Incompetence for anything but the simplest returns
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- I was stupid yesterday-- my husband and I decided to try H&R Block instead of usual CPA, for various reasons. We should have suspected a problem when their office could not competently book an appointment-- there were issues right there. Then we meet our "tax preparer", who seemed nice but within the first few minutes something was a little off. She seemed in no rush as she misstyped nearly every entry of our preliminary information-- names, address, etc. Her three inch fake fingernails might have impeded her progress.
She then proceeded to spend the following two and half hours attempting to process our information. None of it was overly complicated-- we have a house, one very simple brokerage account, two kids, and a babysitter we pay taxes for. No other income, no side businesses, no self-employment, no dead relatives-- you get the picture. Despite this relative simplicity, the woman was utterly confused-- she did not appear knowledgeable about either taxes OR H&R Block's software. We were getting nowhere as the third hour ticked by-- she tried unsuccessfully to determine where she had gone wrong in several places. Numbers showed up in the wrong spots on the return, and at one point the computer calculated a $17K federal tax liability, which was grossly inaccurate. She casually acknowledged that it was wrong as she scrolled back and forth over the same screens, many of which were CLEARLY definition screen to tell her what the hell any of this stuff is. She faked her way through a conversation with me about alternative minimum tax, then proceeded to ask me five minutes later whether I had paid any the prior year (I had, and had told her as much).
So then I had to make the awful choice of what to do, and I told her, look, I have to be brutually honest with you-- I am not comfortable with this return and will need to have my taxes re-done by my CPA, so I am going to take my documents and go. She responded very professionally at first, but then calmly accused me of coming in without an appointment (untrue) and said that she had tried her best to help me by doing things such as claiming deductions without receipts (also untrue-- one Goodwill receipt had items only, no dollar figure, which is pretty common-- if it was improper she had failed to say so at the time).
I stayed calm, but as I walked out the door, I said oh CRAP, that woman has every shred of personal financial information about us short of our bank account numbers! For that reason alone I filed a complaint with their corporate office. The customer service rep who called me today admitted that H&R Block's business is ordinarily limited to people in low income brackets with no serious deductions. He made it sound like having a brokerage account is something limited to Thurston Howell III. Give me a break, it's our emergency fund coupled with a very modest balance in some mutual funds-- nothing fancy. If they can't do our return, they should get out of the business, plain and simple. Plenty of people in our income bracket with similar financial arrangements do their own taxes using home software-- I'm just not good enough with numbers to trust the result.
So now I have to take off work to see our real CPA on the very last appointment he has before the deadline. Live and learn.