FTC files complaint against H&R Block

Reporter: Andryanna Sheppard Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

There are multiple ways to file your taxes for free, but one company is in trouble for advertising its online tax preparation website as free.

H&R Block’s website says you can do DIY taxes without the extra turbo-charges, and there is a free option, but the Federal Trade Commission says sometimes that free option will still cost you, so this month, the agency filed a complaint against the tax prep company.

It claims H&R Block pressures its customers into overpaying.

According to that complaint, H&R Block lets customers work on their taxes, and if they don’t meet the company’s changing definition of a simple return, you’re prompted to choose one of the paid tax filing products.

If you do, your information is automatically transferred over. If not, the FTC says the company erases all the tax information you’ve already put in.

You’ll have to call customer service to fix it.

The FTC believes that’s not fair and deceptive, but H&R Block told WINK that it gives fair and transparent pricing and allows customers to downgrade via multiple mechanisms.

This comes just a month after the FTC said Turbotax could no longer advertise as a free product because most people have to pay.

Now, governments around the world file their citizens’ taxes for them for free. The citizen just signs off if it looks right.

The United States is obviously not one of those countries, but the IRS is testing its own tax preparation website called IRS Direct File.

Right now, it’s only available in 12 states, Florida included, but you have to have an invitation unless you happen to check the website during the unannounced brief periods of time the IRS is making sure the website’s working properly.

If you get in, you’re good to go. You can leave and come back to finish filing whenever you want, or you can just wait until mid-March when Direct File is open for everyone.

Now, you have to have your taxes done or an extension filed by April 15. If you don’t want to wait a couple more weeks for Direct File, the IRS also has a free file program.

It works with eight different online tax preparation sites. You just have to make less than $79,000 a year.

Both H&R Block and Turbotax stopped participating in the IRS free file program years ago.

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