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H&R Block - wrong advice

My son started working two years ago and was posted away from home for a year. To get all the tax deductions he is entitled to, I advised him to use an accountancy firm for his first tax return. He employed H&R Block at their Carlingford Branch and got great service. That is why he chose to go back again this year.

The accountant he dealt with last had moved on, the new one was not so switched on. He changed the return disallowing all car expenses, because the registration is not in his name - wrong advice that could have cost my son almost $3,000. (He does not claim any rego or depreciation, just his own employment related running costs with full logbook and receipts). He has already paid $200 for the initial session (where the deductions were included). My son had to point the accountant to the ATO website explaining car deductions and this is still not sorted. I would love to ask for the money back and let my son prepare his own return as he seems to be more capable, but the fight to obtain a refund is not a comfortable thought.

What recourse do we have for wrong financial/accountancy advice? Everyone, check your tax returns if they have been prepared by an accountant, you might know more about the basic tax law than they do.

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First, H&R Block offices appear to be individual franchises and regardless some accountants are good, excellent, bad, or indifferent, but see the H&R Block satisfaction guarantee.

That is especially true the first few times an accountant has to deal with foreign income and tax treaties!

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Don’t hesitate to give H&R a call @reginavk. It sounds like you had a pretty bad experience, and hopefully they will want to rectify this for you. The link above provided by @TheBBG has all the contact details :thumbsup:

If you get the chance, please let us know how you go.

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Hi @reginavk,

We also used to use an accountant for our tax returns but found that we we ended up sitting beside the accountant telling him how to fill in the form (using the same software that we would use at home). We also found that most of the time is in gathering the information in preparation for someone to complete the return for us.

For the past 5 or so years we have done our own as have noticed over this time that it is becoming easier and easier to complete the return on line (initially was completed through the e-Tax software and more recently online through the my.gov/ATO website). with prefilling of most income items, all you need to do is check what prefilled items exist and add the ones which aren’t prefilled.

The ATO also has great information/guides on what one can and can’t claim. These can be easily found by searching the ATO website.

It is also worth noting that not all accountant’s cover all areas of taxation and it is possible that the first one was more experienced in claims for working remotely/away from home. The second one may not have had the same experience and it may have been good to ask at the commencement of the consultation whether the person is proficient in the tax area needed for your own situation. Nonetheless, the account for the second year should have either passed on you to another better experienced accountant at the same office or at least, checked after all information was provided what claims were possible. The later can easily be done by reviewing last years income tax return to see what had been claimed an whether the same claims still applied.

I agree with @BrendanMays about providing feedback to H&R Block as the service appears to unsatisfactory/didn’t meet your needs or expectations.

I would also also been reluctant to pay the accountant if the service did not meet expectations (appear you can do this according to the H&R Block website) and walked away from the consultancy. Unfortunately you may find that payment has indicated acceptance of the consultancy and it may be difficult to get any refunds or like.

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Thank you for your messages. I will harass my boy to provide feed back to H&R Block once this is sorted out. The point of it all was to make him independent, this is not a complex return, posting was in northern NSW. All his expenses were taken into consideration at the meeting with the accountant and my son paid the account assuming it’s all done. Later he got an email with the amendment and I am glad that he realised himself that this was plainly wrong. It is providing much more of an education than I could have hoped for. He won’t waste his money next year. (I am not slugging ALL accountants, some provide an excellent service.)

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More needs to be done to explain to people that the title of accountant is a very generic term. For example, you wouldn’t want a orthopaedic surgeon removing your tonsils. You need a qualified tax accountant to do your taxes, someone who has done extra specialist study and continues to keep up to date with tax changes. Not someone who has an accounting degree but has not done any further study.

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That is a good point and anyone engaging an accountant (or tax filer) should not be embarrassed to ask a few questions on their competencies.

But reality is that advertising and branding is what it is, and if you needed routine tax advise for your personal return you would expect everyone in a company like H&R Block to be current and competent to get the basics correct.

But that being written, H&R Block (not uniquely) is a company that might be predominantly tax filers, not accountants. I had a rellie in the US who did their for-fee course and then worked for them filing taxes. From their web front page,

As you suggested, could these ‘graduates’ handle a complex return, or one with foreign income subject to a tax treaty, one for US nationals, or a business. The skills might be there somewhere, but are they in front of you and being harnessed for you or are the customers working with filers who may or may not understand their own limitations, and who are not in any sense CPAs?

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Some comments from a Chartered Accountant which might help:

  • previous responses are correct in saying there is no law governing the term ‘accountant’ (unlike say ‘doctor’ or ‘chiropractor’)

  • H&R Block and the like are really just form fillers. I had a similar issue to the one noted above in my first year of work, also to do with claiming car expenses.

  • remember you can always lodge an amended return in subsequent years if you find something isn’t right in a return you’ve already lodged. I would suggest you go to either a Chartered Accountant or CPA for this though - don’t use a ‘form filling’ firm. (In the unlikely event this doesn’t work out either, both bodies have formal complaint handling procedures - see their websites.)

  • while you likely have access to recourse, it’s probably not worth your while to pursue

  • my overall advice is: if the return is simple enough for H&R Block, it’s simple enough for you - so do it yourself if you can, if not seek properly qualified advice. It’s worth the fee you’ll be charged to know everything is done properly, you’ve claimed all you can, and importantly, haven’t claimed anything you’re not entitled to.

Hope this helps.

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I fully agree, christins,. I have been dealing with a CPA for years for my business returns and he is great. I have followed him to his new offices because a bit of travel it is worth my peace of mind to know things are done correctly. We wasted a lot of time already, once this is sorted we’ll be a lot more choosy if we get into a situation where expert advice is needed. Thank you all!

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I call myself an accountant, but would never give you tax advice; I know my limitations.

Something everyone needs to keep in mind whenever you complete and file your taxes: you are responsible. Anyone who assists in their preparation has a duty of care, but any breaches of tax law; any failure to claim a deduction; any improperly claimed entitlement; any error in your tax return… is your problem and your fault at law. You pay the penalties. You may be able to sue the adviser (hope you have plenty of money) - you won’t get them to serve your prison term.

And if you want decent tax advice, go to a registered accountant - CPA or CA - who specialises in personal tax (or small business tax, if that’s your thing). Both certifying groups require that their members undergo continuing professional development, and also provide them with specific training.

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My son has finally put in his tax return. The next level of accountants/auditors at H&R Block have re-checked his eligibility to claim the deductions and approved ALL of them. My other children have been using etax without any hassles - and if in doubt call the ATO (as he has done this time) or engage a CPA. Next year should go smoothly, he now knows where to find answers and has decided to file the next return by himself.

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