H&R Block has been running ads preparing for and during this tax season saying that Americans who self-filed left $1 billion on the table, and that they can help you get that money back. It’s an interesting concept, and Done By Forty wrote a great contemplative article about it that got me thinking.
I could be 100% wrong, and like Done by Forty, I’m not even sure where the $1 billion number came from, but my best guess is that a lot of that money that people didn’t get back on their returns probably came from low-income families. Very low-income. A lot of people don’t file taxes because they don’t make enough money for it to be a requirement. DON’T DO THAT. File. Your employer was probably already taking taxes out of your paycheck anyways, and if you don’t owe anything, then the government owes you the money that was taken out of your pay. On top of that, you may qualify for the EIC (earned income credit,) especially if you have children. If the credit exceeds your tax due, the government actually has to pay it to you. If you do have children, you probably also qualify for the child tax credit, which reduces the amount of tax you owe by up to $1,000 per a child. If you already don’t owe any tax, you can get up to $1,000 BACK IN YOUR POCKET per child. Filing is worth it. You will make money.
If all of that sounds like gibberish to you, locate the nearest VITA center. They do your taxes for free if you’re below a certain income level. If what I said does make some sense to you, you could still locate your nearest VITA center, or use the option below to self-file and make sure you’re doing it right.
I was once in a situation where I wasn’t sure if I had filed everything correctly, so I took my taxes in to a tax service center where you paid a guy to file for you. Much like H&R Block. I knew that because part of our family’s income was military, we didn’t owe state taxes for our state for that income. In fact, they were owed back to us. The guy filed everything, then told me all the same numbers I had already figured out, except he insisted we pay state taxes on the military pay. No matter how many times I told him about the law, he refused to even look it up. He wanted $300 to file for me. I told him no and left.
So I wondered if was standard practice. Have the person run your numbers. See what they get. If you like their work, pay them. If not, leave. I called H&R Block to check. Turns out it is.
What this means is that regardless of your financial situation, good or bad, if you prepare your own taxes you can essentially take them in for a free check-up. If there are any glaring differences you can pay them to do your taxes right. If there aren’t and you discover they got the same figures as you, you can walk out the door a little more self-assured without paying a cent.
If you go this route, I would do my self-filing by paper (remember to do federal, state, and local.) Bring all your forms and worksheets and whatever else they require you to bring. That way when they go over the numbers, all of your work is right in front of you.
I would feel like this was unethical if the ads we’ve been bombarded with weren’t so bold. If they want to say they’ll get me my billion back, I want them to prove it before I pay them.