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

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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.

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