to spend an hour of my time doing something I could have done online for free. It wasn’t until after everything was said and done that I remembered H&R Block’s satisfaction guarantee that you will be satisfied or you don’t pay. Well, I told her I was unsatisfied but apparently I still had to pay.

What’s the most you’ve spent to do your taxes?

Previously: How To Get Free Tax-Prep Help

Comments

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  1. goldenargo85 says:

    H&R Block is the worst of the preparers, I find multiple mistakes made by them and they charge alot.

    • TheRedSeven says:

      http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

      I have never seen a Charge Alot before. What does it look like?

      • goldenargo85 says:

        Its like a snipe very sneaky ^_^

      • PanCake BuTT says:

        You played that move very nicely! Checkmate *plop*

      • Thassodar says:

        Hmm but if it were “a lot” wouldn’t he be saying they charged him a LOT, as in a lot of land? “I have a lot of fire” (I have a plot full of fire!). “I like this a lot.”(I like this as much as a lot).

        It can me misinterpreted however you like, the context is what matters. I prefer to spell it alot as well, as that is how I grew up with it. I think of it much like spelt and spelled, they’re both correct but spelt is less used in the US.

        • Kitten Mittens says:

          Except alot is not a real word in the English language. Alot is a town in India.

          Also, spelt is wheat – not the past tense of spell.

          So, use ‘em all you like, they’re both wrong.

        • wastedlife says:

          Actually, according to princeton wordweb, the primary definition of “lot” is

          # S: (n) batch, deal, flock, good deal, great deal, hatful, heap, lot, mass, mess, mickle, mint, mountain, muckle, passel, peck, pile, plenty, pot, quite a little, raft, sight, slew, spate, stack, tidy sum, wad ((often followed by `of’) a large number or amount or extent) “a batch of letters”; “a deal of trouble”; “a lot of money”; “he made a mint on the stock market”; “see the rest of the winners in our huge passel of photos”; “it must have cost plenty”; “a slew of journalists”; “a wad of money”

          While the “lot of land” definition is second:

          # S: (n) lot (a parcel of land having fixed boundaries) “he bought a lot on the lake”
          .

          Lastly, @TheRedSeven, it may be related to the “Charging Alot” on that Hyperbole and a Half post, or maybe it is a battery-powered alot.

  2. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    I might be crazy here, but I’ve been using TurboTax for years now. I love it. easy and fast. I just organize all my tax forms, and pay the $35, and boom, I get my taxes.

    I could do it on paper, but I like letting the Flash animations do the thinking for me.

    • anime_runs_my_life says:

      Amen. I’ve been using it for going on 4 years now since I got married and it makes life a lot easier. Especially with those 1099-DIV forms from the husband’s employee stock purchase.

      BTW, you’re not crazy. If something works for you, go with it. I do.

    • Jubes says:

      I used the online TurboTax for the first time last year. It was great! I had a few T4s (your W2s I believe) a tuition form and a bursary form, but I was done in about 25 minutes. Plus, since my earnings were so low, I didn’t have to pay the $20 fee! I ended up doing my dad’s and boyfriend’s as well in even less time since theirs were so easy. Another huge benefit was that I could netfile and I have direct deposit set up, so my refund came in the first day they released them. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to someone doing it for me.

      • macdude22 says:

        Agree’d I’ve used Turbo Tax online since 2006 and it’s gotten better each year, imports all my information from the prior year, and asks me idiot proof questions to find my deductions. It’s 50 bucks well spent in my opinion and saves me a few hours of hobbling the taxes together myself on paper.

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          Yup, I *love* TT and have used it for the last couple of years. My only suggestion when I filled out their customer satisfaction survey was that they need to have your previous year’s TT tax prep and filing costs automatically imported.

          I scrounged around for a bit trying to figure out where that amount was hidden in TT’s system only to find out that I (and a whole bunch of other folks) couldn’t readily access that data. I also found out that I didn’t come close to the threshold needed to deduct my tax prep / filing expenses. /sigh

    • Kitten Mittens says:

      I do a quick draft on paper and then I use TurboTax for the convenience and to check my accuracy. In the last 6 years, we always come up with the same figure, but I get my return far quicker.

    • privax says:

      Same here — I’m a college student with a full time job, a student loan, and a 401k — TurboTax is very easy and I recommend it to all my friends and family. You can easily find a discount too around 35% off.

  3. devwar says:

    Considering all the posts here in the last year about potential government crackdown on tax preparation services, a lot more people should be aware that there is MONEY to be made in convincing you that “taxs r hard” and you should pay them to let them do your taxes for you.

    My girlfriend wanted to go to H&R Block and pay them $300 to do her taxes. I sat down with her, and in 30 minutes had both her state and federal returns filed, for only $50 ($30 for Turbotax and $20 for state filing).

    • ihatephonecompanies says:

      I’ve always thought of doing your taxes as easy albeit somewhat tedious. You just follow along in the booklet and fill in the blanks with a bunch of numbers and do some arithmetic sometimes. I can’t imagine it’s much different in the US.

      Back in the real world though, there is definitely this idea that tax forms are incomprehensible. I’ve known perfectly competent, educated people who are reduced to monosyllabic gibbering at the mention of “doing your taxes”.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        I thought this until I used the free fill-able forms. Somehow having all the documentation available online made it SO MUCH EASIER.

      • Taddare says:

        One of the most useful things I learned in high school was how to do taxes. Our civics teacher made us learn the 1040EZ and 1040A, and tested us on them. I’ve ended up doing the family taxes year after year, and saved tons of money for everyone. Up until then everyone in the family paid for their taxes to be done.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      $50? Still too high. If you don’t qualify for the free services available (TurboTax online being one of those, even), then download the forms on irs.gov. Very easy.

      • devwar says:

        $50 is still $50 I wouldn’t pay, but when you consider that $50 was less than 1% of her return, she didn’t mind paying it. And no, she didn’t qualify for the free prep, would have been minimum $35 online. And getting into paper forms now starts hitting into the time = money clause where just paying the money is worth it.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        Last year I had to deal with my mothers estate and my own taxes. Two 1040 long forms (one with schedule C and D) and a 1041. Turbo Tax was the best $100 I ever spent.

        Now I have to figure out the tax laws around delpetion… Oh well.

  4. Darrone says:

    Not enough info about what she actually did, this sounds much more like griping than a legitimate complain.

  5. Grungo says:

    ‘I told her I don’t have $211 (being that I am still unemployed) and I would rather file online, since I got the same results on my own for free, to which she replied “I’ve already submitted your taxes, it cannot be canceled.”‘

    You should have told her you were going to file a complaint with the IRS unless the unauthorized submission was withdrawn. (Assuming of course that you didn’t sign anything giving H&R permission to submit your taxes, which you probably did.)

    • alana0j says:

      I’m a receptionist here at H&R Block, 2nd year, I can tell you between the two year I have seen a few people walk out without paying. You always have that option before it is transmitted. If the OP didn’t walk out upon hearing the total, that’s on them.

      As for whether they charge too much..well Jackson Hewitt is just as bad..I personally do mine online for free

      • Bibliovore says:

        As she noted, when she was given the total she owed the preparer she thought it was what she owed in state taxes, and she didn’t realize the taxes were being filed until after they’d been transmitted. That made it a bit harder to protest beforehand.

        Her preparer might need more training on how to present the charges and get clear acceptance. However, from the other issues the OP reported (not being able to read the forms accurately, making numerous mistakes that the OP noticed and corrected — and potentially others the OP missed, if the OP’s original calculations included any errors neither the OP nor the preparer knew to correct), that may be the least of the training that preparer needs.

        If the OP hasn’t already done so, I’d recommend she file a complaint with H&R Block. Assuming what’s reported here is correct, that employee is messing up tax returns and customer satisfaction.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Private tax preparers charge much less than these places, and are more incentivised in providing good customer service and being accurate.

    Using chain tax preparers is proof you were too lazy to find a tax preparer.

    • fatediesel says:

      Yeah, I was able to get my taxes done for $90 last year with a CPA’s office, and my return was much more complex than the OP’s, with multiple W-2s, itemized deduction, and ownership in a S corp.

    • LHH says:

      They charge less because you do all the work. At least that was my experience with one. My wife an I do our own taxes now. For free.

  7. Rebecca K-S says:

    That’s shady, but Dustin kind of led himself into that situation.

    I’ve never paid a penny to do my taxes, not even the year of five W-2s and four 1099s. Tax returns just aren’t that complicated for most people.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      They’re not complicated. I just hate paperwork. I hate it with the passion of a thousand burning suns.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If you’re using a 1040EZ and/or not itemizing, do can usually do it yourself. But if you have a lot of additional elements, you benefit from a preparer. This year I have about a dozen sets of different paperwork plus a few tax credits I have to apply for. My preparer will help, and for a fraction of that absurd $211 charge.

      • Rebecca K-S says:

        Oh, absolutely, some people really benefit from a tax preparer/probably couldn’t do it without one. But Dustin’s taxes, as described, are pretty damn simple. I don’t think I’ve been able to file an EZ since I was 17.

  8. Bsamm09 says:

    So the OP wanted to waste someone’s time to check their work. Why didn’t they discuss fees upfront?

    H&R Block charges per form because they can’t charge hourly fees as high as CPAs and EAs due to their limited knowledge and education. OP could have seen a CPA or an EA and paid for a 1/2 hour of their time to review the return.

  9. romoish says:

    “The guy we use to do our taxes” usually does mine for $30 but this year I made my own taxes at home for free from taxact like other commenters have suggested.

    A coworker said that she paid upwards of $200 to have her taxes filed but I believe it was some sort of payday loan type scam where she got 1/2 of her return immediately from the preparer and the other 1/2 when the return comes in.

    • NOS says:

      How do you figure it is a scam? They charge you a huge rate to get some money on the spot.

      Is it a lot of money paid to get some of your return on the spot? yes.

      Do some people need money now and can’t wait? yes.

      Is There any other way to get a portion of your return on the spot? No.

      It is not a scam, they are upfront and honest about the rates that you are paying for the immediate payment of part of your tax return.

      I am sorry if I sound pissed, but it really ticks me off when people call “SCAM!! CHEATERS!! LIARS!!” When in fact someone is providing a service that is expensive and people agree to the rates willingly. If you wouldn’t need/use the service, fine… But when someone is down on their luck and they need money ASAP, this is a great service to have available.

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        “Do some people need money now and can’t wait? yes.”

        Not so much “willingly” accepting the usury level interest rates and fees that come with the payday loan/tax return advance loan when you don’t have any other options now is it?

  10. Supes says:

    That’s standard pricing for H&R Block… should’ve asked them ahead of time how much it cost.

    It’s a shame this person had to pay this much, but no surprise. Lesson learned, move on.

  11. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The OP should have walked out with his paperwork the minute she started getting things wrong, considering the papers were right in front of her.

    OP, hope you get a job soon. Um, I also hope that you didn’t make any of your random capitalization mistakes on your resume or cover letters.

    • Rachacha says:

      Agreed, Many years ago, my then fiancee went to H&R because she had taken a traditional IRA and converted it to a Roth and disspersed payments out over several years. When she sat down with the “expert” and had to explain several times what had been done, and we got this blank stare which eventually ended up turning to get a supervisor and getting incorrect or inconsistent information, we got up and left, and we have used Turbo Tax ever since.

      This year we might consult with a CPA as we have 2 W-2s, a 1099, a small business, bank interest and we purchased a home in 1 state and are selling in another state and a couple other complications this year. I still think that TT could handle it, but she usually handles the taxes. I just hope that we did not significantly underestimate our taxes like we have in years past.

  12. chgoeditor says:

    I’m a bit confused. Did Dustin expect that he was getting something for nothing when he made an appointment with an H&R Block tax preparer? Lessons to be learned from this:
    1. Ask how much something will cost before you’re on the hook for the money.
    2. There are many free online tax prep sites. If you think one might have improperly calculated your tax, use another.
    3. Why in the world would he delay filing for unemployment? If he gets a job tomorrow, he’s decreased the value of his 401k while failing to take advantage of money he was entitled to while unemployed.
    4. Don’t spend money you don’t have.

    • ssaoi says:

      I agree with the 401k thing! That bothered me more than anything in the whole article. Unemployment is there for a reason.

    • lucky13 says:

      #3 – The fact he converted his 401K to cash already “decreased” the value of his IRA to zero (but also triggered a 15% early withdrawal penalty for taking early deductions from his IRA). Not only did he wait to file for unemployment, he cashed out his 401K and cost himself more $ due to the IRS.

      Add that to using H&R Block without confirming the cost up front, the entire excercise becomes a prime example of FAIL – so far, I’m having a hard time not coming up with a reason to blame the OP.

  13. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    Ummm… you spent an hour of your time dealing with this, which means she spent an hour of her time. And you think it would have been appropriate to back out after she was done and file it yourself online? You thought she was supposed to work for you for free?

  14. hmburgers says:

    “After I lost my job I chose to take my 401K distribution as I wanted to wait as long as possible before having to apply for unemployment”

    …wait… what?

    Is it just me or is that probably the worst idea possible from a financial pain point of view? You take out your own money, with penalties, in order to avoid receiving “free” money from the government/other tax payers… why? If he had said “because I’m an ultra-ethical weirdo” I’d understand… but otherwise I don’t…

    • MNGirl says:

      That was the first thing I noticed in this story!!! It didn’t make any sense to me either.

    • suzieq says:

      Yep, my first through too: why wait to make a claim? Your employer has been paying for your unemployment insurance the entire time you worked there.

    • LadyTL says:

      Because you don’t always get unemployment for as long as you are actually unemployed. Filing later means that if it takes him longer to find a job he is covered for that little bit longer.

      • chgoeditor says:

        “Because you don’t always get unemployment for as long as you are actually unemployed. Filing later means that if it takes him longer to find a job he is covered for that little bit longer.”

        You are correct, unemployment will not necessarily pay out for the entire time you are unemployed. But that doesn’t explain why he didn’t collect unemployment for as long as possible before tapping his 401K plan (or borrowing from another source). Such a bad bad bad bad idea. There is no reason to delay filing for unemployment.

      • lucky13 says:

        First, there’s a timeframe for filing for unemployment (which if missed will guarantee he won’t get any of those benefits) and second, by taking an early distribution from his 401K, he cost himself taxes due on that money and an extra 15% penalty (probably cancelling any refund he might have been due).

        Paying the IRS your more of your own money to delay filing for unemployment benefits is an epic fail no matter how it is justified.

        • rpm773 says:

          And don’t forget that, the younger you are, every dollar you take out of retirement costs you possibly several times that, due to the reduction in principal.

          The OP should have talked to an independent accountant. Not just to do his taxes, but to give him sound financial advice that he apparently needs.

    • Broke_Daddy says:

      Nah, you’re right. What he got is referred to as “expensive money.” Usually ends up paying about 50% tax rate on that. He should have tapped unemployment before he ever got close to that 401K dough.

  15. dolemite says:

    I still laugh at the local places that advertise “$49 taxes (for EZ Form)”.

    You have some real problems if you can’t fill out an EZ form.

  16. TooManyHobbies says:

    I’ve always done my own. They’re not that hard to do, I’ve never figured out why people are afraid of doing basic math and spending a little time reading.

  17. outoftheblew says:

    I’m a paid tax preparer (privately, not for a chain), and nearly everything a tax preparer does is stuff anyone could do for free. But most people don’t feel they know how to do it correctly and are too worried about the consequences, so they pay someone. Heck, a friend of mine had a single W-2 and went to H&R Block to do it.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      And my mother was a paid tax preparer and had to clean up the messes created by the retail chains. If you want it done right, hire a REAL professional or do it yourself.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      The only time I did mine myself was an EZ and I made a mistake. The IRS sent me a letter saying “You goofed on this, but we fixed it for you.” Oops!

      This year, I’ve got some extra stuff so I’ll get BF to help me. I paid H&R Block $100 once, but that was too much. A friend does it for $40. So that’s the most I’ve paid.

  18. dadelus says:

    I’ve had the exact same experience with H&R Block. I had to walk their rep through their own software and even had to argue with them about a couple of items before they would enter the correct information in the correct slot.

    The fact that I had to pay for their “service” burned me to no end and I’ve never gone there since. For several years I just used TurboTax. Then my wife started her own business and we decided to go to a reputable local accounting firm and have paid about the same price as what we paid HRB and have gotten much better service.

  19. BuddhaLite says:

    The accountant I use charges far less than one of those monkey run tax prep services AND saves me more money AND can actually give real advice.

  20. Hank Scorpio says:

    I used to pay to have our taxes done. The last time I did, the preparer (who we had used before) sent me some forms to fill out with all of the tax information. Basically, it amounted to me doing his work for him, and he probably just had an assistant plug all of the numbers into the software he used, anyway.

    The really aggravating thing was the parts on the form where it asked for the previous year’s info. Really? You don’t have that on file, or already in the computer?

    I decided, screw it – if I have to go through all the forms to get the numbers anyway, I can just plug them into a tax program myself. So, that’s what I’ve been doing the past few years.

  21. Bsamm09 says:

    I’ve never spent anything but I’ve done some that were expensive. Been a little while but my first year out of school I did a 1040 sch A, B, C, D & E that we billed for $8,500. Now I do mainly Corp and Multi-tiered pass-throughs and don’t know what they charge for them but I’m sure it is very expensive (for the most part).

  22. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    “Tax Preparation Services as Low as $38 * “

    * Jackson Hewitt $38 fee for Federal form 1040EZ with up to two W-2s and Schedule M only.
    * HR Block $39 for each state tax return with a “free” Federal 1040EZ

    Jackson Hewitt and HR Block both charge way too much, and c’mon, a 1040 EZ is what – a few questions, copy from your w-2 and the chart, subtract. Done. 5 minutes? and then the state is “Push a button”, copies all data from your 1040ez, ask 2 more questions, if that, and done.

    • NOS says:

      If it is such a crazy over charge.. how about people just do it themselves?

    • daemonaquila says:

      Especially when there are free services and software packages available online that check the work as well or better than a tax preparer…

    • Joseph49 says:

      Maybe I don’t understand, but if you go to a tax preparer to have your return done, and the EZ is free, but the state costs money, how is that different from using a free version of TurboTax. They EZ is free, but they charge for state returns.

      The difference is that you have somebody preparing the return for you. You are in essence using the labor of somebody for the same cost of using Turbo Tax. The tax preparer who does a free return does not receive commission compensation for that return.

      If you have a plumber, electrician or AC repair man come to house but makes no repairs (therefore no service provided), you still have to pay for his time. How is that any different from obtaining a service for the same cost as a computerized tax program, but no cost for labor, overhead or use of the tax preparer’s software.

  23. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I’ve been using the free fillable forms that the IRS provides the last 2 years I’ve done my taxes. Since TurboTax and others charge for simple investment income (such as capital gains, etc) I turned to the IRS when they wanted money.

    I use Turbo Tax as error checking and just don’t pay at the end, and free file through the government.

    The good thing? You have to *read* the instructions and realize how your taxes are calculated and why you get the deductions instead of just taking it on faith that they’re right.

    http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=201897,00.html

  24. tracilyns says:

    This happened to me a couple years ago, but not for nearly that much. I helped the tax preparer understand the questions on her form, and I wasn’t confident that she had done it right. I ended up complaining to H&R Block–I may have even sent out an EECB, but I can’t recall. A manager in my area from H&R Block called to make sure things were done correctly and even looked at my previous year’s taxes for free and got me more money refunded because I had missed something. I didn’t get a refund, but I did get piece of mind and a free service for the previous year.

  25. daemonaquila says:

    It’s terrifying how many people get their taxes done – and pay through the nose for it – by preparers who often are less reliable than TurboTax or free help through community clinics or IRS volunteer clinics. Most people just don’t need a tax preparer, but don’t know about the resources or less expensive options available.

    Rather than more “blame the OP,” how about sharing some ideas?

    Free online tax return software and filing for those with income under $58,000, via IRS – http://www.irs.gov/efile/index.html
    Free tax return prep by the IRS – http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=107626,00.html
    Free tax return help by the IRS – http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=133019,00.html
    Free, specialized tax preparation for members of the military – http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=106303,00.html
    TurboTax ONLINE (free, federal taxes only) – http://turbotax.intuit.com/personal-taxes/online/free-edition.jsp
    TurboTax software (for the most basic forms, it’s FREE) – http://turbotax.intuit.com/

    • BadBadKitty says:

      I did taxes last year for Jackson Hewitt , after a 8 hr course i was a ceritfied tax preparer .
      We use the same type of software that is available for free online .
      We were instructed to “turn the screen and show them theyre amounts they can get back without showing the fees for each” . It wasnt uncommon for fees to be $500 + for RAL filers .
      We also were to add the gold guarantee ($39) to every file unless the customer requested it removed .
      Probably most pathetic job ive ever had .. i lasted a month .

  26. catskyfire says:

    I bribe TaxCat with salmon to do them for me.

  27. Raanne says:

    I know I’m in the minority, but I pay someone to take care of it for me. I have a rental property in another state & my husband is self-employed. Its cheaper to pay an accountant than to buy the turbotax software.

    • chgoeditor says:

      I am also self-employed & have investment real estate. I’d argue that it might be cheaper in the short run, but not necessarily in the long run. Your tax preparer is not going to ask you about every possible deduction to which you are entitled. But when you use the tax prep software, it interviews you about every possible deduction under the sun. Using tax prep software I’ve found deductions I’m sure I would have missed with many tax preparers.

    • hmburgers says:

      self employed, rental properties, etc… we’ve got those… $80/yr for the downloadable version of Turbo Tax Premier… you pay LESS than that for a real live /accountant/?

      If so, that is a gift, because it should take at least a couple of hours to go through a return with a business involved, unless your setup is extremely straight forward?

      The other advantage to the downloadable version to TT is that I can use it for my taxes, my father’s, my SO’s, etc… so now that $80 has covered multiple people.

  28. Mouse Tester says:

    you have been baited & switched.. file a complaint with the AG… “already submitted” before agreeing on a contract = scam

  29. Al Rognlie says:

    This just in – Plumber charges $100 for something I could have looked up on the internet for free. Boo hoo.

    • Firethorn says:

      Having just had to get a new boiler ($7.5k), and do some other plumbing work myself, I’m not sure that the $100 isn’t worth it.

      Sure, I can solder water pipes myself, but I took 2 hours to do work that an experienced plumber would have had done in 5 minutes.

  30. Joseph49 says:

    I am not quite sure you have a real complain there.

    Sure there are charges for the service. As with any tax preparation service, the quality of the tax preparer varies widely. Block tax preparers are given a good deal of training, and probably more substantial than some of the other tax services, but the level of expertise of the preparer is based on experience, financial knowledge, accounting principles as well as training.

    Most people wouldn’t do this, but if you are not satisfied with the level of skill of your particular preparer, you should ask for someone with more knowledge. That is always your right.

    The communicative skills of the preparer may have been lacking, but she should have given you the total amount of the refund for both federal and state before she could give you the cost of the tax preparation. She should have ensured you understood. Judging from what you said, you were still in the processing stage of the return because she asked how you wanted your refund (check or if you wanted it taken from your refund) when you said you did not have the cash for the return.

    In any event, Block does not transmit a return until everything is signed and fees paid (either by direct payment or taking it from your return). Assuming you are not embellishing the story (and I assume you are not), the preparer should never have told you the return was already filed. Block’s policy is that you can always walk out of a return with your documentation (and without paying) until the return is signed.

    Not all tax preparers from large tax preparation services are bad, nor are they all good. As it is with any product, you need to ask questions and be comfortable with the person you are talking with. I don’t care whether you are dealing with a big store, a CPA firm or tax software, you need to have confidence in yourself or the preparer. If not, demand to speak to someone more knowledgeable.

    You can absolutely find cheaper ways to file a return. There are many services that provide the return free or low cost. You can do it yourself by using tax filing software or pen and paper. To complain that you paid a professional tax service $211 when could have paid nothing is simply a matter of choice.

    I am not quite sure you have a real complain there.

    Sure there are charges for the service. As with any tax preparation service, the quality of the tax preparer varies widely. Block tax preparers are given a good deal of training, and probably more substantial than some of the other tax services, but the level of expertise of the preparer is based on experience, financial knowledge, accounting principles as well as training.

    Most people wouldn’t do this, but if you are not satisfied with the level of skill of your particular preparer, you should ask for someone with more knowledge. That is always your right.

    The communicative skills of the preparer may have been lacking, but she should have given you the total amount of the refund for both federal and state before she could give you the cost of the tax preparation. She should have ensured you understood. Judging from what you said, you were still in the processing stage of the return because she asked how you wanted your refund (check or if you wanted it taken from your refund) when you said you did not have the cash for the return.

    In any event, Block does not transmit a return until everything is signed and fees paid (either by direct payment or taking it from your return). Assuming you are not embellishing the story (and I assume you are not), the preparer should never have told you the return was already filed. Block’s policy is that you can always walk out of a return with your documentation (and without paying, but not with the return) until the return is signed.

    Not all tax preparers from large tax preparation services are bad, nor are they all good. As it is with any product, you need to ask questions and be comfortable with the person you are talking with. I don’t care whether you are dealing with a big store, a CPA firm or tax software, you need to have confidence in yourself or the preparer. If not, demand to speak to someone more knowledgeable.

    You can absolutely find cheaper ways to file a return. There are many services that provide the return free or low cost. You can do it yourself by using tax filing software or pen and paper. To complain that you paid a professional tax service $211 when could have paid nothing is simply a matter of choice.

  31. devilsadvocate says:

    Regardless of what they charge, to say they are charging you for something you could have done for free is just silly. You go buy groceries don’t you? Could you plant your own carrotts and milk your own cow? You chose to go to them, you chose to spend money. You would have had to pay something even if they didn’t file it for you. How much free work have you done since you’ve been unemployed? The people at H&R Block provide a service that costs money. If you don’t want to pay them, don’t go to them.

  32. curmudgeon5 says:

    The only problem I see here is that they’re not honoring their money-back guarantee, and you should pursue that up the ladder.

    Aside from that though, did you really think they were going to work for free?

  33. esp13 has a pony named Steve says:

    Wait, you mean to tell me that it cost more to have a professional do something for you than if you did it yourself? The nerve of some businesses, trying to make money off people who are too busy, not knowledgeable or just plain lazy to do it themselves.

    Sarcasm aside, tax prep fees, especially by the big name companies, is ridiculous. With software like Turbo Tax being out as long as it has, I recommend that everyone use it if you have never tried doing your taxes before. You’ll find that it is a lot easier than you ever imagined.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      At the very least, if you are too scared to do it yourself, TRY first. TaxAct online doesn’t make you pay until you file. try to do your taxes yourself, and then see how close you are what the tax prep firm gets as far as your refund/owed amount is.

  34. The Fake Fake Steve Jobs says:

    Yes, the original poster could have gotten this service for free from the web, but he chose to have a tax “professional” look at it. Just because the “professional” achieved the same numbers as you did online does not mean it’s free.

    To quote the goblins from WoW, “Time is money, friend.”

  35. stevied says:

    $25 to an accounting student to review your work would have been appropriate.

  36. JiminyChristmas says:

    I have used TaxAct for several years for my very simple returns and have been happy with it. It’s also the cheapest online service I have found. This year I think it was $14.95 for Federal + State.

    One scammy thing that almost got by me though: Before you finish the process you can select the option of having the filing fee deducted from your refund. Seemed simple enough, so I checked it. One or two screens later I see the fine print that deducting the charge from your refund is processed by a third party and costs an additional $16.95. It was literally fine print too: small, light-colored font near the bottom of the screen. I unchecked it and paid by credit card, for which there was no extra fee.

    It still pissed me off though. I shouldn’t have to sift through shady offers to use a filing service I’m paying for.

  37. jasw says:

    I’ve always done my own or have had them done for free. I work for a non-profit that provides free tax preparation for anyone that makes under 60k. My girlfriend attended Liberty Tax’s “accelerated tax prep course” meaning that they teach a class full of people tax law and how to prepare in 5 days and then put them out on the floor to charge $200 per preparation for minimum wage. She ended up quitting because she knew that every customer she had was capable of doing it themselves or that they would qualify for free tax prep at various community organizations.

    I feel bad for the OP but fees should of been discussed ahead of time.

    Here is the organization that I work for: http://www.thebenefitbank.com Although we’re limited to just a handful of states…this is just one of many similar community agencies across the states. Keep those in mind next time.

  38. keepher says:

    That price is pretty much in line for a complicated return done by a CPA. Which is what we pay to ours when he does our taxes. But its been worth it, our tax prep is very complicated for many reasons. Heck, it takes me a week just to compile the numbers to turn in to him.

  39. Maximus Pectoralis says:

    Breaking News: BestBuy charges $59.99 for $1.36 HDMI cable!

  40. Mike says:

    I am so glad I live in a state that does not have state income tax. Although the state budget deficit is not too happy about it.

  41. schdav says:

    Pro tip: your mistake was going to H&R Block, not that you sought tax advice. The non-CPA tax prep industry is in general crap, but that doesn’t mean that no one should ever get help and/or advice from a qualified tax professional such as a CPA or attorney that specializes in taxes (CPAs are cheaper).

    In fact it sounds like the writer does need some general financial advice. Taking out your 401k instead of taking UI benefits is probably the dumbest thing you could do. You pay into UI for a reason: you’ll probably use it at some point in your life. We live in an at-will employment world and UI makes that reality a little easier to deal with. If your house burned down, would you try to rebuild it without getting your homeowners insurance to pay for it?

  42. captadam says:

    The most I’ve spent to do my taxes?

    $0

    • mystery79 says:

      I use TaxAct to do my federal return, allow it to show me my state, then use the state of Ohio’s free Federal return to double check that those #s add up.

      If only my city’s local tax was easier to use…only reason I actually would consider a preparer is if they did all 3 at the same time. Even then usually the money I get back from uncle Sam goes right to my city taxes. I’m really just breaking even as is.

  43. blinky says:

    Wait. He drained his 401K to keep from going on unemployment?

  44. jwt0001 says:

    If the preparer did not have the client sign the proper forms, nor inform him/her of the specifics of the transaction, before filing the return, the client should complain with the preparer’s manager and the district manager.

  45. consumerd says:

    I stopped going to H&R block when i found out I can do multiple states with turbotax. Before and for years I shelled out up to $300 for some part time person to do my taxes on a computer. Now I did last years by myself. I technically can do my taxes “online” but I have a machine with logmein for my “online turbotax” experience.

  46. valivin says:

    My husband worked for an accounting firm…..guess what they used to do people’s taxes: Tax Cut software you can buy at the store……seriously, if you like to throw money away then by all means, but today with the software and online services there is no reason to pay more than the $50 fee for the software….and you pay even less when you get your refund electronically. Duh.

  47. Dustin says:

    Op here, I wasn’t expecting to get anything for free, I was expecting to pay a professional to prepare my taxes. What i got was an under trained preparer that i had to help file my taxes. When I originally called to setup the appointment i told them exactly what forms I had and asked how much it would cost, H&R block does not state its fees anywhere because it is based upon the number of forms you have to enter. You are not told what the fees will be until the preparer has already entered your information into the system. I contacted the district manager and gave her the full story of what happened. Within an hour she contacted me to let me know she would look into it. Today i received a call from her letting me know they were able to cancel my return (which the rep told me was not possible) and that i would not be charged as long as i returned their forms to their office, which i did.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      H&R Block are not professionals. If you want a national “Chain” try the BIG 4: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG or PwC.

  48. pararescuejmper says:

    I worked for H&R Block for many years. First as a CSR and then being a tax specialist. Whenever you sit down to have your taxes done you are not obligated to pay anything until the very end of the process after we explain our fees and have the paperwork ready to sign. Pretty much you have until we print everything out (at least 2 trees worth of paper) to change your mind. I cannot tell you how many people I had come in who I went all the way through their taxes, they foudn out how much the fees would be and then they left. We place their tax return on hold and hope they come back. So this TS basically violated company policy by submitting his taxes before he was ready to commit.

    I would take the issue to the office manager or to the district head (unless you happened to use one of the franchise offices. I’m not 100% sure what their rules are) and try to get some money back.

    I left H&R after they started charging crazy prices for the little things that used to be free. Thankfully my mum works for a private tax firm so I dont have to spend time doing my own…

  49. HighontheHill says:

    The first year I had on the books income I was 16 upon reciept of my W-2 I simply went to the library and picked up the necessary documents and booklets and prepared my taxes myself; something I continued to do until I adopted this software some years ago, and it has gotten better over the years. I’m not the best barometer though as I strive for self sufficiency in every possible way.

  50. Memtex784 says:

    Being a cheap person, my family (including parents) buy one copy of Turbo Tax for one computer and we all use it to do multiple tax returns.

  51. NJDave says:

    My fiancee had used H&R Block for years, so when we got married I agreed to try them for our joint earnings plus my consultancy. The preparer had the wrong idea of the max contribution to a SEP IRA, and tried to shoehorn her wrong idea into the Block software system, upon which everything at Block depends. Separately, she failed to enter crucial estimated tax info into the software, which wrongly calculated that I owed several hundred dollars plus a penalty, which I dutifully paid. When I figured out what went wrong and tried to explain it to the preparer, she got all pissy. The management was only able to try making manual corrections in their software, which only generated another buggy return. I ended up having to re-do my taxes manually, with some friendly advice from a local CPA who is now our tax preparer. The bill from Block was over $600; our CPA charges HALF that for a far superior job. NEVER AGAIN.

  52. Clyde Barrow says:

    Estimate? Yeah right. They’ll tell you that it is nearly impossible to give you an estimate because every person is different. lol.

  53. the_big_aristotle says:

    Ex Liberty Tax preparer here. I’m not sure if this was mentioned by someone else but I doubt they would submit your tax return immediately. Returns usually go through a review before they are transmitted. They are only transmitted once they are paid for. She was running game.

  54. steveliv says:

    I’ve been using TaxSlayer the past three years. It is pretty much the only one that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for extra state returns. My wife works in Georgia, but we live in South Carolina, so we have to file in both states. Taxslayer charges $9.95 for Federal, and $4.95 for each state. This is pretty low compared to the $21+ that other online tax websites charge for each state return, not including the charge for the Federal filing. It has all the new forms, and includes the same features as every other preparer.

  55. Tallorder64 says:

    I think that we are missing the point here. Why should we have to pay anyone to obey the law (that is, pay our taxes?) Do we have to pay anyone to ensure that we don’t rob a bank? In Japan no one files a tax return unless you have overpaid due to changing your job, etc. Just think-if the tax laws were as they should be the IRS would be 1/10th the size it is now, taxes would be fairer for everyone, our deficits would be non-existent, business would know their tax costs, there would be no “loopholes” for the privileged few, fewer people would be going to jail for tax evasion ala Wesley Snipes, it would be easier for the government to build a case against those that do avoid paying their taxes, the list could go on and on. But then again-where could our royalty (elected officials) get their money?

  56. psemkl3 says:

    I do my own taxes at home. On paper. For free. Really. It’s not that hard. Ok, it’s not free, it costs a few dollars for registered mail.

  57. thesalad says:

    I had my pretty straightforward taxes done for me once… I went to see someone, paid them $60 and then watched him/her fill out all the information in software. He told me that the next year the price would be more (Kid on the way, Plus a House) I opted to go the DIY online route and it was pretty much the same experience.

    My Brother Decied to go to H&R a few years ago as he had income in multiple states and multiple W-2’s.. he ended up paying around $150 for the services.. AND he decided to do the refund anticipation loan at something like 25% interest or something ungodly like that. NEVER TAKE THE REFUND LOAN!!!

  58. Graidan says:

    H&R sucks – the one time I used them, they told me things weren’t deductible that were, costing me over $1000 of refund. They also lost all my paperwork somehow. I always recommend against them now.

  59. VouxCroux says:

    Seems like this guy should’ve paid attention.

  60. Broke_Daddy says:

    I’ve used Tax Slayer online now for the past 5 years. A family member charged us $400 one year for 3 W-2’s and a 1099. I had three states to file returns in. My understanding is that a lot of CPA firms rent the software for these returns on a “per use” basis.
    Tax Slayer costs me about $15 bucks for the middle program, and I think it’s about $20 for the program with all the bells and whistles. That includes e-filing. I almost always get my return back in about 8 days.
    There are some other programs out there that cost less I think, particularly for members of the military, however, I’ll stay with what has worked for me.