The stress and headaches of tax season are in full swing. Many folks are looking for deals to get those taxes prepared. H&R Block says they can do some for free. Jesse Jones says before you sign on the dotted line, read the fine print first.
It's a bold claim: Your 1040 EZ taxes filed for free. Kelli Sheppard thought the deal was perfect for her situation.
"So, I figured, it can't hurt. It's free, why not?" she said.
But when she gave the folks at H&R Block her documents, the deal fizzled because she needed a form to deduct her student loan interest.
"He said, okay, the fee will be $100," said Kelli. "I felt like I had been baited and switched on."
But this wasn't a bait and switch. It's in the paperwork, way down at the bottom, in fine print. To qualify for a free return, you must make less than $100,000, have no dependents, with no itemized deductions.
"Nothing's free," said Dean Guske, a CPA with 25 years of experience, when we told him about Kelli's situation.
Expertise costs money. So before you pick an accountant, find out what they know, not the deal they can cut. He advises asking questions about their background, and whether they are an enrolled agent or a CPA.
The knowledge about complicated tax laws can make a big difference. Maybe thousands of dollars on a return.
In response to Kelli's case, H&R Block responded with a statement:
"H&R stands by our satisfaction guarantee...The client's tax situation called for an additional form that disqualified it for the simplest of tax forms - resulting in a higher refund."
Kelli will also get a refund from H&R Block for all of her tax preparation fees.
Let me be clear, I am not saying H&R Block can't prepare taxes properly. They've been around for a long time for a reason. But with any service, make sure you ask questions about your situation before signing any deal.
If you need to Get Jesse, leave a message at 1-877-51-JESSE (1-877-515-3773) or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.