H&R Block unveils transparent prices

An H&R Block tax prep office
in New York, Friday, August 25, 2006. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

Tax preparation giant H&R Block announced that it will offer upfront, transparent prices starting in January for in-person and online prep.

The move comes amid concerns that the changes from the 2017 tax reform act could significantly impact the low end of the tax prep market. Among other things, the rough doubling of the standard deduction is expected to result in significantly fewer taxpayers itemizing, which may reduce the number who seek professional help with their returns.

To fix upfront prices, Block has mapped 4,000 potential tax forms, worksheets and calculations to approximately 25 items based on the consumer’s personal situation to determine the price. Taxpayers can determine their base price from one of five categories: “Simple” (W-2 income only), “Complex” (income other than a W-2), “Student/Retired,” “Family” (with dependents) or “Homeowner” (paid mortgage interest).

Taxpayers then can determine if they need to file state returns and finally can include the price for any of the approximately 20 additional items such as credits, investments and business income.

Jones-Jeffrey-H&R Block

“We have spent the last year evaluating all parts of our business, with a specific focus on consumers and their feedback,” said H&R Block president and CEO Jeff Jones in a statement. “Our work confirmed that taxes are already a source of anxiety for many consumers, and the tax industry has made it more stressful by not explaining the cost of the services until after the tax preparation was complete.”

In most Block offices, prices for a federal return start at $59; each state return is also $59.
“We listened to our frontline tax professionals who told us clients expect and deserve to know the price of services before they start,” said Karen Orosco, senior vice president of H&R Block’s retail business in a statement. “Our tax pros are passionate about finding ways to improve our service and provide us extremely valuable insights based on their firsthand experiences helping clients.”

The company is also introducing a “Price Preview” feature on its do-it-yourself online tax prep offering, which will offer ongoing updates to pricing as the taxpayer moves through the preparation process.

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