Call Kurtis: Who’s Responsible If Your Tax Preparer Makes A Mistake?

Just a month out before the tax deadline, there are a number of tax-preparing companies who promise to pay you if they make a mistake on your return.

We call on Kurtis Ming with a closer look at what you’re really getting.

Some companies, like H&R Block, offer extra insurance should you get audited. An El Dorado Hills couple got audited and they say H&R Block wouldn’t pay up.

“This is like going to the doctor or mechanic. It’s a specialist,” says Larry Atchison.

And Larry and Cecilia Atchison have trusted H&R Block to file their taxes since 1995.

But in 2010, “I said ‘What? Oh my god,'” says Cecilia.

Larry and Cecilia were audited. The IRS claiming they owed $9,627.60 after taking too many deductions.

“We got the insurance so we can have peace of mind,” says Cecilia.

That insurance? H&R Block’s Peace of Mind protection. They paid an extra $30 each year. It’s supposed to cover up to $5,500 in additional taxes if H&R Block makes an error, plus penalties and interest.

But H&R Block refused to cough up the money in this case, saying it wasn’t the company’s fault.

“How can they expect us to know what we can deduct or not when we go? It’s crazy, it’s absolutely crazy,” says Larry.

Several tax preparers have similar protection programs.

For $45, Jackson Hewitt’s Gold Guarantee will pay up to $5,000 if they make a mistake on your return.

TurboTax and TaxACT don’t charge for protection if they make an error, but they’ll only cover your penalties or interest, not the taxes you owe.

But even with all these guarantees, if a mistake is made?

“Ultimately the taxpayer is responsible. When they sign that tax return, you need to understand it’s not the preparer,” says Steven Packey, a tax attorney with Packey Law Corporation.

We contacted H&R Block about the Atchison’s case and after reviewing their claim, they tell us in an email: “The team was able to determine there may have been an error on our end and seem to feel we should accept the claim,” according to Gene King, director of media relations.

H&R Block cut them a check for $7,375.60, the maximum the Peace of Mind protection covers plus their penalties and interest.

“Hallelujah! We’ll still never go back,” says Larry.

Tax preparers in California must belong to one of four categories. The first category must be registered with the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) and they’re required to have a $5,000 bond. This bond is only for cases involving fraud.

For the other three categories – tax attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents with the IRS – they’re not required to have this bond but they may carry an “Errors and Omissions” insurance.

That way, if mistakes are made, you can get some money back.

More from Kurtis Ming
Comments

One Comment

  1. Phil says:

    Well thats good to know, a little too late. I too go to H&R for my taxes and I too pay for the ins. this must be some kind of a scam by H&R?

  2. Ginna says:

    I do my own taxes so I don’t have to rely on a person I don’t know to file my information correctly. Too many times have I watched friends go in and file their taxes with H&R or another one of those tax companies and when I go over their info when they’re done, I want to bang my head on the wall because so many things that ARE NOT valid under IRS rules have been submitted as a deductible. When they ask you a question and you answer to the best of your knowledge, that’s all they can help with. If you don’t know what the rules are for that specific deduction, you’re putting things at risk if you don’t answer right. Learn the rules. Take your time. Do it yourself. Trusting a company to get your info properly sorted is a risk and it ends up being Buyer Beware.

  3. robbie says:

    the person who did my taxes a mistake on my taxes.Now i have been aduted want should i do.

  4. Michael Dewey Loudermilk says:

    This is an old post but H&R block did the same thing to me. I prepaid taxes in 2014 and asked them twice to make sure they counted it. They did not. and I got hit wit a $2100 additional tax from the IRS. I bought the “peace of mind” insurance. But apparently they don’t understand that it is not the fact that I rightfully owed additional tax, it is that I bought insurance in case THEY messed up on my return. Which they did, and now won’t pay.

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