Consumer News

H&R Block Ad Benefits from Consumer Confusion

Affordable Care Act doesn’t require filing changes this year.

Consumer News

H&R Block Ad Benefits from Consumer Confusion

A recent TV spot for H&R Block features a friendly bespectacled woman who wants to help you understand the impact the new healthcare law will have on your taxes.

“People don’t realize that taxes and healthcare are connected. The Affordable Care Act means big changes this year when you file your taxes. I read the whole 900 pages; it literally took me weeks,’’ she says.

There are indeed a lot of confused consumers. According to a March 2013 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of uninsured Americans feel they have too little information about the Affordable Care Act. The woman in the H&R Block ad sounds reassuring when she says: “I know the law, I have the solution, and I can help you figure it out. We’re going to see this through together.”

But how, exactly, will the Affordable Care Act really affect the way you file your 2012 taxes this year?  The truth is, it won’t, but it might affect your taxes two years from now. In 2014, tax credits will become available for those with income between 100% and 400% of the poverty line who are not eligible for other affordable coverage. Your 2012 tax return is just one piece of information that will be used to determine your eligibility for those tax credits. So it is a useful thing to have, but doesn’t require you to take any different steps when filing your income taxes this year.

Tara Straw of the advocacy group Health Care for America Now told NPR that “unfortunately right now, with this ad, it sounds like they’re just trying to drum up business by emphasizing complications.” Just file your 2012 taxes as usual, and you should be fine.

But if you do still want help with your taxes, there are alternatives.

Most H&R Block customers are low to middle income earners, meaning they could be eligible for the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The VITA program provides trained volunteers to help you prepare your income tax returns just like H&R Block will, but for free, and thus it’s a great alternative for anyone making about $51,000 or less. There are also many local organizations that offer free income tax preparation, so check for state and community resources before paying for any services.

For more information about how the Affordable Care Act will affect you, see

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