Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cheapest H&R Block for taxes in China-- on Amazon!

Greetings from Amoy! (Xiamen, China).

April 15 is looming again here in Amoy, China, but this time I did my U.S. federal and state taxes in less than 4 hours, compared to 3 days about 5 years ago--thanks to H&R Block--but though the program itself is great, the pricing is very tricky.  Here's how to avoid paying double--by getting it at Amazon.

Last year, HR Block sent me a link for a special price--$34.95.  I clicked it, did my taxes, and when I went to e-file my return, they charged me $49.95.  I wasn't about to start over (as they well knew), so I just paid it.  Then they wanted $19.95 for State filing, but I did it online for free (very easy, fast--if you live in Reedley, California and use CALFILE--see the end of the 2nd paragraph below).

This year, HR Block sent me a special price for the Home version (knowing I've always used Premium, because Home is not enough for my specific needs).  The Premium this time was $80, but I found two links for $72 and $70--and then I thought--why not download the H&R Block program at Amazon?  I get everything else there (a lifesaver for folks in China).  Sure enough, on Amazon, the program was only $34.95, and it said it gave me 5 free Federal efiles (who needs 5?) and software for 1 state--or so it said.

 The Federal went smoothly.  I was done in 3 hours--much better than 3 days!  But once I completed the one "free" State software, they demanded 19.95 to file it!  That's like giving someone a free lunch but charging to eat it--or free unlimited parking, but then charging you not for parking but for leaving the lot.  So I simply, like last year, filed the State for free California E-file online at CALFILE (

But tricky pricing notwithstanding (which seems the norm nowadays--everyone is selling snake oil), H&R Block's programs are fast and very straightforward.

IRS Currency Exchange Rates: If you live abroad and need to know the IRS conversion rate from. a foreign currency ( Chinese Yuan, Euros), to U.S. dollars, click the IRS site for their own IRS Yearly Average Currency Exchange Rates.  I was happily surprised to learn that their rates were far more favorable than what I would have used.  Saved me quite a bit.

And if in doubt, phone the IRS.  I've spent hours on the phone from China talking to the reps, and they've always been helpful and patient--often themselves not knowing the answer to my convoluted questions, but searching until they found it.

Lastly--I complained about taxes to a Chinese colleague and his reply was, "Be thankful we earn enough to be taxed; many don't earn that much."  Good point, especially given the way the economy is today.

Enjoy Amoy!

Dr. Bill
Bill's 2 eBooks on Amazon:
"Fujian Adventure"Bill Brown Xiamen University

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