Time to break up with H&R Block Online (formerly TaxCut)

You know, as much as I hated filling out all of my 2009 taxes in H&R Block’s new “At Home Deluxe” online product, I think I may just go ahead and try filing with TurboTax anyways.

Last year, I was wowed at how great their online TaxCut software was. It was quite helpful, easy to use, and seemed to take care of all of my investment needs.

This year – quite the opposite. When trying to find information about wash sales the site provided no helpful input, no automated calculations – nothing. It is really just a beautified IRS form. I had to research the web for hours and do my calculations manually in a spreadsheet. Even then, because they don’t show you what fields you’re actually filling in in the IRS form – there is not way to be sure I was doing it right.

Then, finally, I got to a point where I thought it was time to submit. And – it finds an error.

“Error 1 of 1: Remove the non-alpha characters in %P in order to electronically file this return.”

%P? Oh gee thanks, that is useful. Who knows where that is. So it brings me to a random spot in my return – all of the characters such as $’s and ,’s are automatically put there by the software. If it is complaining about those – I don’t even have the option to change them. After going through the portion in the survey that it takes me to multiple times with no success, I finally ask tech support:

Welcome to H&R Block At Home technical support. Please wait while we find a technical support agent to assist you.
You have been connected to Kelly A..
Kelly A.: Hello BRIAN, welcome to H&R Block’s At Home Live Chat Support! How can we assist you today?
BRIAN SAGHY: Hello, I’m trying to submit my return by e-file, and it is giving me an error message that appears to be broken:
BRIAN SAGHY: Remove the non-alpha characters in %P in order to electronically file this return.
BRIAN SAGHY: %P definitely looks like the backend code is somehow broken and is not being filled in correctly
Kelly A.: That means somewhere in the return there is a letter that is where a number should be or a number where a letter should be. You will need to review the entire form to find it. I apologize for the inconvenience.
BRIAN SAGHY: That is pretty awful
Kelly A.: I agree.
Kelly A.: Is there anything else we are able to assist you with today?
BRIAN SAGHY: i guess thats it

Tech support agrees – their product sucks. So why should I pay for it? We’ll see if TurboTax or TaxACT 2009 is any better this year.

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11 thoughts on “Time to break up with H&R Block Online (formerly TaxCut)

  1. Derek says:

    I’m thinking about just getting a CPA this year. I haven’t been impressed with Turbo Tax and I think the peace of mind and set of actual human eyeballs would be worth the cost. I think it’d be useful on other fronts too, though, so YMMV.

  2. Kathy says:

    I received the same error. It takes me back where I entered the amount of shares sold. I entered everything JUST like their example. I have already entered everything in TaxAct….just wanted to see if there was a difference in the amount I would be getting back. I filed with H&R Block last year, but I think I will go back to TaxAct or TurboTax.

  3. Jim Garrison says:

    Happened to me as well. Lame.

  4. Jim says:

    Just finished running error check on my completed return and got the same error message. This is disgusting after spending hours preparing to file electronically.

    What can one do? Is there a solution other than to print and mail a paper copy or try again with a competing product.

  5. Jim says:

    I got this solution that worked from H&R online technical support: —

    Welcome to H&R Block At Home technical support. Please wait while we find a technical support agent to assist you.
    You have been connected to Chevelle T..
    Chevelle T.: Hello JAMES, welcome to H&R Block’s H&R Block’s At Home Live Chat Support! How can we assist you today?
    JAMES DERSTINE: get error message when selecting to file electronically. It is “Remove the non-alpha characters in %P in order to electronically file this return” and there does not seem to be a solution that I can find. I see others have the same problem. Help
    Chevelle T.: I would be happy to research this for you.
    Chevelle T.: May I have a moment to research some information for you so we can solve this issue today?
    JAMES DERSTINE: yes
    Chevelle T.: Thank you
    Chevelle T.: Try these steps to clear error
    Chevelle T.: This error occurs when you enter special characters when describing your stocks. To correct this error, follow the steps below:

    Click Take Me To in the upper right corner of the screen.
    Click Sale of Stocks and Other Assets (1099-B) under the Income section.
    Click Edit next to first entry.
    Delete in any punctuation in the box labeled Description. Please note that the amount of shares is not necessary in this field, just what the shares are for. (Periods, commas, hyphens etc all much be deleted from the box)
    Click Next until the page labeled Capital Gains and Losses. (You will see your other 1099-B entries).
    Repeat steps 3-5 for each of the assets you have entered.

    • Brian Saghy says:

      That is a much more detailed response than I got. In the end, I choose to re-enter all of my information in TurboTax which I felt did a much better job of alerting of errors. I have another post pending in regards to HR Block’s mis-calculation of how much I could deduct for my sales tax.

  6. Gavin L says:

    I had the same issue. I went back to each of my stock transactions and deleted the numbers and spaces from the lines “150 share RF” to just “RF”. I also removed the VARIOUS entry from the purchase dates (you might not have any) and let it repopulate. And I also deleted the $ from any already filled in totals in that shares section. Then when I went back through to review the document for efile it worked. I hope this info helps.

  7. Adrian says:

    I had to remove the “.” from the subject in the stocks section. I used a subject like “0.799 shares of XYZ”. I also removed VARIOUS and $ signs although the software put them back. I think removing the . was the solution, it allowed me to file it afterwards. Very frustrating, I thought I’ll have a heart attack at the end.

    • Todd says:

      I also had to remove the VAR-L code (that the Help told me to use) from the aquired date field and put in earliest stock aquisition date to get past this error.

  8. David Cuthbert says:

    No amount of removing non-alpha characters from that section helped me. Fortunately, they don’t charge you until you hit that e-file button — so I jumped ship back to TurboTax. (I went from TurboTax to TaxCut when they went with their awful DRM scheme back in 2003.)

  9. Mike says:

    I had a worse problem. My employer does not have a street address on my W2. HR Block would not let me leave the street blank, so I put in a period. I e-filed the fed form and checked a few days later to find out it was rejected because of invalid address in the W2 field. I entered NONE Provided and tried again. Will see if it processes.
    I’m definitely switching next year, after three years of writing feedback concerning a common W2 box 14 Code that was missing, they fix that and screw the address field.

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