Friday, February 24, 2006

Accountants Who Stink

It doesn't get any more ironic than this:
CHICAGO — H&R Block Inc. (HRB), which provides tax advice to millions of Americans, made an embarrassing confession on Thursday. It goofed on its own taxes.
They're on a roll at H&R Block, having already messed up earlier in the year.

Ernst said software-related technology problems left the company unprepared for a surge in January filings by taxpayers expecting refunds and "created a hole out of which we're working to climb."

He said the problem "cost us 250,000 clients" that were "unable to be recovered."

Ouch. Any decent accountant will tell you that the most important aspect of running a successful accounting practice is having the proper technology to do so - even if that means shelling out bigger bucks. For a large company like H&R Block to blow something like that in a way that could drive away a quarter of a million customers is just atrocious. Messing up your own company's taxes as an accounting firm is mind-boggling, and is sure to drive away more customers: Why go to H&R Block - who can't even do their own taxes - when I can get TurboTax or some other program or find a trustworthy accountant myself?

One more thing that bothers me about H&R Block: Their lottery-style advertising. The focus of their advertising is on this scratch-off "double your refund" game, not on their ability to save you hundreds of dollars in taxes. In addition, most people aren't getting huge refunds to begin with that they could gain much by doubling it anyway. That a few people nationwide are getting a couple of thousand dollars off a game is very unimpressive; an accounting firm should be able to say how much money they're saving a normal customer, not a lucky customer, on their taxes.

I'm glad I know how to do my own taxes.


  1. If they would just use deodorant maybe they would be better accountants?

  2. Being in the industry somewhat, I have been told that H&R Block software isn't that great. The Jews in the industry joking call it H&R Ganif.

    Home software is nice (I'm told). I'd be curious to find out how it would deal with some of the more complicated issues and how it can deal with multi-state filing or if you have to buy additional software. I also wonder if you can override numbers based on a different interpretation (my guess is that this cannot be done).

  3. SL - It was tricky, but I think I did last year with TurboTax. It didn't want to let me. I'd called the IRS and confirmed with them that I was correct. (Which, by the way, is very underrated: The IRS not only answers their phones with people, but they actually know what the heck they're talking about! They're polite, they're kind, and they'll tell you how to do certain things. I was pleasantly surprised.)

    Oh, re: TurboTax - it's okay, good if you have nothing tricky involved.