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H&R Block Tax prep course advice
Old 10-05-2008, 12:59 PM   #1
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H&R Block Tax prep course advice

Or maybe this is more like career advice. I am greatly under-employed. I'm looking to contribute more to our savings in preparation for my husband's retirement from a local government job. He'd like to retire in 5 years (cola-ed pension) but his job may not last that long. He reaches 25 years within the next few months.

I have a degree in Early Childhood Education from 1977. I never taught, there was a glut of teachers at the time and I eventually ended up working as a Staff Accountant for a local company. By that time I had a few college accounting courses but I do not have an accounting degree. The pay was good for the time, especially for not having the degree, and I enjoyed the work and learned a lot. I left the Staff Accountant job in 1984 to raise a family.

I did not work for 22 years. In 2006 I started working in a minimal part-time job as a School Crossing Guard, just to have a little income for a small amount of time commitment and specifically to complete my Social Security credits. I also work seasonally as a summer concert venue usher and also as an usher for a state university at sports events. Fun stuff, far too easy. All the money goes toward debt reduction. We've paid off one car, the next one will be paid off next month. After that it's just extra money for the future.

I'd like to get back into something accounting related, even if it's at a clerical level. Being that my accounting job was so long ago and my current work is so lightweight and unrelated, I'm not even getting interviews when I apply for jobs. They are looking for recent experience or experience that's more specific to their field.

I was at a Mature Job Fair (I'm 53) and I talked to people from H&R Block. They are starting their basic tax prep classes soon. The cost is affordable enough, I've always been a good student and I'm sure I could handle the classes. I've always enjoyed our own tax prep, I'm sure I could prepare more complicated stuff with some training.

So I'm looking for some comments about taking the H&R Tax prep course and about working for H&R Block or other tax prep companies.

Does this sound like a good way to resuscitate my resume? With my current part time work I can't seem to get past entry level, low paying jobs. Yet my "career" level job was 24 years ago.

I knew when I left the workforce in 1984 that it would impact my future earning potential. I'm still glad that we made that choice. I just need to figure out how to get back in.
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Old 10-05-2008, 01:20 PM   #2
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I took the class years ago (it was free then) and was a reasonably good course to learn basic tax prep and a bit about how HR Block works. At that time, they tended to offer part-time employment to the top few (just a few) of the people in the class. Number of jobs available depend greatly on the local office. First couple years the way the incentive programs worked (again, this was a while ago, so they may have changed) pretty much mean you earn only a basic wage, but you do have the whole of HR Block standing behind you and that can be reassuring that you know you are preparing the forms correctly. You will only see the most basic of returns anyway as the complex stuff will be given to others with longer tenure.

If you do want to try part-time employment with HR Block, then you will need to be in the top of your class, if not the top. If they have homework, turn it in. If they have readings, always be a chapter ahead. If you are thinking of a part time job as a tax preparer or maybe as your own business in tax prep, working for a firm for a year is a good way to be sure you understand the business.

If you are just looking for a basic class to learn tax prep, it's wasn't a bad choice when I did it. Hopefully they don't charge much (if anything) for the class.
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Old 10-05-2008, 01:23 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Sue J View Post
So I'm looking for some comments about taking the H&R Tax prep course and about working for H&R Block or other tax prep companies.
The course is pretty good. If you work for them, the earnings are not very good. But depending on the size and needs of the franchise, if you like it you might get some advanced courses next year, and do some training, etc.

Or later you might pick up your own tax business from someone who is retiring. You will be working with people who are book-keepers and will have scuttlebut from that career field.

Very low risk opportunity, but not that much fun.

I did it for a while; but was happy not to go back.

ha
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Old 10-05-2008, 01:51 PM   #4
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Like HaHa I did about the same thing however I only took the course because it was cheap and I intended to do my own work, on my own, and provide tax preparation as an "add-on" for clients I was doing Residential Property management for. The course is pretty good but dependent on the level of the instructor(s) knowledge in a pretty large area. In my case I found the instructor(s) to have some very week areas and most would not admit their lack of knowledge. In their defense, they were only teaching very basic tax preperation skills. I did graduate high enough to be offered part-time employment but did not accept. From what you said in your OP it may be a perfect fit for you to get yourself back into something in accounting however, if offered employment, it will be a very basic level, and (you did not mention your level of computer skills) using propritary software, to complete returns on a high volume level at a very low commission level.
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Old 10-05-2008, 02:05 PM   #5
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Sue , If you are only looking for part time why don't you sign up to be a substitute teacher especially at preschools ?
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Old 10-05-2008, 02:22 PM   #6
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A shipmate wrote his own ticket on H&R Block in the 1980s.

After finishing the tax-prep course he was offered a part-time job at a local franchise. Instead of completing customer's returns while they waited, he'd buy tabbed accordion files and hand them out for them to organize their records for him to enter onto the software. He'd have four or five people in front of his desk sorting their paperwork while he advised them what he needed. Then he gave them an appointment for a few days later.

When his "part-time" hours were up, he stayed there finishing the backlog of returns. Being an unmarried nuclear submariner with no social life, he'd arrive at the office at 8 AM and leave after 6 PM. By February his "part-time" job was 5 AM-9 PM and they were letting him open & lock up. Other employees were handling one customer at a time in series so he had 5-6x their throughput for "only" 2-3x the labor.

After tax season was over he bought a Baskin-Robbins franchise in a shopping mall and hired business majors as shift managers. He kept up with H&R Block during tax season for a couple more years but quit when his bankroll kept his businesses going. He drilled in the Navy Reserve and made O-6 one weekend a month for the next 20 years, but his real ambition has been to take over that entire mall one store at a time.

Hopefully H&RB hasn't gone so corporate that you can no longer do this at your pace.
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Old 10-05-2008, 05:02 PM   #7
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I took the course last year and worked for H&R Block during their peak season this year. I enjoyed the work and they were very accommodating as far has working around the hours I preferred. I took a number their tax course through the summer and plan to work for them again this coming tax season. One nice thing is you can take the classes at your own pace and the people that I have worked with are nothing short of super nice and knowledgeable people.
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Old 10-06-2008, 07:18 AM   #8
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How much can you earn during a typical tax season?
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:06 PM   #9
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Depends on a number of factors, your base rate, number of completed and paid returns, and misc. H&R Block products sold.
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:31 PM   #10
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I am taking the B3 (basic building blocks) course from HR block right now. I do intend to do tax returns somewhere in 2008. If block does not hire me, I will call other firms (like Jackson Hewitt or other).

One reason I did this was to make extra money this year.
Another reason I did this is I am thinking of switching from megacorp to my own business financial planning and needed a way to start.
A third reason is to better understand my own taxes and tax planning.

For $139 you can't beat the price.

for the record, HR block people know lots about taxes. They know very little on investments, tax planning as it pertains to investments and investment planning.

See my thread on my Roth conversion. I had several people in the course (instructor included) which questioned why that would be a prudent strategy.
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Old 10-06-2008, 04:58 PM   #11
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I have not taken the H & R course, but I have taken the basic and advanced classes offered by Liberty Tax. I have worked for them for the past 4 years, and many of my co workers have also worked for H & R.

In my community, H & R is the older, more established business. They put a strong emphasis on selling other products besides tax prep. They have offices open year round.

Jackson Hewitt's business is newer, but similar to H & R. They generally don't have a year round office. (The company was actually started by the same guy who owns Liberty Tax, who then sold out, and started a new company.)

Liberty Tax offices are generally individually owned franchises, although they do operate a few corporate offices, too. They are not into selling products beyond the tax prep. They have year round offices.

Generally, most of these businesses will start you at minimum wage or a little above. They will offer bonuses or commissions, based on some minimum dollar amount or number of returns, but these are usually for returning employees.

I enjoyed the personal feel of the Liberty Tax that I worked for the first couple of years, because it was owned by an individual who cared about keeping his good employees. I worked for corporate for one year, and that was not a good experience for me. The pay was good, but the attitude was not.

I'm estimating that between hourly and bonus, I made between $15.00-18.00 per hour. That's not bad for seasonal work that I truly enjoy.

Learning to use the tax prep software is the key to any of these businesses. It's like Turbo Tax on steroids. Very user friendly!!!

Liberty offers classes for $89.00 here, and if you do well, they will offer you a job.
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Old 10-06-2008, 05:55 PM   #12
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I have to say that I am not too impressed with some of the HR Block graduates. I found several large errors on my ex-MIL tax return prepared by them, enough so that they gave a full refund (mostly in cap gain calculations). They messed up my mom's also, and really pissed me off by talking her into an IRA to 'lower her taxes' - she is 73 and already in a minimal bracket. The fees swallowed almost all of the interest it earned. I now explain these cases to anyone who I hear is considering having a 'pro' do there taxes, especially my friends parents. I am not talking about complex returns, but simple income / SS / pension with maybe some CG thrown in.
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Old 10-06-2008, 08:37 PM   #13
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I enrolled for the H&R Block tax course 10 years ago and only lasted for the first class. I found I was ready to kill the instructor and some of my classmates as everything moved at such a slow pace, I just couldn't stand it. I mean how hard is it to work out where a social security number goes.

So if you are a patient person it may be a good pace for you, however if you are like me, more intolerant and just want to get on with it, it probably would not be for you. Going on the quality of attendants at the class I was in, it would scare me to think that these people may be hired to prepare someone's taxes.
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Old 10-06-2008, 10:29 PM   #14
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I took the H&R Block course many, many yrs ago but never worked for them. I was discouraged at working for them because so many people said the earnings would be minimal for the first two years until you built up a base of new returning customers....not sure how accurate that was. My impression is that it might be better going into a new branch (where all the customers are new) rather than going into an established situation. I was also discourage by the lack of interest among the instructor and students on minimizing taxes etc. They focused strictly on the mechanics of preparing the return. I have often wondered how well thier software works becasue the tax prep programs tend to mask input errors and isolate the user from the details. Overall, I enjoyed the class and it helped me with my personal tax prep.

I have experience with family members getting poor quality returns from Block and I suspect the tax preparers are overly incented to push the products like anticipation loans.

I hope this thread continues and members will post updates as I am thinking of doing seasonal work now or in retirement. My neighbor has several Jackson-Hewitt offices and it seems to be working out extremely well for him and he strikes me as a very ethical individual.
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Old 10-07-2008, 11:31 AM   #15
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H&R Block is all about volume.

Pump the returns out as fast as possible. If there's a mistake (which there usually is on 75% of the H & R Block returns I've seen), they will worry about it later, if the taxpayer or IRS finds it.

I guess if you want a quick hamburger, you go to McDonald's. If you want a few pieces of paper with some numbers on them, you go to H & R Block.
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Old 10-07-2008, 02:53 PM   #16
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The last 4 or 5 comments are similar things to what I am seeing while taking the class.

The instructor blindly recomends using Roth IRAs without regards to taxes
Others in the class which claim to know investing suggested to me that converting my rollover to a roth right now is a bad move (selling low, no questions to find out if I was in 15% bracket- which I am). Plus the software is clunky at best and W-2's are all input by hand. I am doing this for the experience right now, I will let you know in May how profitable the venture was.

Much of the education now centers around dependants, earned income credits and similar things. I would not think a retired person needs to go to HR Block to get taxes done. No one should take investment advice from HR block. I haven't met a single person working there which knows investing.
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Old 10-07-2008, 11:33 PM   #17
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The last 4 or 5 comments are similar things to what I am seeing while taking the class.

The instructor blindly recomends using Roth IRAs without regards to taxes
Others in the class which claim to know investing suggested to me that converting my rollover to a roth right now is a bad move (selling low, no questions to find out if I was in 15% bracket- which I am). Plus the software is clunky at best and W-2's are all input by hand. I am doing this for the experience right now, I will let you know in May how profitable the venture was.

Much of the education now centers around dependants, earned income credits and similar things. I would not think a retired person needs to go to HR Block to get taxes done. No one should take investment advice from HR block. I haven't met a single person working there which knows investing.
None of that is very surprising to me. I would have never considered taking my taxes to one of those operations (HR Block or elsewise). My MIL got some pretty lousy tax advice on a very basic issue some years ago (not HR, someone else). They were clearly not well versed and simply plugging things blindly (and possibly incorrectly) into the "magic software."

On the other hand I have considered it as a part time employment venture in (semi)-ER so I'm interested to hear what you think of it. I'm just wondering if I could stand dealing with the operation.
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Old 10-08-2008, 12:35 AM   #18
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...On the other hand I have considered it as a part time employment venture in (semi)-ER so I'm interested to hear what you think of it. I'm just wondering if I could stand dealing with the operation.
There is a certain unbillable time commitment to keeping up with tax law changes, going to tax seminars, paying for E & O insurance, paying for tax software, supplies, etc. To keep up with everything you need to know to minimize mistakes, you need to have a certain number of clients to make it finanially worthwhile. Just having a couple dozen small clients ain't going to cut it.

When a client talks to you about their situation, lots of things should start clicking in your head about possible tax and investment strategies.

If you are not immersed in this business every day, you wouldn't be doing your clients justice and you would just be setting yourself up for lawsuits.
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Old 10-08-2008, 09:21 AM   #19
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Back in 2001 I took the basic HRBlock tax course after retiring from my career engineering job. Worked for them for 5 seasons taking advanced courses each summer. But pay ranged from about $7 to $11 per hour. A lot depends upon how much revenue you generate versus number of hours worked. If you have a lot of quiet time, the pay doesn't go up. Working one year doing online support and changing cities after year 3 didn't help as I never did build up much of a client base.

Got tired of the retail, volume mindset and the push to refer & sell loan products, IRAs so decided to float a resume around to local accounting & bookkeeping firms. Should have done that earlier. Now work for a medium size CPA firm (about 120 employees) from January to April, 50% more pay, I set my own hours. They love it. Didn't ask for bennies (my pension cover health), trained, only interested in working during dog days of winter. I do get called in occasionally other times of the year (like yesterday) when they need an extra hand.

In short, if your interested in seasonal employment for extra money, give HR Block a try for 2-3 seasons and then see if you can move on.

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Old 10-12-2008, 08:05 PM   #20
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Thank you for all the comments. I've decided to give this a try. The risk seems low (my time and the book fee, $139 minus an "Early Registration Discount" of $25). I haven't taken a class in about 30 years but I used to be pretty good at it in college.
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