Just signed up for H&R Block Tax Course

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Just signed up for H&R Block Tax Course

Postby zeusrock1 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:24 pm

I've heard good things about the course so I figured it would be good to take it. I think it will be great experience considering I've done my own taxes for many years, but everytime I do them I wonder if I missed anything to save some bucks.

I have a full-time job, but may consider part-time employment after the course if they offer.

Anybody have any thought about the course or working for H&R Block?
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Postby HomerJ » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:36 pm

I've always thought it would be a decent part-time gig in retirement. Work November through April, the winter months...
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Postby Zook13 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:21 pm

How much do they pay? How long is the course?
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Postby Juan » Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:38 pm

I took it almost two years ago. It cost about $100 for a few months worth of class.

It's definitely a great course, and very thorough. Unfortunately when I was there they were changing the curriculum to make it more geared towards data entry into their internal system and less towards understanding the tax code, so I don't know how it stacks up today.

The hourly pay for a first-year preparer was abysmal, so I decided against joining the company for part time work. It's a seniority-paid system rather than a meritocracy, which was particularly disheartening. You have to work at least five years before you start seeing a decent wage for your efforts.
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Postby RMO87 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:41 pm

I'm beginning the course in a couple weeks--August 24. It's 69 hours (2 days a week for 3 hours each), so it will take me a little over 11 weeks. They also offer a 3-day per week option that is about 8 weeks in length.
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Postby blink32 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 1:42 pm

Good luck but I am betting this will turn out to be a waste of money.

I attended this "course" approx 3 years ago in the southern NJ area. 3rd rate H&R employee as the "trainer". It was interesting in that the course was 100% paper driven even though the offices are computer based. It drives home the calculations and examples but gives no real experience with the true-life process in the offices.

If you do your own home taxes you are probably as versed as you would be coming out of the course if not better. There were a few nuances learned/covered but none that you wouldn't come across doing your own taxes. The pace is slow, they don't go in-depth on anything other than a long 1040 (all other information and most schedules are in other classes).

Pay rates that you will be offered when you leave class are in the minimum wage range. You get more $$$ to go in the more depressed cities and sections. Ex: Mount Laurel, NJ was ~7.15/hr, Camden was ~11.25/hr, but remember, part-time hours only.

This was an approximately 4 or 6 week night class but could have been longer. 2 or 3 nights a week but I don't remember exactly. It was the basic course you had to take to be an H&R employee.
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Postby rb313 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:58 pm

I, too, took the course 3, maybe 4, years ago. I found it irritating that it was taught as if computers had never been invented. But the instructor was first rate, as good as many college profs. Pay starts low, goes up by years experience and # of 'your' clients that return to H&R the following year. They have to supervise you carefully the first year. I didn't bite on the job, but the course isn't bad.
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Postby Steelersfan » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:07 pm

I just checked for classes in my area and they're $249 for three hour sessions twice a week for two and a half months.

I'll pass. Too much time that costs too much for too little reward.
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Postby zeusrock1 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:26 pm

RMO87 wrote:I'm beginning the course in a couple weeks--August 24. It's 69 hours (2 days a week for 3 hours each), so it will take me a little over 11 weeks. They also offer a 3-day per week option that is about 8 weeks in length.


I'm also taking the 2 night/week course.

It's definately not cheap, my course is $260 (NJ). I also realize that they pay peanuts, but I just figured it might be fun and maybe pick up some work during Jan - April when it's too cold to do much anyway. Curious to see if it interests me for something in retirement like rrosenkoetter mentioned.

I also heard if you work for them that they allow you to take more in-depth courses.
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Postby blink32 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:31 pm

zeusrock1 wrote:I also heard if you work for them that they allow you to take more in-depth courses.


This is true. But you still have to pay for them. The courses are essentially just re-iterating instructions that come with the forms and then going through several scenarios to show a real-world example.
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Postby mapleosb » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:34 pm

rrosenkoetter wrote:I've always thought it would be a decent part-time gig in retirement. Work November through April, the winter months...


If you are looking to do taxes part time during those months and pay is not a factor, volunteer for AARP's Taxaide. I have been doing it as a counselor for the last six years since I retired and now work as a tech coordinator preparing and maintaining the hardware (laptops). It is one of the more rewarding volunteer programs that I have tried.
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Postby tomd37 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:36 pm

For those of you who might consider volunteering your time AARP Foundation has a great volunteer free tax preparation service targeted to taxpayers 60 and over. It is called TaxAide. Training is provided in early January around the country and you must take and successfully pass a test each year before you can do tax returns.

We usually do the standard Form 1040 and its accompanying Schedules. Schedules C, E, F are not part of the program (because of liability issues). I've been doing it for six years and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Also worked the IRS VITA program in three of those six years.

Just Google AARP Foundation TaxAide Program for more information.
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Postby tomd37 » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:37 pm

Mapleosb and I were writing our responses at the same time.
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Postby jebmke » Mon Aug 10, 2009 3:37 pm

mapleosb wrote:
rrosenkoetter wrote:I've always thought it would be a decent part-time gig in retirement. Work November through April, the winter months...


If you are looking to do taxes part time during those months and pay is not a factor, volunteer for AARP's Taxaide. I have been doing it as a counselor for the last six years since I retired and now work as a tech coordinator preparing and maintaining the hardware (laptops). It is one of the more rewarding volunteer programs that I have tried.


I started doing this last year. It is a great program and the clients are so appreciative. I too got drafted into technical support for our district. It is quite a diverse group of people I work with and we have a lot of fun.
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HR Block - the straight scoop...

Postby Boulderboy » Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:11 pm

I am reading this thread with great interest as it greatly pertains to my own life.
I actually took the course in 1990 and worked part of one tax season. However I found it to be too much extra with a young family and a full time job already. So I thought to myself "Ill just save this option for when I'm retired."
Fast forward 18 years. I retired in the summer of 2008 and re-took the HR Block tax class last fall. I actually signed up early and got a discounted rate of $100 for the class.
Taking and passing the class is not a guarantee that HR Block will hire you. Keep in mind that your class instructor will probably have a lot of input into whether you are "chosen." In my particular class, we had a guy who was probably the smartest and most gifted taxwise person there; however he was somewhat abrasive and obnoxious and did not get hired by HR.

Anyway, I made the cut and worked for Block for the 2009 winter-spring.

I completed 57 tax returns for clients, for that I made $3005. Not much. That represents 300 hours ($10 per hour). Once you get more experience you can earn more on a commission basis. Our district manager told us he has one employee that made $27,000 in the spring tax season.

To me the pros for the HR Block route are as follows:

1. Great way to get an education and experience in tax prep field. Block franchise brings clients to you. Once you work one year successfully you have unlimited access to in-house upper level tax courses for $20 per year; you can take it as far as you want.

2. In house tax prep software is first rate, as is research databases.

3. You can prepare and e-file your own taxes for free, can do up to 5 "friends and family" for $20 each.

4. I am in very good health but I do have "lower back" issues. No manual labor required, keyboard strokes and walking to the printer to pick up finished return are as rigorous as it gets, mostly mental and customer service related work.

5. It's pretty interesting, you get to meet and see intimately the financial lives of a broad array of humanity. Though most HR Block clients are lower to middle class; I did have one client with a $600,000 W-2 last year.

6. As has been mentioned, the work season (Jan - April 15) corresponds with the crumbiest weather of the year, unless your a winter sports enthusiast of course.



Cons :

1. You don't make much at first.

2. HR Block pushes you to market their high profit margin products.
(Second look, Peace of Mind)

#. There is always the possibility, though probably remote, that Congress will at some point pass a massive "Tax Simplification" bill,
thereby rendering your investment in knowledge useless.



Anyway, those are the highlights. Feel free to ask any more question, hope that helps.

Thomas
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Postby Wagnerjb » Mon Aug 10, 2009 6:06 pm

rrosenkoetter wrote:I've always thought it would be a decent part-time gig in retirement. Work November through April, the winter months...


That's my plan exactly. I cannot golf during the winter, so it fits perfectly in that sense. Getting paid would be the primary plan, but I understand from the subsequent posts that volunteer tax work is also available.

Best wishes.
Andy
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Postby Chip » Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:46 am

Wagnerjb wrote:I cannot golf during the winter, so it fits perfectly in that sense. Getting paid would be the primary plan, but I understand from the subsequent posts that volunteer tax work is also available.


Ah, but you can spend all those hard earned retirement dollars traveling to places where you CAN play golf in the winter. :D

I've also volunteered with the TaxAide program for a couple of years. The clients are VERY appreciative and it's a good way for those of us with numerical skills to give back. I would note several of the counselors I work with had tried Block for a while, but didn't enjoy the work environment.
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Postby zeusrock1 » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:04 pm

Well my class just got canceled (too few people), and I'm not into driving 1/2 hour to the next closest class.

I will check out TaxAid. Their class won't start until Jan, registration around November.
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Postby tibbitts » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:20 pm

zeusrock1 wrote:Well my class just got canceled (too few people)

Isn't that somewhat shocking, giving the relatively low cost and seemingly decent prospect for employment in the environment we have today? Or does the bad economy make it less likely that graduates will be hired?

Paul
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Postby jebmke » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:52 pm

zeusrock1 wrote:Well my class just got canceled (too few people), and I'm not into driving 1/2 hour to the next closest class.

I will check out TaxAid. Their class won't start until Jan, registration around November.


You mentioned that you have a full time job already. Keep in mind that Tax-Aide involves a commitment to volunteer at one of the locations -- typically a day a week. It was unclear from your OP what your objectives are. Unlike the H&R training, Tax-Aide training is designed to train a staff of volunteers rather than for-fee tax preparers. In my area the training required a commitment of approximately 10-12 daytime training sessions so if your FT job is a day job it may not work for you.
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Postby HueyLD » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:23 pm

I happen to know a few retirees who completed the H&R Block income tax course and worked for the HRB for a season or two. They all quit their seasonal jobs and the reasons were as follows:

(1) The company needed a lot of preparers for about 2 – 3 weeks from late January to mid February only. After mid February, many people were either terminated or have their hours curtailed substantially.

(2) Even if you were the lucky few who were chosen to stay until April 15, you might have very little business between mid-Feb. and April 15. Since their goal was to serve the diminishing number of clients quickly, there were always too many preparers in an office and too many preparers means very little income for you. As long as your commission was insufficient to cover your hourly wages (at near the min. wage level), the most you could earn was likely the min. wage.

(3) The company’s focus seemed to be on high margin non tax prep related products sale. Tax preparers were told to sell a bunch of products that were not very good for the clients’ pocketbook.

(4) Once you signed the contract with them for one season, you are prohibited from working for their competitors for 3(?) years even after you no longer worked for them.

All the above also came with hours of required training and absolutely no benefits such as insurance, etc.

I was quite amazed when I heard these stories. Many left the HRB and went to work for either the IRS’ VITA program or the AARP’s TaxAide program as unpaid volunteers. They seemed to think that working for free was better than working for min. wage. Maybe someone else can provide more insight into this.
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Postby Norbert Schlenker » Tue Sep 08, 2009 5:24 pm

If putting money in your pocket is not the object, I strongly recommend joining one of the VITA programs. The average Boglehead has no idea how many people there are who are absolutely buffaloed by a 1040, no matter how simple their financial situation is.

I did this for two years in Chicago, where we were issued T-shirts saying "I spent my weekend doing taxes and all I got was this shirt", and then got bussed from the E&Y offices in the Loop to parts of town we would never set foot in otherwise. The average taxpayer who makes use of a VITA site, in my experience, has 3-5 W-2s, no 1099s (because they have no financial accounts), and rents a residence. I could do four or five returns per hour for such people, using pencil and calculator only. The most complicated piece was always estimating the EITC. (Complex returns - self employment, capital gains - are refused by most VITA programs.)

People were astonishingly grateful to have someone spend 10-15 minutes filling out pieces of paper they could not understand, either because they had a limited command of English, difficulty reading, or (commonly) a simple fear of arithmetic. If you want to help a few people out of the goodness of your heart in March or April, spending 15 minutes to do a professional job of what they could not do themselves in hours of puzzling (or end up paying Block $40 for), then consider a VITA program.
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Postby mattymcmatt » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:10 pm

I took the H&R Block course here in Canada a couple years ago. I figured that with the knowledge I learned about taxes, I would be easily able to recover the $250 course fee over the upcoming years.

My class also didn't use computers. The instructor said they had used computers the year before, but people didn't learn the principles behind the computer program as well so they switched back to just using paper. I think it was a good way to go as I probably learned more from the materials this way.

I didn't sign up for employment because the pay was lower than I thought and I talked with a couple people who had worked for them before. They both told me that the new employees only handle the basic tax clients (and therefore earn the least). The senior people will keep all the more expensive returns for themselves.
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Postby zeusrock1 » Wed Sep 09, 2009 8:52 am

I originally wanted to learn more about taxes and possible make a few extra bucks. Now, I'd like to take the TaxAid/VITA volunteer route to see how interested I am in doing taxes. Hope it works into my schedule as I'm not available during weekdays.

I've never volunteered for anything, so this will be a new experience.
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Postby tomd37 » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:05 am

Zeusrock1,

I think a lot will depend on when the training is available to you. In our area of Middle Tennessee, the AARP Tax-Aide training is four days during the first week of January. On the other hand, the VITA training program is two days and normally offered on a weekend in our area.

Both programs require successfully passing a test each year to recertify. AARP here requires passing at the advanced level, but I think VITA is at a lower level. You can only do returns for the level at which you qualify. I will be starting my 7th year in January and really have enjoyed participating in both programs. I've moved to the Tax-Aide program primarily, but will help out in VITA on special ocassions if needed.
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Postby tomd37 » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:09 am

Zeusrock1,

I forgot to mention that some Tax-Aide and VITA sites in our area operate in the evenings and/or on weekends, so your volunteering might be utilized outside of your normal work hours. It will depend on how your local programs operate.
Tom D.
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Postby BL » Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:50 am

I also have gone the HRB and later the IRS VITA route. Both are good if you like numbers and like to help people with something they totally do not understand! I had to travel enough so HRB didn't pay except for the busiest times and I did enjoy helping people for free with the VITA program (evenings). Would also consider the AARP program if it were nearby. Seems to be a perfect fit for a Boglehead looking for a volunteer position!
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Postby TedSwippet » Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:16 pm

A month ago I finally completed my own 2008 tax returns (Fed, Cal, AMT, FBAR). Four months of living hell resulting in a total of 240 pages that weigh in at just over one pound (and I know this because I could not file electronically). To be honest, I'd rather stick hot needles in my eyes than look at another tax form ever again.

I salute your altruism and enthusiasm. Seriously.
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