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Block's boo-boo

Hrblock_bldg Don't ever let your taxes make you feel stupid again. Even the pros have problems.

Last week, H&R Block admitted that it messed up its own corporate tax return to the tune of $32 million.

That sure makes me feel better about all the times I've scratched my head over a 1040 instruction or cursed a convoluted worksheet required to file for a credit.

This was Block's second tax misstep this filing season. As I mentioned here, the tax prep company earlier this year acknowledged that it had mistakenly shipped some free copies of its TaxCut software with the recipients’ Social Security numbers printed on the mailing labels. As anyone who pays attention to identity theft issues knows, that's a major personal security faux pas.

Block's latest tax blunder was in underestimating the company's state tax liability on previously reported profits. It's an issue that’s specific to company returns, and the mistake didn't have any bearing on the services it provides millions of individual filers nationwide.

"It wasn't particularly material," Alexander Paris, an analyst at Barrington Research in Chicago, told Reuters. "And it's not particularly unusual. A lot of companies are going back and reviewing their controls because of Sarbanes-Oxley and finding tax errors. But for a company like H&R Block, it was particularly embarrassing."

And it definitely made me smile.

Not that I want to engage in too much schadenfreude. I've yet to do my return this year and I don't want to tempt the tax gods to slap me down for chuckling over Block's boo-boo.

But in tax season, you gotta take your smiles where- and whenever you find them.

TODAY'S TAX TIP: Thinking of using a tax pro to file your taxes this year? Don't base your choice just on news reports. You need to find a preparer that fits your needs. For many, firms like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt fit the bill perfectly.

Other taxpayers need more specialized help and attention. Maybe you run a small business on the side and need help deciphering Schedule C and figuring business depreciation and the many other expenses you can use to reduce the taxable income you pulled in on weekends.

You also want to make sure you pick someone reputable. As the Block case shows, even the pros make mistakes sometimes. Still, those errors are less likely if you hire someone who has good credentials and continues his or her tax education.

And you definitely want a preparer who stands behind his or work and will promptly correct any problems, regardless of who or what prompted the mistake.

You can get even more details on how to hire a tax professional in this story.


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Jim Howard

I'm glad I found your blog, it looks very valuable to those of us interested in taxation.

Your story on finding a tax person is right on, especially the part about making sure they are there year around.

I'm an EA, and own the Cedar Park Jackson-Hewitt franchise. I need all the tax information I can get. I'll be checking here frequently.

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