26

I have been doing my taxes for 25 years with TurboTax. Like others, I was a bit upset at them for doubling the price of their software, so I decided I would make an appointment with H&R Block, thinking it would be a good idea to boycott TurboTax for one year, and perhaps it was time for a tax "professional" at Block to do my taxes this year since I've been doing them so long by myself.

So I went in with all my papers in order, and sat there as I basically told the person what numbers to put where. At one point, I almost said "move aside" because I could have plugged in the numbers more quickly.

They wouldn't tell me the price of their fee until it was over, and to my surprise it was $220. They provided me with absolutely no professional tax advice, and on top of that my refund was about $500 less than I normally get.

I told the person that she was not to file my taxes, I had to think about it. So I came home, and redid my taxes in about 15 minutes on the online TurboTax website. While doing this I discovered that I had overlooked one piece of paperwork, which resulted in about $500 more of a refund. I did not file yet.

Long story short, am I obligated to go back to H&R Block and have them add the new deduction that I discovered and pay them the $220 for something I could do myself online for $50? Again, I wouldn't mind paying if they had 1) been up front about the fee and 2) provided me with even a tiny bit of professional advice, which they did not.

  • 5
    Man, imagine all the stuff you could get for free if all you had to do was tell someone that you didn't think you should have to pay for it. – C Bauer Mar 10 '15 at 11:18
  • 11
    If you had wanted to boycott turbo tax software you would have switched to another software package. Hiring a person was always going to be more expensive. Time is money. – mhoran_psprep Mar 10 '15 at 12:16
  • 7
    Unless you signed an agreement with them, or took the product of their services home, you are under no obligation to pay. Though you may want to read their terms of service, and consider if anything you did would count as signing an agreement. – Zibbobz Mar 10 '15 at 13:59
  • 22
    They can't perform a service for you without telling you the fee and then expect you to pay whatever fee they come up with. That's not how contracts work. – David Rice Mar 10 '15 at 14:16
  • 3
    The best action might be to call the person who prepared your taxes, tell them thanks for their time, and let them know you filed it yourself. You could then ask if you owe them anything. – DoubleDouble Mar 10 '15 at 15:57
34

If you did not sign a contract with them, then you do not owe them a return visit, much less a fee.

This is one of the downsides of running a business where you offer to do work for a client and tell them that the fee depends on an outcome that you can only reach at the end of the work.

If you did sign an agreement or contract, then you need to carefully read the provisions. It may be that an uncompleted or unfiled tax return will result in a nominal fee, but they should not be charging you the full amount since you did not file through them (one of their services) and you did not receive the completed tax return.

Note that their online site states, "85. By authorizing H&R Block to e-file your tax return or by taking the completed return to file, you are accepting the return and are obligated to pay all fees when due." So as far as I can tell, since you did not authorize them to file your taxes, nor take your completed return, you are not obligated to pay any fees. (to see the disclaimers, click on any superscript number)

Until you accept the return, you are not obligated to pay any fees.

It may be that you still feel you owe them something for their effort, and if that's the case go and talk to them. They may or may not accept a payment for the work they've done, but since they've not provided you with any of the results they may choose not to accept a fee for legal reasons. It may be that if you explain to them your reasoning, they will give you a significant discount (since they've already done most of the work) so that you can still boycott turbotax without paying them quite so much for the tax preparation.

It's your choice, but their business model allows for the result where they will end up doing tax preparation which they are never paid for. If they charged a flat rate up front, or listed their fees per document rather than a percentage of the refund, then this behavior might be unethical, but since this is their business model and this is by design, then you should not feel guilty for choosing to leave them if you haven't signed an agreement.

  • 1
    I have a suspicion that the ones who need to have you sign a contract with a nominal fee are likely the ones who have a problem with people deciding not to file with them.. – DoubleDouble Mar 10 '15 at 16:27
  • 10
    In many fields of business, it is routine for a business to conduct for free some sort of consultation to allow a customer to decide whether to purchase services. Ethical businesses should endeavor to ensure that customers do not incur obligations of which they could reasonably be unaware. A business may legitimately demand a promise of payment before even considering a client's case, but any work performed without such a promise should be considered to be done on speculation [assuming the client would be sufficiently likely to purchase the result to make the risk of abandonment acceptable]. – supercat Mar 10 '15 at 16:32
  • "Until you accept the return, you are not obligated to pay any fees." - that doesn't follow from the quote you mentioned. The claim "if you do X it means that you formally agreed to pay" doesn't mean "if you don't do X you don't have to pay". Basic logic. – littleadv Mar 11 '15 at 4:36
  • 1
    @littleadv If you combine that statement with the "If you did not sign a contract" statement, then I would say that legally, "Until you accept the return, you are not obligated to pay any fees."" is true. In other words, in the absence of a contract which would cause him to pay fees, and in the absence of work which they state will cause fees, then he doesn't have to pay fees. – Adam Davis Mar 11 '15 at 10:48
  • 1
    @AdamDavis I believe a contract was made. He was told the price is contingent on the work done, i.e.: he was told the work is not free. I don't know how well you're versed in contract law, but a verbal agreement is a contract. He agreed to pay. – littleadv Mar 11 '15 at 15:06
28

H&R Block is a huge company, they stand behind their work. As you might expect, they have a "satisfaction guaranteed" policy:

"We’re so certain that you’ll have a positive experience that you don’t pay until you’re satisfied."

You saw no value in the service regardless of whether or not you had that extra paperwork. If they ever follow up and ask, tell them exactly why you went with the $50 option instead of the $220 option.

You don't need to go back.

  • 1
    While Adam Davis' answer is better for the general approach, this is the better answer for the specific question. – Alexander Mar 11 '15 at 18:42
3

It seems to me that services were provided, and the fact that the fee depends on the amount of the work done was communicated to you ahead of time.

I'd have to say that yes, you have to pay for the consultation. The fact that you're unsatisfied with the results (in part due to your own omission of an important piece of information) is irrelevant. So is the fact that you could have done it yourself. After all, you knew that already when you went there, and you still went there.

They don't charge for filing your tax return, they charge for preparing it, which they did.

Just so you know, H&R Block employees are not tax advisers in any way, and will not provide you with any advice other than where to put what number from the forms you brought to them. They're not allowed to, even if they had the knowledge. Only licensed EAs, CPAs or attorneys are allowed to provide tax advice, and those rarely work in H&R Block retail stores (maybe occasionally as supervisors/consultants).


Clarification is in order:

The sentence "By authorizing H&R Block to e-file your tax return or by taking the completed return to file, you are accepting the return and are obligated to pay all fees when due." means that they will not e-file your tax return before you provide payment options. However, it doesn't mean that if you don't e-file with them their work would be free. That is basic logic: from the claim X=>Y doesn't follow ~X=>~Y.

It may be that they'll agree not to charge you due to the satisfaction guarantee or what else, but it is definitely not a given. There's nothing in that particular sentence that you can hinge on when defending your right not to pay for the services provided to you.

That said, you're most definitely not obligated to file through them.

  • 10
    -1: Having to pay for the consultation is entirely dependent upon the service contract. Adam's answer specifically covers this point directly from said contract. The condition for which payment is required was not met. – Myles Mar 10 '15 at 18:16
  • 2
    @littleadv OP question "Am I obligated to pay?" HRBlock service agreement section 85 (as per Adam's answer):"85. By authorizing H&R Block to e-file your tax return or by taking the completed return to file, you are accepting the return and are obligated to pay all fees when due." – Myles Mar 10 '15 at 19:00
  • 7
    Did you mean "from the claim X=>Y doesn't follow ~X=>~Y" ? What you say at the moment ("X=>Y doesn't follow ~Y=>~X") certainly does follow in logic. – Ganesh Sittampalam Mar 11 '15 at 9:05
  • 1
    If they don't charge up front, and they don't have the OP sign a contract, and they explicitly state when they do charge, then it doesn't follow at all that the OP is obligated to pay. In the absence of a contract, any work H&R block does prior to the contract or payment and transfer of work product is speculative on H&R Block's part. They are hoping that the OP chooses to file with them or accept the tax return, and when that happens they will charge the OP accordingly. Up until that point, though, this is speculation on their part, and essentially a loss leader. Not obligation. – Adam Davis Mar 11 '15 at 10:55
  • 2
    from the claim X=>Y it certainly DOES follow that ~Y=>~X. If ~Y then X must be false, otherwise if X then Y which contradicts ~Y. @GaneshSittampalam I joined this site just to upvote your comment. – user1512321 Mar 11 '15 at 19:45

protected by Chris W. Rea Mar 12 '18 at 22:15

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.