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Tax preparer 'guarantees' come with catches

Posted at 8:08 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 04:04:32-04

Many of us use a professional tax service because of their guarantees. They promise to defend you in an audit, and pay any fees or back taxes if it's their mistake.

But one woman found out the fine print in those plans can be costly.

Did Not Want Hassles

Carrie Thomas didn't want any IRS hassles this year, so she and her husband went to H&R Block specifically because of its "Peace of Mind Guarantee" that promises to cover any mistakes their preparer may make.

"I felt good when I left because of their Peace of Mind guarantee.  They have it in all their commercials," Thomas said.

But soon after filing, she learned a preparation error meant she owned her local city another $500.

"My taxes were done incorrectly," she said,"and because of that the liability that I owed had increased to $524. So that was a little bit of a shock."    

But she got another shock when she asked H&R Block to cover the shortfall.

Fine Print in Guarantee

"They said it was not covered under their Peace of Mind guarantee because it was found by tax authorities before the filing deadline," she said.

It turns out that just like with any warranty, H&R Block's Peace of Mind guarantee comes with quite a bit of fine print, and a few catches.

According to

  • If a "Peace of Mind" payment is over $600, it may count as taxable income to you, and you may receive a 1099 form for it the following year.
  • Coverage for errors and penalties is limited to $6,000.
  • If an error is corrected before April 15th, with no penalty, the guarantee may not apply.

"I was floored," Thomas said.

After we contacted H&R block, however, the company agreed to give Thomas a break and cover her $500 municipal tax bill.

There is also a lesson here for everyone: If a company says "no" to your claim, and you think that's wrong, fight back for your rights.    

  • Go to your local tax office first.
  • If you get nowhere, go up the chain at the tax preparation company.
  • Get on their Facebook page and post your complaint there: companies often respond very quickly to Facebook posts.
  • Finally, consider contacting your state's Attorney General's office

That way you may get results, and you don't waste your money.


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