A response from H&R Block regarding my post about their tax services

So in response to my post Should I hire an accountant or do my taxes on my own? I got a response back from Michelle Shildkret from H&R Block letting me know that I may have been making a few misconceptions about the level of service I’d get there. I’m all about giving people the benefit of the doubt and I mentioned I’d be happy to let her post a guest post rebuttal on the issue, so here we are! Michelle had Gary Lundberg (Director of Marketing for H&R Block’s Digital Tax Solutions) craft up the rebuttal post.

My initial post had mentioned:

“Those were the first basic questions I asked just to get a feel for the person I was hiring. Most of the time the H&R Block tax people aren’t that in depth with the questions; most of the people I’ve talked to (including the one I interviewed) said that the person they used from H&R Block was a 23 year old fresh out of school that had book smart, but not so much tax smart; which isn’t conducive to question #1.”

Gary’s rebuttal says:

Hank,

Great post! For complete transparency, I’m Gary Lundberg, the Director of Marketing for H&R Block’s Digital Tax Solutions. You’ve made a lot of points here that are very common and problematic for American taxpayers, but I’d like to weigh in with some comments.

For users of “do it yourself” tax software or online solutions, your position that if you do something wrong, you only have yourself to blame isn’t entirely true (at least for our customers). Additionally, it isn’t necessarily true that if you’re a customer of a CPA, they’ll be there to catch all of the heat from the IRS for you either. By pure coincidence (and I know you’re thinking “Yeah, right” — but it’s true), I was recently speaking with a friend who is currently undergoing an audit of their 2003 taxes. He was lamenting the fact that they had used the same CPA for several years and, though expensive, had always gotten them “good refunds.” But now that the IRS has come calling, their CPA has effectively abandoned them. It’s a story I’ve heard before. I’m not suggesting that this behavior is the norm among CPAs, I’m saying it happens. And it’s not uncommon.

Conversely, if you e-file through H&R Block, you’re covered by our Worry-free Audit Support. Even as a customer of our digital products, in the event of an audit, you would receive real audit protection from a real person. Really. You would not be left out in the cold to fend for yourself, or pointed to a static website or FAQ page and told “good luck.” Nope. You would be assigned a real IRS-licensed Enrolled Agent with specialized training in audit defense.

But getting back to the assertion that if you file with software or online, you’re doing it in a vacuum by yourself, this is not true for customers of H&R Block’s digital tax solutions. We took this very aspect — or more accurately, perception — of the traditional software/online experience, and have pioneered the blending of digital convenience and empowerment with live support from H&R Block tax professionals. By pairing a software or online interface with H&R Block’s unrivaled legacy of return preparation experience and tax code knowledge, we are able to remove this sense of going it alone. And as mentioned, this includes after you file if necessary.

The extreme application of this seamless tax pro integration can be found in the newest member of our Digital Tax Solutions family, Tango. With Tango, we enable you to have a pro virtually “by your side” every step of the way (click play below for a YouTube demo of the setup).

Tango was built around the incorporation of access to a pro for any tax or technical question 24/7 — via phone, chat, or e-mail. We recognized the need to make it as easy and convenient as possible for users to get the help they need, anytime they need it, through the channel of their choice. Coupled with an innovative UI, and language and personality that take the drudgery out of doing your taxes, Tango makes tax preparation enjoyable. And that’s not marketing spin, that’s what customers are telling us. This is all baked into the all-inclusive price of $70. Whether you have 2 questions, 20, or 200, all you pay is $70.

So with Tango, we’re crossing the lines and shattering perceptions of what “tax software” is by embedding unlimited live support from a trained professional so you’re not alone. And combined with Worry-free Audit Support, you never have to wonder “Will my CPA be there for me?”

Any and all feedback welcome!
Thanks,
Gary Lundberg
gary.lundberg@hrblock.com

Thank you Michelle and Gary – It is nice to see that “the Block” is willing to look to the Personal Finance blog realm to see how they’re doing in the blogosphere. Keep an eye out, you may see another post or 2 pop up about it.

Does anyone have any questions or comments for H&R Block and their tax services? Feel free to post them here, they’ll be watching the post here to reply!

Filed Under: financial educationReaders RequestsTaxes

  • eric

    Interesting approach Hank to allow a rebuttal, but it makes sense I guess. So the H&R Block Gary says that their product is covered by a worry free audit support, but has this always been the case or is this a new product based on past experiences?

  • Lisa

    What about the age thing? I had an H&R Block person that WAS a 23 year old that gave me the stock answers and wasn’t very personable and I left for that reason last year. What is the average age of the H&R Block incoming team?

  • I saw on the news that you can “walk in with taxes and out with a check” how can they pay you for your return? Do they take a cut of your return to give you instant money?

  • PTB

    I have TurboTax and am happy. Why should I switch to Tango?

  • I can get turbotax for 19.99 at circuit city – what is the $50.00 more give me in tango?

  • Hey all – good questions! The H&R Block folks are reviewing and will have answers shortly! Thanks for stopping by!

  • Yuma

    Do we get a bonus coupon code to H&R Block since we are loyal M.I.B. readers and you chose here to post about it? 🙂

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  • Hi Pete. You wanted to know how can you “walk in with taxes and out with a check”? This question refers to our Instant Money Refund Anticipation Loans offered through H&R Block offices. Basically, if upon having your return prepared by an H&R Block tax pro you expect to receive a refund, we will issue you a check the same day for your refund amount – minus associated return preparation and loan service fees (yes, we do take a cut). This is a very popular option for those who want their refund as rapidly as possible! If you don’t mind waiting a few days, if you prepare and e-file your return through Tango or TaxCut with direct deposit, you should receive your refund in about ten days.

  • Hi Lisa! You asked: “what is the average age of the H&R Block incoming team?”
    While I don’t have information regarding the average age of new hires, I can say that the average H&R Block client is served by a tax pro with 8 years of experience and over 250 hours of training. At a minimum, your 23-year-old preparer would’ve graduated from a 99 hour H&R Block tax preparation course and gotten at least an 80% on their exam. It’s from this pool of candidates that we only hire the best and brightest. Even then, in their first year as an H&R Block preparer, they are assigned a seasoned veteran to mentor them through their “rookie season.” But, if in the end, your confidence was compromised by their youth or otherwise, our Satisfaction Guarantee allows you to request another preparer at any time in the return preparation process. So even at the end, if they had completed your entire return, if they haven’t submitted it yet, you can request the services of an alternate H&R Block tax pro. Still not happy? No problem. Your satisfaction is important to us, so unless you are completely satisfied, you are not obligated to accept and pay for the preparation of your tax return – through any of H&R Block’s tax preparation channels; office, online, or software. Who else can say that?

  • Eric, you inquired if ‘Worry-free Audit Support’ is new.
    This will be H&R Block’s third year offering Worry-free Audit Support through our digital tax solutions – Tango, TaxCut, and Signature. It is included at no extra charge when you e-file. Once again this year every customer who e-files can access our tax pros absolutely free of charge in the event of an audit. We’ll take care of our customers … all year long … from the moment they get a letter through the moment the audit is completely resolved. Correspondence. Phone calls. Face-to-face. We’re there. We’re your tax partner every step of the way. We know that our competitors claim to provide similar help, but let’s be crystal clear: H&R Block is absolutely the only company that goes beyond providing content in a program or connecting customers to an outside contractor. If an audit occurs, we offer people. H&R Block people. Trained tax pros who deal with this for a living. We are there every step of the way. And it costs nothing more when customers e-file. Period. No fine print, no strings attached. The equivalent service for H&R Block office clients is Peace of Mind.

  • Alvin and PTB, your comments asked the big question: “If I can get TurboTax for $19.99, what makes Tango worth $50 more?”
    I suspect that the TurboTax version offered at this price covers only federal return preparation and does not include your state or e-filing for either. Tango covers your federal and state returns, plus e-filing for both. For one all-inclusive price of $70, you also get unlimited tech and tax support. Yes, I said tax support. 24/7 access to real live tax professional via phone, chat, or email whenever you want it. You have instant help for tax or technical issues. Unlike competitors, we don’t take a dodge and deflect approach to delivering tax expertise – we own it. Rather than redirect you to an online community of unqualified user-advisors of dubious credibility, or defer your inquiry to a detached, third-party contractor, the advice delivered through H&R Block products is provided by real H&R Block tax professionals. This is an important distinction. Also, there’s no more wondering “Is my issue technical or tax-related, and who do I contact?” With Tango, it’s a single point of contact for any question to be connected to a trained professional who stays with you throughout the entire issue resolution process. You don’t get passed around like a hot potato to re-explain yourself to each new customer service contact. Ugh. Additionally, if you e-file (included in the price), you get our Worry-free Audit Support . In the event of an audit, you would be assigned an H&R Block Enrolled Agent who has received specialized training and is IRS-licensed in audit defense. Not directed to some static content and told “good luck.” That’s like being given instructions on how to remove your own appendix. With competitors, you have to pay additional fees to receive audit defense, but with H&R Block’s digital tax solutions, it’s included at no extra charge when you e-file. And who can put a price on knowing you’re protected if you’re audited?

    Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to address your questions! I welcome any more questions or feedback.

    Gary Lundberg
    gary.lundberg@hrblock.com

  • I’d also like to address PTB’s comment further: “Why should I switch from TurboTax to Tango?”
    The difference between Tango and established digital solutions like TaxCut and TurboTax is rooted in our belief that there is an unmet need with traditional DIY offerings. Products like TaxCut and TurboTax do a fine job of serving people who feel confident about their ability to prepare their own taxes and appreciate having a la carte options depending upon their support needs. Tango addresses another need in the market place: consumers that want to do it themselves, but would like some help along the way; for us to “Do it with them”. These customers may have been doing their own taxes for awhile but may have had a change in their tax situation and are uncertain about how to handle it. Or they may be new to doing it on their own, so they are just not as comfortable or confident in their ability. Tango marries the best of do-it-yourself and a professional preparation into a new tax experience. And Tango seamlessly imports your TurboTax software data to make the transition effortless.

  • Question for Gary,

    I jumped in & did Tango on February 25th and while I liked the interface my South Carolina state return is still not available and it is March 19th! They keep moving the available date out, now it is saying March 21st, but April 15th is fast approaching. If I had known this I probably would not have went w/Tango. I think all the state forms should be in place at the start of tax season.

    Joel S.

  • Hi Joel,

    Thank you for your feedback, and I sincerely apologize for the delay you’ve encountered when attempting to file your South Carolina state return with Tango. We make every effort possible to have all tax states covered initially, but sometimes it doesn’t happen on our anticipated timeline. Without boring you with too much detail, there’s a lengthy process involved in getting the forms and format of the data submitted through Tango approved by each individual state’s Department of Revenue. Read as “red tape.” As tough as it is dealing with just the IRS, multiply that times 43 (the actual number of states with income tax). While I’m not trying to make excuses, this is perhaps a tiny window into our challenge. We are grateful for your patience and willingness to stick it out, and I have been assured that support for filing your South Carolina state return will be effective in Tango by the end of next week. Again, I’m sorry you’ve been on the receiving end of this delay, but we are doing everything within our power to expedite Tango’s support of filing in all states with an income tax.

    Thanks,

    Gary Lundberg
    gary.lundberg@hrblock.com

  • Hi, We filed our 2006 taxes in May 2008. We were expecting substanial refunds -both Federal and State. We have received a Notice of Intent to Assess from the DOR in MA and our federal refund is approx. $2,000 less than the tax professional from HR Block figured on our return. Do we have a recourse? Thank you.

  • Kathy,

    As an H&R Block client, you have the benefit of being protected by the H&R Block Guarantee, which includes free Audit Assistance. You are entitled to sit down with an H&R Block tax professional that can review the MA state notice, decipher the tax jargon, and explain why the DOR is questioning your return. They will also assist with crafting a response back to the taxing authority. The tax professional will also explain any next steps, or what you can expect.

    If you have any questions regarding the difference in your actual refund from what you expected, please contact the H&R Block office where your 2006 tax return was completed to have your returns (federal and state) reviewed. While many of our offices shut down over the summer, the phone number to the office you used should still be active. It will either automatically route your call to a year-round office, or provide recorded instructions regarding how to reach one.

    Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any follow-up questions.

    Thanks,

    Gary Lundberg
    gary.lundberg@hrblock.com

  • Kathy

    Hi Gary, Thank you for the response to my question. I believe the office we used is open two days a week (Tues/Thurs). We are going to call tomorrow. I will follow up with you on this blog to let you know how things turned out. Thanks Again, Kathy

  • MS. MANSELL

    I HAVE FILED A COMPLAINT WITH THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU AND AM GOING TO POST THIS EVERYWHERE I CAN ON THE INTERNET. NO ONE SHOULD USE H&R BLOCK. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW OLD OR HOW YOUNG THESE EMPLOYEES ARE, IF THEY DON’T KNOW CRAP ABOUT TAXES AND THE LAW, THEY SHOULDN’T BE CHARGING TO FILE TAXES!

    IN ADDITION, IT IS PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO REACH A SUPERVISOR OR MANAGER THERE. WHEN I CALLED THE TELEPHONE NUMBER ON A LETTER MAILED TO ME FROM H&R BLOCK, NOT ONLY WAS THERE NO ANSWER BUT THERE WAS ALSO NO VOICE MAIL OR EVEN A RECORDED GREETING! WHEN I ATTEMPTED TO USE ONLINE CUSTOMER SUPPORT ON THEIR MAIN WEB PAGE, IT WAS NOT FUNCTIONAL. THIS PLACE IS A JOKE.

    Thank you for using the Better Business Bureau’s Online Complaint System.
    Your complaint has been assigned case # *****************
    A confirmation will be emailed to : *****************
    Please print a copy of this for your records.

    Filed on : September 26 2008

    Filed by :
    MANSELL

    Filed against :
    H & R Block
    1200 Cooper Point Rd SW Ste 312
    Olympia WA 98502-7202

    Complaint Description:
    I completed my tax return on my own and attempted to file it electronically (this is FREE at my income level). When my return was rejected by the IRS based on a problem with one of the EIN numbers on my W2s, the IRS told me to file by mail. I was on my way into the post office to do so when I saw the H&R block office. I walked in with my already completed tax return and all of my W2s. I explained that I was about to file by mail but would rather file electronically and wondered if they could fix the problem. They said yes and put my income and demographic information into the computer. My tax return was straight forward. Later they called me and said electronic filing had been rejected and asked for my employer contact information to confirm the correct EIN. I gave them this information, and I never heard anything else. After a week or so I went into the office in person inquiring about my return. The lady behind the counter was unable to locate my physical file. She looked me up on a computer and told me the IRS HAD ACCEPTED my electronic return. She said to check back in 8 days. When I checked my postal box, there was a letter from H&R Block stating that my electronic refund had been rejected. I went back to H&R Block and the same lady told me to disregard the letter. I asked her to check into this and locate my file, as the filing deadline was approaching. There was a telephone number on the letter I received, but when I called it there was NO ANSWER, EVER!!! The letter instructed me to call a number at which there was no answer! In 8 days I did so and spoke to a gentleman, who looked me up on the computer and also said that my return had been accepted. By now I had contacted the IRS, who had no record of my tax return. The man at H&R block stalled for a day or two, then said he was resubmitting my return and to call back in 24-48 hours. He also COULD NOT locate my file, and the man who had filed my tax return was out for 8 weeks! In addition, the office was only open two days a week, and no one could resolve issues on other days. When I did call back, I reached a woman again. She again could not find my file but said she would “look for it” (why hadn’t they found it by now?) and told me to file my tax return by mail WITHOUT my W2s! I then started talking to a regional office. I got nowhere. They eventually routed me back to the same office I was having problems with. The “manager” there said she’d never heard of my problem, while the regional office left me a voicemail saying the local manager remembered my problem. All they could do is explain to me that my electronic return was rejected by the IRS due to a problem with an EIN. No duh, I knew this from day one! The problem is, why did it take them 3 weeks to get their crap together enough to agree to file a paper return (mail in)? And why hadn’t they notified me the moment my return was rejected? And why had they lost my file? And why had it taken this long to even get someone to talk to me? Had I mailed my return in that day I would have been set by now. I agreed to pay their fee to file ELECTRONICALLY, not to have them misinform me, stall, delay, and lose my tax file and W2s! Now, four weeks later, the tax filing deadline is coming up and they want $170 from me to give me my W2s back. I am not going to pay for a service I did not receive. I have never dealt with such incompetence in my life. No one takes responsibility there. No one offers to resolve anything. I want my W2s back immediately and I will file by mail like I was going to do the day I walked into their office. I already have my tax return prepared, I’d already prepared it before I walked into their office. Now they are holding my W2s hostage. I refuse to pay them a dime and I want my W2s back. I will NEVER use them and will never recommend that ANYONE use them.

    Your Desired Resolution:
    No charges. An apology. My W2s and entire file returned to me immediately. Some sort of compensation for my time, hassle, and expenses dealing with their incompetence.

    This case will be reviewed by a complaint specialist at the Better Business Bureau, and then forwarded to the business for their response. It is our policy to allow the business 10 working days to respond to your complaint. You will be notified when the business has responded.

  • Heltona28

    I used hrblock for over 10 yrs paid for this audit crap got audited and they refused to hlp me im calling a lawyer

  • Melissa

    I have filed previously with H&R and have been pleased with the results. However; this year my return check DIDN’T match my H&R e-file. It was about $1,400 off… could this be a mistake on behalf of the IRS? Or more likely…failure of my H&R e-filing?