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ACLU Demands H&R Block Accommodate Connecticut Civil Unions

After a gay Connecticut couple was told by tax preparer H&R Block that "We don’t support Connecticut civil union returns," the ACLU has stepped in to demand they change their policies:

Pisu_smith"Through its website, the company said the couple would have to work with one of their professionals, by phone or at one of their office locations, which would be more time consuming and substantially more expensive. 'This is yet another example of the many ways that civil unions just don’t live up to marriage,' said Jason Smith (right) of Hartford, who has been with his partner Settimio Pisu for six years. 'It really stung when I realized it would cost an additional $150 dollars to have our tax returns prepared. We’re saving for a house and hoping to start a family, so every penny counts right now.' According to the letter the ACLU sent to H&R Block, failing to provide gay couples with civil unions the option of filing their taxes online as it does for married couples is in violation of a state law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and civil union status. The letter demands that the company adapt its website to accommodate couples with civil unions and to reimburse all couples who were forced to pay the additional charges due to H&R Block’s discriminatory practices."

As if tax time needed to be any more fun.

H&R Block Tells Gay Couples In Connecticut: “We Don’t Support Connecticut Civil Union Returns” [aclu]
Demand Letter [aclu]
H&R Block screen captures [aclu]

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  1. I hope the ACLU puts H&R out of business. Seems to me the boys are savey enough to go buy a $30 cd package (or file free) however. They must be dumber then they look.

    Posted by: Mary, Really Late Dowager Queen of the British Empire, Ireland, Empress of India, etc..... | Mar 26, 2008 11:36:37 AM

  2. Sometimes the ACLU really chaps my hide. H&R Block is a private company. Why should a private company be forced to change their nationwide online system to "accommodate" civil unions in one state? It's not discrimination; instead it's about return on investment. Changing an online system would undoubtedly be very costly. No law says the online H&R Block tax-filing system has to accommodate every single tax-payer situation.

    Mary is right: Anyone of reasonable intelligence can do his or her own taxes. It's not rocket science.

    Posted by: alex | Mar 26, 2008 12:10:24 PM

  3. My partner (of 9 years) and I ran into the same problem with H&R Block in California. CA requires that registered domestic partners file a joint state tax return this year, and H&R Block's software does not support this. Thankfully, CA has free state eFiling, so we didn't incur any additional costs. I disagreee with ALEX, however -- when your company is in the business of providing a service to taxpayers, you have an obligation to serve all taxpayers. Refusing to allow for the legally required tax filings of a group of citizens in any state is discriminatory. Now, if they ONLY want to support filing federal tax returns, that's fine... but they should not be permitted to treat a group of state taxpayers differently (and requiring them to fork over additional monies for service) just because it's "inconvenient" for them to modify their software. As for the cost of changing their online systems -- as anyone who has ever worked in the tax preparation industry can tell you, tax software is almost constantly modified and updated to take into account new tax codes throughout the first three months of any year.

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 26, 2008 12:44:39 PM

  4. H&R block are either morons or truly bigots. It must cost more than $150 to modify their software AND fight a legal battle. The simple solution? WAIVE the extra expense of a personal visit and be done. Once the costs are high enough with enough doing it, modify the stupid software. As Mike said, they (tax industry with preparing software) have to do constant modifications (and often do ones they don't). It's very short-sighted to not add it in very soon.

    So, stupid or bigoted. Take your pick. I'm thinking both.

    Posted by: Pecos Bill | Mar 26, 2008 3:20:16 PM

  5. H&R Block is always a scam. You can do your taxes for a lot less yourself or with nearly free or free software. Unless you own multiple S-Corps with blind trusts in multiple jurisdictions and have amortized section 807A assets, you probably don't need an accountant, and if you did, I doubt H&R Block could help you anyway.

    There are technical exceptions to all civil rights laws. For example, casting directors can discriminate on the basis of age, gender and handicap, as can service professions such as for firemen, cops, pilots and doctors (though more for age and handicap). Likewise, professional sports. Block can claim that they cannot accommodate the couple because their software is not yet ready to.

    This is more an attempt to get true marriage in CT than a fight with HRB.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 26, 2008 3:36:08 PM

  6. "It's not discrimination; instead it's about return on investment."

    Wrong. It clearly is about discrimination. If H&R Block wants to do business in CT, or in other states with similar laws, then they should be honoring the laws of that state, or at least finding ways to do so. Arguing that people should do their own taxes is completely beside the point. H&R Block isn't a Mom & Pop store. Gay couples aren't some obscure "tax-payer situation." The couple should have been accommodated, period. By making the situation public, they're showing one more way that CUs don't measure up. Bravo to them and to the ACLU.

    Posted by: Ernie | Mar 26, 2008 4:50:02 PM

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