Consumers care a lot about money and taxes, so they also care a lot about organizations that handle them. There’s a great deal of online chatter about tax service providers like H&R Block, a company that has prepared more than 550 million tax returns worldwide since 1955. In fiscal 2010, the company prepared more than 23 million tax returns worldwide, including one in every seven U.S. tax returns. H&R Block provides tax return preparation services in person, through H&R Block At Home™ online and desktop software products, and through other channels.

Our netnography found that the aspects some consumers like about the company—its online software and the price for its services—are the same aspects other people dislike. Many consumers praise the online software, finding it easy to use, while others complain about technical issues and accuracy. Concerning price, about the same percentage of consumers felt the product was expensive (20%) as thought it was a good value (18%). Maybe that means the company has found the right price point, neither under- nor over-pricing its product.

One clear impression from reading the comments is that the company does well with simple returns, and people feel the price is fair. That market segment appears to be their strength. For more-complex returns, the company offers in-person services and a progression of online products (at increasing price points). But most of the complaints seem to come from consumers who use the company for complex returns. Because most H&R Block agents are apparently less competent dealing with those returns, perhaps the company could institute a service where customers work with full-fledged CPAs once a return reaches a level of complexity that goes beyond the competence of an enrolled agent or tax advisor. They might also advise clients to use their in-person services rather than online services for such returns.

Positive Themes
Here are representative sound bites for the major positive themes.

Software

I use H&R Block online. Like everyone else said – very easy! (source)

Lacerte should have a direct link for those who need to do a prior year return. It is inconceivable that I have spent the whole weekend going through this site and posting one query after another only to come up empty. Even H&R Block has a very simple method for this. (source)

Price

H&R Block online is pretty cheap. Probably cheaper than Turbotax or close. I’ve used it for a few years w/no problems. (source)

When I was on the road full time, I keep an accurate mileage log, put any expenses I had in an envelope and at the end of each month I stapled them together and saved them. I created a spread sheet to keep track of everything and then at the end of the year I went to H&R Block to file my taxes. They were a lot less expensive than a CPA. I was never audited for a return H&R Block did for me, although after showing a loss for several years, the IRS wanted to know what I was living on if I kept losing money. (source)

Very Helpful

Misha Just get the POA that says you can do taxes and then go to like H&R Block, they will make sure you get the POA Tax Form, so you don’t have to wait longer for the money. That’s what I did last year. H&R Block was incredibly helpful!! (source)

Do you do your taxes yourself or pay someone ? We use H&R Block. They’ve always been helpful! Hope all you ladies have a wonderful day! (source)

Negative Themes
Here are representative sound bites for the major negative themes.

Software Issues

I have used TaxCut every year since 1999. The 2009 H&R Block At Home Deluxe Federal edition is disappointing. For one, a lack of flexibility in entering information is built in, perhaps to encourage the user to pony up for the Premium edition; within the program, the user is invited to pay $30 on the spot to upgrade. This is outrageous. (source)

I also am having problems installing the H&R Block 2009 with the same error. The federal program was downloaded from Amazon.com using their software and game downloader. Thinking that might be a problem, I uninstalled the amazon software downloader but that didn’t help. (source)

Expensive

Conn., Mass., New York & Vt. I made the brutal mistake of using Liberty Tax Service, a spin-off of Jackson Hewitt. First of all, I didn’t go back to H&R Block because I felt $350.00/yr. was a little rich just for a tax return prep. So I went into Liberty Tax and presented them with 4 different state w-2’s. (source)

If you have a very good software program to do it for you and your capable of… I would file on my own. H&R Block is expensive! Or just go somewhere else where it’s cheaper but trustworthy. Most of those places only charge you about $60. (source)

Error Made

Also, I had the house for the full year and not half a year, like I had the year before. Still it didn’t make sense to go from owing thousands to getting a refund. H&R Block messed up. They didn’t put my PMI in. I called them to confirm and she said that it certainly does sound like they made an error, and to bring my last year’s return by on Monday so they can correct it. (source)

A new client that had their taxes done at H&R Block for the last six years came to me to review 2009. I realized that H&R Block made some huge errors. One of the errors was the NOL was calculated incorrectly and overstated. When going through the return I noticed that H&R Block filed an Election to Forego the NOL Carryback for 2009 tax year. (source)

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