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People hate filing taxes, but they love getting something for free. So, when H&R Block advertises that people can use its online tax product for free, people listen. The problem, according to the FTC? It often isn’t free.

H&R Block’s online tax product is free only if you meet H&R Block’s definition of a “simple return,” a tax situation that the FTC says many people think they have, but don’t. It’s also a tax situation that isn’t defined — H&R Block can (and does) change what tax situations qualify for free at any time. 

Once you’re alerted that you don’t qualify for the free version — after you’ve taken the time to enter in all your information — you’re prompted to choose one of H&R Block’s paid tax filing products. But what if you choose the wrong version and want to switch? You’ll face major hurdles.

The FTC says that H&R Block makes it easy to upgrade to a more expensive version but adds barriers that make it difficult and burdensome to downgrade to cheaper products. Moving to a more expensive product? The information you already entered online is seamlessly transferred to the new product. But if you later realize you could get by with a cheaper version and ask to switch, H&R Block will wipe out all the information you had (painstakingly) put in. But that’s not all. To downgrade, you’ll also have to contact customer service (if you can even get through to an agent).

The result? The FTC says a lot of people are stuck paying for the more expensive product — that they didn’t want or need — so they wouldn’t have to reenter their tax info. Others abandoned their returns, having wasted hours of their time. 

Does that policy sound like a trick? The FTC thinks so. If you see a company doing something like that, it might be illegal. Tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

If you’re looking for free options for your taxes, check if you qualify for the IRS’s Free File program.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Gloria Winkler
February 26, 2024

I had H&R Block do my taxes last year. They would not allow me to claim deductions on goods that were donated.

N Riddle
March 15, 2024

In reply to by Gloria Winkler

We were just charged $39 for federal transfer fee and charged $39 because they don’t like the marketplace ins., to file that form. Never before charged for these before. A total from $150 in past to $228.

Elizabeth Adams
March 29, 2024

In reply to by Gloria Winkler

It is because you probably did not have enough deductions to equal, for example, the $13,850 for the single deduction. Your taxable income is based on your income after income and any deductions you can take. The lower the taxable income the lower the taxes. You make $20,000/yr - $13,850 = taxable income of $6,150. Assuming your tax rate is 10%, your taxes are only $615. If you donated $1000 worth of goods to the Goodwill, and insist on claiming deductions...your taxable income would be $19,000 and your taxes (at 10%) would be $1900. Would you rather pay $1900 to the IRS or only $615??? I mean, if you insisted that you wanted to pay over $1000 more in taxes, I am sure your tax preparer would have let you! They would have been very unhappy to have you pay so much more than you should have, but if you insisted that is what you really wanted to do...they would have claimed your itemized deductions!

Elaaine
February 26, 2024

Thank You!! I’ve known this was the practice, but wasn’t clear on how to report the process.

Raul Ruacho
February 26, 2024

I've had my issues dealing with h&r block and how disrespected they made me feel. I had been using there services buying there most expensive products and of no use when I needed them to assist me. Instead they treaded me disrespectful and told me not to do business with them anymore. The H&R block in Culver City on Sepulveda bl. Hoe can I get my money back for the useless products I did not use and was denied use of?

andrea matsushima
February 26, 2024

YAY! Another great protection action from the FTC. One of the 2 or 3 governmental agencies that show results in protecting consumers.

Reed Maxson
February 26, 2024

Turbo Tax has the same business plan. You start for free, enter your info, then are informed that you don't qualify for the free version. For this reason, I compared Turbo with H&R Block last year and thought H&R was actually worse than Turbo!

Cheryl Butler
February 26, 2024

Thank you

Aashi
February 26, 2024

Very True. H&R block tricks you into free filing, however, even for the simplest tax return filing, you end up paying huge fees and lot of time.

Rubens Titus
February 26, 2024

Great eye opener article!

Karen
February 26, 2024

Free File companies do the same for the state tax. You complete Federal, having read that you qualify for free state, too, then it changes. You are asked to submit state for various prices, 25.00, 35.00. The companies think everyone will choose this option, having done all the work for the Federal. One software required you to make a new account, but you had to pay to insert last year's return. This same software will not allow you to delete your information.

I found One that really offered both Federal and state tax free from the Free File list. I don't think the IRS has looked at the details of t hese companies they recommend.

Elizabeth Adams
March 29, 2024

In reply to by Karen

If you took the time to read the information. It tells you the maximum income you can have for their company and whether or not they offer free states or some free states and what states are free. I guess this is why you buy bread and it might state that their wheat bread contains wheat that has gluten. READ!

Robert C Noble
February 26, 2024

Thanks

Carlos Morcate
February 26, 2024

I dont use them nor anyone else. I don't trust them. I do my own, or have the IRS help me with it.

Mynah808
February 26, 2024

So glad to hear this! I had a TERRIBLE experience with H&R Block. You have to upload all your documents, the "advisor" takes forever to get back to you, and meanwhile the clock is ticking and you face the possibility of being late in filing, even though you signed up a month in advance.

Thank you again for this good news of the FTC cracking down on false/misleading advertising by H&R Block and others, esp to the most vulnerable. These tax prep corporations have also put obstacles in the way of the IRS making a free online version available.

Sharp Mann
February 26, 2024

Why is FTC just reporting this to us instead of taking some action and forcing H & H&R Block to behave like a good corporation?
Simply take back the extra money that they are making by forcing people to upgrade to a more expensive version.
I guess they would behave if they were hit with a $25 Million judgement.

FTC Staff
February 26, 2024

In reply to by Sharp Mann

Click on the link in the blog to read the press release about FTC action against H&R Block. The FTC issued an administrative complaint, which marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be tried in a formal hearing before an administrative law judge.

E. Frank
April 11, 2024

In reply to by FTC Staff

Thank you so much. I haven't stopped shedding tears of joy reading this update. Companies that take advantage of consumers must be stopped. I wish I had seen this notice in February. I would have simply walked away from trying to right a wrong with H&R Block.
I am now trying to extricate myself from the mess and will never use them again. If they don’t resolve my situation in the next 48 hours, I will file a complaint against them.
I know the FTC process and will do it if necessary. I might file anyway to add my name to the growing list of complaints against them. Lesson learned.

mark john conner
March 11, 2024

In reply to by Sharp Mann

i was charged 39 dollars for an emerald card to get and early amount of money i findd out the person never sent the information in for me too receive the 250 dollar amount and then i was charged 211.00 for the service and 39 for the emerald card that wasn't used

Anna Carney
February 26, 2024

And they won’t issue you a refund when you call them out on it. It’s intentional deception and fraud and it’s preying on poor people bc usually lower income people/families are struggling financially and income tax return is when they can finally buy the car part they need, pay back a loan they’ve overpaid for (unless they choose to borrow from their tax return…), their kid’s braces, the AC fixed bc summer is coming up, a down payment on a car that won’t fall apart, a their credit card bills, a deposit for an apartment or a house…. They know exactly what they’re doing and it’s sickening. I’m not going to shut up until they reimburse me for three years I was supposed to get my taxes done for free but somehow ended up paying $50 each time. I have a big mouth. And I’m not afraid to use it when it means putting a stop to intentional deception, fraud, theft, and preying on those that are already struggling.

Cristie Gandy
February 26, 2024

I had the same problem with Turbo tax. It was to be free, then find out about eic, child tax credits, and others, I had to go ahead and give my bank info and ok to pay a premium price. I'm 54 and live below poverty level with my teenage son. I made less than 12k. Why should I have paid?

Chris Taylor
February 26, 2024

Great information to share. I never knew this was happening. Will pass on. Thank!

Margaret Zimmer
February 26, 2024

My "free" tax return became not eligible when I entered the information from a 1099-NEC. It was 1 line entry of $855 of "other income". I had to upgrade to "Deluxe" preparation for the "discounted price of $35. Then to do my state return was another $37. So my free return was $72.

Tracy
February 26, 2024

Excellent info

Amy
February 26, 2024

So what is H&R block doing with the information you entered if you abandon the return. Is it deleted from their system? Or do they retain it and sell the information or use it to market services to you in the future.

Mary McDuffie
February 26, 2024

Thank You for your Inside Secret about H&R Block.

Jackie S.
February 26, 2024

H&R block is absolutely guilty of trying to charge members for unnecessary programs this year. As a military member I have filed with them for years. This year as always I checked the box that I'm active duty, then when it came to putting in childcare deductions H&R block website stated I'd requires additional documents only available through their "Tax Pro" for $89. I logged out and then accessed the site through the Military One Source website and re-logged into H&R Block with my same login and magically it was free again. Shame on H&R Block for trying to scamming members.

Eric Gallardo
February 26, 2024

I am having similiar misleading/fraudulent problems with Tax Relief Advocates. They tricked me into paying an EXTRA $2,905 to handle my case. They went over my income and expense info and tax burden (for $595 non refundable, which I agreed to). They then told me for the extra $2,905 they would come to a resolution with the IRS in regards to my case. I specifically told them if they could not lower my tax bill by at LEAST $3,500 (the total of the two payments I would make to them so I could at least BREAK EVEN), I did not want to make the extra $2,905 payment. I was told by the salesman/case worker that "We've seen many cases like your get reduced to as low as $2,000 tax liability". So, believing they were working in GOOD FAITH,I paid for them to continue. After a few months, I was told they had a payment plan option ready for me to review. I asked them about a REDUCTION in my tax bill and they said the IRS guidelines would not allow for that due to my income. Why didn't they tell me that would probably happen after seeing my income/expense information and BEFORE tricking me into paying the extra $2,905? FRAUDS!!

Debbie R
February 26, 2024

I agree it is a trick I don't know how many times I have been tricked and entered all information in different tax programs online to find out it costs, HR block included. I sure hope the FTC fights these bait and switch tactics that are being used.

Kelli I
February 26, 2024

I am glad that the FTC is looking into this. I have had this happen with H & R Block and Turbo Tax. After I had gone through all of the work entering everything, I just ended up giving in and paying whatever they charged. I switched because of this, and then it happened again. It is hard enough for people to file their taxes. I have tried to go in and get my taxes done, and they charge over $200.00. Something needs to be done.

Carl bowles
February 27, 2024

Jackson Hewett ripped off my neighbor with a very similar scam. There is no such thing as a free lunch, you will pay.

Olivia Vu
February 28, 2024

I feel cheated by H&B Block. I paid $65 for their premium plan, but they also wanted $90 for a pro tax adviser. If I refused, I had to mail the tax forms to the IRS myself. I chose the mail option after spending hours on the tax forms, but the pdf file from their website won’t open. I wasted $65 and can’t file my tax without paying another $90.

Jean
February 28, 2024

H&R block tricks you into free filing, however, even for the simplest tax return filing, I end up paying huge fees that they will deduct from your tax return. Shame of you and your ruse H&R Block

Joey
March 01, 2024

I was held to 190.00 us dollars beforehand ot hr block would complete my efile

LynnR
March 07, 2024

This is so true. H&R block has been doing this for years. A lot of my info is the same from one year to another so I prefer not to have to retype it all in again. In past years, I've just went ahead and paid for what I thought was a lower rate just so that I didn't have to re-enter info; yet once you get towards the end, you would an "upgrade" inquiry sometimes, just to check to see if you qualify for something. If you do proceed yet might not be eligible, H&R Block will not allow you to downgrade without contacting customer service. Several years ago, it took for me to post on one of their social media platforms just to get it fixed.

Walt
March 18, 2024

So, I tried H&R Block free edition online and several minutes into filling things out, I find out that I need a form that is not included. The cheapest option is $49.99. So, I abandon the online and find a $19.99 deal from Newegg.com for H&R Block Deluxe + State software download. Because my spouse works in another state, it will cost $39.95 additional to download a second state. I guess doing taxes for free and cheap is just not an option.

Donna
March 25, 2024

I have used h-r block for last few years and last year i was charged 200 for filing my taxes which were basic took 20 minutes and i am single widow and meet the terms to qualify for my taxes to be done free but still charged then this year im on complete disabikity under 10k income for year easy tax prep and ask the tax preparer y i had to pay when i meet the income limits to not be charged and theyre 1 place that advertises free tax prep for certain people but i was charged 145 dollars which he said he could give me 50 off for repeat customer im glad i had the last of my ssdi check saved so i could pay but no money left to get through rest of month how sad how people are getting taken advantage off

Stephiane Vasquez
March 25, 2024

I was only supposed to be charged $89 I was charged almost $400 I'm still trying to get back my money refund it nobody will call me back I call customer service a million times they don't know anything they don't have any answers I asked you know who's in the fraud department no answers no phone number no name please I need help this has to stop there is so much fraud coming out of h&r block it's ridiculous somebody needs to help us people who are getting scammed and ripped off

Linda DiMarco
March 27, 2024

I was quoted 215.00 for a simple tax return. They took their 215.00 fee out of our refund but there were additional fees added which I was not told about for 44.00. When I inquired I was told there was a fee for using the service to pay for our HR block return that was electronically withdrawn from our checking account. I’m stilling waiting to hear back from the local manager. I have used HR Block in the past few years and have had issues. When I picked up my return there was no paperwork indicating fees for service at all. This is not what I call full disclosure when dealing with this company. I felt we were taken advantage of we are totally disgusted.

Eric L. Drogt
March 28, 2024

Used H&R Plus last year for $40, filed State for Free. This year could not get Plus and started with free and then it forced me into Deluxe which cost me $100. No real changes from last year except for one CD which earned some extra interest. Just Soc Sec earnings, basic pension, and interest income. Easy to file, and just got hosed by H&R Block.

Mon
April 02, 2024

They automatically upgraded my product to deluxe when I didn't have any income sources that warranted the deluxe package. There isn't a way to downgrade back to the free version. This is such a scam! I am very disappointed in their deceiving marketing.

tom
April 02, 2024

I had H&R Block do my taxes for 2022. I did mot bother to ask for a price quote since all I had was a 1040 short form.When I went to pick up my return, they had charged me $289.00. Had no choice but to pay it but I vowed to never use H&R Block again.

Steve Cassidy
April 08, 2024

H&R Block Premium treated me VERY BADLY.
I Filled In office but the preparation was done by agents about 200+ miles away in beginning of March
No notification done to tell me They were NOT working on it till I called preparer who said NOTHING was done. Now this was April 1
Expect call from H&R Block
NO body calling me from Corporate

E. Frank
April 11, 2024

The FTC is a fantastic agency and I am so delighted to see that they are finally calling H&R Block to the table for ripping us off.
It is serendipity that led me here tonight. I've been fuming about the outrageous fees I've paid over the last 4-5 years to H&R Block and decided last year to challenge my agent to do better.
I make so little money as a self-employed senior and yet, they routinely charged me close to $700!
This year, my agent said if I file earlier, the fees will be less. I did in February. Guess what? I was presented me with the same huge fees.
I went ballistic and ended up here ready to file a complaint as I reflected on the vulnerable, underpaid people, like me, that I see walking into their office looking for tax prep help.
I said to myself, there ought to be a class action lawsuit again such predatory gouging of those who don't earn enough yet are billed enormous fees because the H&R Block agency and agents believe they can.
I am deeply disappointed with them because I was gullible for so long.
Thank you FTC for the amazing work you do to protect consumers.
You listen, treat our complaints with respect, and always take action.
I know because I've filed a complaint with you in the past.
Even though the stinky company I reported lied to cover their bait and switch tactics, you caught them red handed.
They are now paying dearly for ripping consumers off.
Keep up the great work! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Joe
April 15, 2024

They charged me $250 for a simple return.
I had pension, Social Security and a $95 1099b.
This I believe is unfair and way over priced.

Liam munson
April 15, 2024

I am a college student who filed taxes in two states. Last year I was given a student discount which brought my fees down to around 80 dollars. This year they landed on 270 dollars, starting with a 135 dollar student fee which I don’t remember existing. They said they would bring the cost down to 150, but then told me I had no respect for their policies or them

Sunnysienna
April 22, 2024

I had an amazing experience with H&R block free version. It took about 30 minutes to file my federal & state at absolutely no cost. I had tried intuit turbo tax free initially and all the issues everyone is saying about H&R block I had with turbo tax. I tried two different times with two accounts on turbo tax and both charged me different amounts totaling $222.00 total (fed/state) or $138.00 total (fed/ state) but none of them were actually free unlike H&R Block that was completely free. I was not impressed with Turbo Tax at all and feel like they were luring you in with a free option and nothing about it was free.

Colby Scott
April 15, 2024

HR Bock BLOCKED me from e-filing my taxes saying," you don't qualify for e-filing because your income, taxes, credits and/or payments are all zero. Please check your entries. If this is correct, we will help you print and mail your return."

Madeanna Johnson
April 23, 2024

Would anybody connected to this case? Please contact me. I have been literally robbed from h. And R block and download card service period first H and R block. I had to do my taxes twice. Because the first person who prepped them hit them because she messed up. She literally threw them away but I have proof of them.I have the copies then my card was put on an emerald card account and somehow within hours of me getting my money the money