H&R Block Online Fail #2

I decided it was time to switch to TurboTax – which I was much happier with. Just to verify the numbers, I wanted to check against H&R block and found a rather significant discrepency. When researching the Sales Tax deduction allowed by the IRS – it seemed that H&R block’s amount was significantly higher than the IRS & TurboTax calculations. Congratulations, H&R Block users – you just earned yourself an audit! Hopefully they have fixed this issue. I certainly notified them as soon as I found it.

As I expected – if their software isn’t written well enough to give me a proper error message – it probably isn’t written well enough to accurately calculate my tax return either.

Never again.

Lucas S.: Hello BRIAN, welcome to H&R Block’s At Home Live Chat Support! How can we assist you today?
BRIAN SAGHY: I’d like to report a potentially serious bug
Lucas S.: I see, what is the precise error?
BRIAN SAGHY: Under the State & Local tax payments section in particular. When I choose to use the “IRS standard” amount from the IRS sales tax table, the value returned is MUCH higher than that returned by the IRS website.
BRIAN SAGHY: The IRS provides a calculator here: http://apps.irs.gov/app/stdc/
Lucas S.: I see, that does sound serious. Would you like me to put in a word to my superiors?
BRIAN SAGHY: In my particular case, H&R block says that my standard sales tax deduction is $1,619, the IRS website says $921.36
BRIAN SAGHY: Yes, I highly recommend it or you guys are going to have a lot of audits on your hands
BRIAN SAGHY: Also – I didn’t even know that I qualified for such a deduction. Once this error is resolved – you may want to suggest looking into making this more prominent. TurboTax showed it to me right away and ended up with a much better tax return by default.
Lucas S.: I see, I’ll be sure to let them know that as well
Lucas S.: Is there anything else that you would like for me to do for you this evening?
BRIAN SAGHY: Thats all.
Lucas S.: I thank you kindly for this feedback and I will be sure to send this up to the proper authorities.

Time to break up with H&R Block Online (formerly TaxCut)

You know, as much as I hated filling out all of my 2009 taxes in H&R Block’s new “At Home Deluxe” online product, I think I may just go ahead and try filing with TurboTax anyways.

Last year, I was wowed at how great their online TaxCut software was. It was quite helpful, easy to use, and seemed to take care of all of my investment needs.

This year – quite the opposite. When trying to find information about wash sales the site provided no helpful input, no automated calculations – nothing. It is really just a beautified IRS form. I had to research the web for hours and do my calculations manually in a spreadsheet. Even then, because they don’t show you what fields you’re actually filling in in the IRS form – there is not way to be sure I was doing it right.

Then, finally, I got to a point where I thought it was time to submit. And – it finds an error.

“Error 1 of 1: Remove the non-alpha characters in %P in order to electronically file this return.”

%P? Oh gee thanks, that is useful. Who knows where that is. So it brings me to a random spot in my return – all of the characters such as $’s and ,’s are automatically put there by the software. If it is complaining about those – I don’t even have the option to change them. After going through the portion in the survey that it takes me to multiple times with no success, I finally ask tech support:

Welcome to H&R Block At Home technical support. Please wait while we find a technical support agent to assist you.
You have been connected to Kelly A..
Kelly A.: Hello BRIAN, welcome to H&R Block’s At Home Live Chat Support! How can we assist you today?
BRIAN SAGHY: Hello, I’m trying to submit my return by e-file, and it is giving me an error message that appears to be broken:
BRIAN SAGHY: Remove the non-alpha characters in %P in order to electronically file this return.
BRIAN SAGHY: %P definitely looks like the backend code is somehow broken and is not being filled in correctly
Kelly A.: That means somewhere in the return there is a letter that is where a number should be or a number where a letter should be. You will need to review the entire form to find it. I apologize for the inconvenience.
BRIAN SAGHY: That is pretty awful
Kelly A.: I agree.
Kelly A.: Is there anything else we are able to assist you with today?
BRIAN SAGHY: i guess thats it

Tech support agrees – their product sucks. So why should I pay for it? We’ll see if TurboTax or TaxACT 2009 is any better this year.