Friday, March 6, 2009

H&R Blockheads

Yesterday, I went in for my annual. Which gynecologically would refer to the once-a-year pap smear appointment, but in this case, I mean my annual trip to H&R Block. Except this time? I would have preferred an invasive vaginal exam. Because I left the appointment feeling quite violated and robbed of both dignity and money.

I knew my taxes this year would be bad and complicated. I had to file in two states (MA and NY), and as a freelancer, I had almost a dozen forms/sources of income. I had a few W-2s, several 1099s, plus dividend stuff, and student loan paperwork. It was a big 'ol mess. The appointment last over 2 hours.

But the worst part? I left H&R Block not entirely confident that they had done even a remotely competent job. And they charged almost $500 for their services. Which is twice as much as I paid last year. Forbes confirms that H&R Block raised their prices and that the average fee for having them do your taxes has risen by about 11%. Tax-wise, I am fine -- I'm getting a small refund, which is nice, albeit surprising. Often I don't get a refund and owe the government money because I don't have taxes taken out beforehand for some of my writing and tutoring gigs.

At the end of my session, after everything had been calculated, my tax adviser showed me the itemized breakdown of the services. He was actually late for his ride home and trying to hurry me out the door, which I found annoying. He also answered his cell phone several times during my appointment. Rude.

Basically, H&R Block charges you for every computerized field they fill out on the tax forms. Hilariously, every write-off they come up with, they make a profit off of. So whatever money it adds onto your refund check is totally canceled out. I actually had my adviser go back and claim less in expenses so I would owe H&R Block less money.

My tax adviser had to leave before everything had been signed, so he turned me over to another employee, who happened to also be The Oldest Man I Have Ever Seen. I mean, this dude was 90 if he was a day. He couldn't operate the stapler without my assistance. So the last step in the process, which should have taken 5 minutes, took 30. There were papers everywhere and he kept some, gave me was like amateur night at the Apollo.

When I first came in for my appointment, another customer was loudly arguing with the H&R Block manager about the fact that he couldn't get a copy of the itemized receipt from them. Now I know why, though it still seems incredibly sketchy. They show you on a computer screen, after you're already dazed from answering tax-related questions for an hour, how much they're charging you and once you numbly nod, you never get to see that breakdown of charges again. Presumably because it's totally preposterous what they charge. They have raised their costs considerably from last year; I have my receipt from last year and spent $240 to get my taxes done. So they are charging more and have stopped giving you a copy of the receipt. SHADYTOWN. And the Better Business Bureau agrees; it has given H&R Block a rating of "F." That's right, an F. As in, FAIL.

Next year, my taxes *should* be simpler, since I won't have as many freelance writing gigs (one of the pubs I write for has already switched to an online-only format and cut the budget for freelancers) and will only be earning in one state. I am going to try to do my taxes on my own. Essentially, H&R Block charged me almost $250/hour, whereas I could have hired my own accountant for less and gotten better service.

So if you're thinking about going to H&R Block.....I would seriously recommend that you reconsider.

Other evidence that H&R Block sucks:
"10 Things H & R Block Won't Tell You" Complaints about H&R Block

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't pay taxes for a while and the IRS got a little annoyed and I thought HR Block would be a good idea. It was not. The guy basically pulled up a turbotax window and read me the questions off the screen. Stupid.