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Ticked off at TurboTax? H&R Block can help

thAt this time of year anger begins to build toward the Internal Revenue Service. We collect W-2s and other paperwork, we dread the tax forms and we resent the United States government.

Some consumers aren’t furious with Uncle Sam right now, but they sure are ticked off at Intuit.

The company made major changes to the Deluxe version of its popular TurboTax software, removing several forms (including rental income and capital gains) and nixing help with filling out self-employment and small business income.

Some consumers who already bought the software have found they must pay up to $40 more for an upgrade. Guess what? They’re not happy about that.

“Generally everybody directs their ire at the IRS. This year, TurboTax is catching the hate,” notes tax journalist Kay Bell.

If you were one of those early birds, don’t despair: H&R Block wants to give you a free replacement product.

Consumers who have already bought TurboTax Basic or Deluxe can get one free download of H&R Block Deluxe + State. The company will also import last year’s tax return from TurboTax to the new product.

To take advantage of this deal, send an e-mail to SwitchToBlock@hrblock.com and include all of the following information:

  • Your name, address and phone number
  • Which operating system (Windows/Mac) you use
  • A photo, scan or email showing proof of TurboTax Basic or Deluxe purchase

According to Bell’s article on Bankrate.com, the changes to the desktop software were intended to sync it with TurboTax’s online version. Customers increasingly want to file online, according to Intuit, and the change “creates a more consistent experience across TurboTax products and platforms,” spokeswoman Julie Miller says.

 

Bait and switch, or caveat emptor?

Some customers are frothing at the mouth over what they see as a bait-and-switch. Intuit, on the other hand, says it was merely a business decision and that they gave plenty of warning.

“I think the tendency is people want to get through their taxes as quickly as possible, and they grabbed the version they’ve used over the years,” says Bell, who lives in Austin, Texas and owns the best blog name ever: Don’t Mess With Taxes.

She thinks the notion of caveat emptor applies here. I think so, too. TurboTax didn’t hide the changes. While it’s easy to assume a product will remain the same from year to year, it’s always a good idea to check before purchasing.

“That’s a good lesson even in non-tax times,” Bell notes.

It’s quite the public relations snafu. But no doubt Intuit will recover and TurboTax users will move on. Judging from some of the comments on Amazon (e.g., “I hate being gouged, and I hate weasel word explanations even more”), however, it’s likely that some consumers will move on and directly into the H&R Block camp.

Personally, I pay to have my taxes done – at H&R Block Premium, in fact. The tax professional with whom I work is an enrolled agent and has offered advice on setting up my LLC, how to pay employer taxes and other business topics.

Earlier this year the IRS seemed to think I’d filed paperwork late and owed $800. My tax fellow calmly assured me that the whole thing was a mistake. It took three letters but ultimately the government agreed with him.

If I’d been doing my own taxes, I’d probably have caved after the second letter and paid up. So it’s totally worth it for me to have my taxes done professionally. (Besides, it’s a business expense!)

Readers: Did the TurboTax issue affect you this year? If so, will you give the free H&R Block software a try?


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19 Comments

  1. spiffikins

    I actually lucked out and had read about this change BEFORE I picked up my (heavily discounted) copy of TurboTax this year.

    I have read that if you got caught out by this change and bought the wrong copy, if you call Intuit and complain, they are upgrading many people for free this year, as an acknowledgement that the change was a surprise to a lot of people.

    I have used H&R Block’s program before – but there is a specific form/schedule that I need to complete each year, and their program does not support it – I spent a bunch of time on the phone with their tech support last year as they looked it up and had to come back to say that none of their software versions include that form. It’s not a common form – it’s a form you have to fill out if you have bank accounts in a foreign country – but it’s not a totally uncommon form – and TurboTax does have it.

  2. I switched from TurboTax to TaxAct about 4 years ago. It is a fraction of the cost – I pay $14. Period. For state and local, and filing. I got fed up with TurboTax for constantly increasing it’s already high fees.

    Seriously, give TaxAct a try. It’s quite good.

    • I agree with you about Tax Act. I have a couple of rental properties and have been using Tax Act Deluxe for several years now. It’s been a good product, informative and easy to follow.

    • Up until last year I’ve always tried the free versions of both TurboTax and TaxAct and somehow TaxAct has always given me a higher return. That’s a reason to switch on its own!

    • Donna Freedman

      When it’s good, it’s very very good — but again, see Linda’s comment and double-check your math.

  3. Tina in NJ

    The year after we were married, we underestimated our taxes and had to pay a lot. Rarely have I seen DH so mad. I’m willing to pay an accountant (local businessman) just to avoid the aggravation. There may be cheaper options, but he’s done well by us. And DH doesn’t have to deal with it, except for gathering the paperwork.

  4. Same with us, Tina. We didn’t underestimate, but as we bought a house, had kids, etc., and our life situation got more complex, it became worth it to pay a professional to do our taxes. One caveat: Make sure your tax professional is an Enrolled Agent. EAs can represent you in front of the IRS, in case you’re ever audited, God forbid. Good luck to everyone this tax season!

    • Very good point Kate! When I went through my divorce in 1995 I found things that I was not agreeable and then found my tax guy who knew me and my ways and would vouch for me and make sure that my taxes were straight from them on. He is still my tax guy many years later and it is worth the $ to make sure that you get every deduction you can as to not over pay our wonderful government 🙂

    • Tina in NJ

      DH was a widower and we had just gotten married. He lost the deduction for wife #1 (you can still claim a year or two after death) and wife #2 (me) was working full time. Double whammy!

  5. Ever since my husband went into business for himself, we’ve paid a professional to do our taxes. We used to go to H&R Block, but now we use a local accountant, and she charges a LOT less. She’s really good, and I’m comfortable paying another local small businessperson to make sure everything is done right. I like having the same person year after year, too, which we didn’t get with H&R Block.

  6. I also use H&R Block (the same professional each year). She’s an accountant by day, so I trust her. Sure, it’s a bit pricey, but I feel much more secure having a professional tackle my taxes. It’s been especially helpful when I got married, then divorced, moved across state lines (work in one state, live in another), & when I started my side gig.

  7. I used HR Block online for a couple of years and then stopped. They kind of failed to follow through on a coupon/discount that they promised and I left them after that. Other than that I had no complaints.

    Luckily, my taxes are relatively simple. I download the fill-able forms from the IRS, print them out and mail them in. I know that they would prefer me to file online, but until they make it more standardized, I’ll stick with paper.

  8. I’m a retired IRS agent who now uses Turbo Tax. I did get caught up in this because I have a very small Schedule C. I did get the free download for this year. We’ll see about next year.

    I attempted to use H & R Block software one year, but it did not give me the correct answer. I knew the correct answer for my state taxes, but could not get the Block software to calculate it. The state was very simple. I will probably pay more next year because I don’t trust the Block software.

    To the person the said Tax Act gave them a higher refund, the real question is was that the correct refund? That is what really matters.

    When I prepared tax returns for a living, I saw too many people prepare their returns with tax software who loved their large refunds, but they had not entered the information correctly and they had received a “love” letter from the IRS. Garbage in, garbage out.

    • Donna Freedman

      I understand the H&R Block software has been considerably revamped in the past two years. And I’m with you: I’d rather get a small refund or no refund than a “Greetings!” letter down the road.

  9. Thanks for the heads up! I’ve used Turbo Tax for years but this time I many just go directly to H&R Block! 🙂

  10. Ive been using the H&R Block happily for many years with a pretty complex tax situation.

  11. Tina in NJ

    Some 25 years ago or more, a coworker brought all her forms to H&R Block and they lost them. Just vanished. And she had to do the legwork to replace them. (Which makes sense from a security point of view, but it’s still a hassle.)

    • Donna Freedman

      Yikes! But I’d like to point out that one (egregious) error does not a company define. I had a mediocre experience with H&R Block in Illinois but today I’m not sure how I would have made it through my first year as a corporation without so much (free!) assistance from my H&R Block guy in Alaska.

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