A Chip off the Old H&R Block???

You know those little H&R Block (or equal) kiosks at Wal-Mart, I think? (I barely notice myself) Or, the small strip-mall stores only open this time of year? Will they give you free advice? I have a simple enough question. They don’t have to go over my whole financial picture. I just want some basic questions answered!

They’re likely unqualified to give financial advice let alone tax advice, unless the kiosk manager happens to be the franchise owner or an enrolled agent. If so, they may be able to answer a few tax questions. Another option is they will run your tax information through their computer for free, then it’s your choice whether to file with them or on your own.

Call an actual CPA. Most that I know will answer a brief question in the hope that they get to do your taxes at some point.

For that matter, I advise everyone who doesn’t file a 1040EZ to use a CPA. You’d be surprised how much they can save you.


It depends.
If they’re not busy (which is more likely in late February and not very likely in late March) and your question truly is truly simple, they’ll probably answer a basic question. However, if your question is more complex than you realize (which is very likely) and is really dependent on your situation, they may not answer because they don’t want to give you bad advice.

Really? I’m no longer able to use the 1040EZ but all of my income is reported on a W2 or a 1099 form (so either ordinary income, bank interest or capital gains). I rent instead of owning and therefore the standard deduction makes sense for me. What could a CPA possibly do that Turbotax can’t?

That’s a dick move, if you mean do the whole return then walk out without paying after they can’t magically conjure up deductions for your single W-2. They should have a quick estimator, though.

Or EA. You shouldn’t google CPA unless they specific personal income tax.

As for whether its worth it for you - depends on whether taxes are a scary thing for you, or handleable, and how much research you want to put into it. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary if the only reason you are doing a 1040/1040A is because of some obscure-but-easy deduction or credit.

The IRS (yeah, those guys) actually have a toll-free help line for questions. It’s (800) 829-1040.

They do advertise a free second look I believe…not sure what that entails or if there is a catch. Take last year’s in and see what they have to say.

I also wonder if there is a catch to their “do it for half of what you paid last year” promotion.

If you do that during their peak business period, it wouldn’t be too classy, but many tax preparation offices have a lot of slow time during the course of a season. It’s not something I’ve done, but I’ve seen it done quite often. The business doesn’t really mind because sometimes the customer will return to file with them after failing to file on their own.

Also, you don’t need to grab out of your ass that I was speaking of a single W-2. I was addressing the OP’s question which likely involved more than such.

The business might not mind, but the actual preparer might.

That was an example of what a typical customer who knows nothing about taxes might do, not what you might. And if you assumed that it was more complex than a W-2, then that’s *even worse *to do.

Or a 1040a, but I slightly disagree as a Enrolled Agent (E.A.) is often a better deal as thelurkinghorror sez.

In other words, if you file the “long form” you likely can get value from a pro.

Ask here.

It is kind of a dick move, but H&R Block advertises it and people do it all the time (though few enough that it still makes sense for them to advertise and offer that). When I worked there, there was no estimator. The preparers went through the whole thing and at the end the customers chose whether to pay and have their taxes filed or to walk out.

Again, if it’s truly a simple or straightforward question, walk by on a day when they’re not busy and ask. You’ll probably get an answer. (At the offices where I was, some of the preparers were EAs & CPAs as well as people who had been doing this for decades.) If it’s not, you could go through the whole thing and then change your mind and walk out once you get your answer.

Also, most people who file the long form aren’t going to get anything more value from a CPA or EA than they are from tax software. It does depend why they’re using the long form, of course, but most tax software is more than enough for most people.

March isn’t exactly peak tax filing season. During a slow day, it just gives the tax preparer something to do, and he may even wind up making a commission on it if the customer returns, which they sometimes do. And the more complex the return, the higher the commission. Win-win, unless OP brings in a shoebox of receipts and has the tax preparer spend an hour of computations for nothing, but he seems nice enough not to do that.

It’s been awhile since I worked in a place like this but: March is busy as hell; did you mean November? IIRC we got commissions for a few rare things, otherwise just gross receipts. And while it wasn’t a high pressure sales job, you didn’t want to spend time coddling a non-client. Like I said I don’t remember the really complex returns being a problem. It was the guy who thought taxes were magic and his refund would be bigger because preparers can summon deductions out of nowhere.

But think how many of these guys go to these kiosks and find out they can get something like an earned income credit or child credit, then they wind up filing with HRB because they can’t do the paperwork on their own.

This is not so true. First, Turbo is about $100 now. Next it takes a long time for a neophyte to answer all their questions and input all the W2 etc. And you can easily make mistakes.

For $100 more you can get a EA to do your taxes.

It’s worth it.

The version of Turbotax that costs a hundred bucks is the Home & Business version. I admit that if your taxes are complicated enough to need that version, you might want to hire a CPA or EA. But plenty of people (like me) aren’t able to use the 1040EZ but don’t have rental property income, small business income or complicated deductions requiring the use of the Home & Business version.

TurboTax Premier is $90, so lets not nitpick. Deluxe is a worthless piece of crap now. Take a look at the nearly 4000 one star negative reviews on Amazon for Deluxe and Premier.