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(originally launched into cyberspace on 02/27/2003)

Dear List Subscriber,

I'm happy to report that over 200 H&R Block offices have now been sent "THE
QUESTION." (Sounds like something from a Monty Python skit.) Here's a
quick rehash of what to do, followed by a rather amusing example of what
responses to expect.

Again, I am NOT the one keeping track of this thing. Peter McCandless was
kind enough to volunteer to orchestrate this emdeavor... so bury HIM with
your questions, not me. [Smile] Here is his e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We will be sending the following letter to as many local H&R Block offices
as we can, keeping a record of which offices were asked, and keeping a tally
of the responses (or nonresponses) we get back. For this letter-writing
campaign it is IMPORTANT that all the letters be exactly the same. Here is
the letter:

1) First, you'll need to find an H&R Block office to send it to. This link
makes it easy:

Again, you don't have to pick one near you, and you don't have to pick just
one. Several people have each sent the letter to DOZENS of local H&R Block

2) You should just be able to do a "cut and paste" of the text of the letter
at the link shown above, and put it into any word processor (even WordPad
which comes with Windows). You will just need to FIX THE DATE at the top of
the letter, and PUT IN YOUR NAME at the bottom.

3) Be sure to make a SECOND copy, and send it to the "cc:" address shown at
the bottom of the letter. That is H&R Block corporate headquarters.

4) Once it is sent, send Peter an e-mail ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) and tell
him ALL of the following:

The ADDRESS of the H&R Block office you sent it to.
The DATE the letter was sent.
Your E-MAIL so we can check if you got a response.

And again, the H&R Block folk might only answer if they get paid for it, so
if you're willing to contribute financially to this, let Peter know (
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). (Yes, it is somewhat annoying to be giving any
money to people who MISapply the law, but in the end it will be worth it.)
If you sent a letter, and they respond with how much it will cost, it would
be great if you can cover the cost yourself. If not, contact Peter as ask
if we have funds to cover it.


And now, to the amusing part.

In general, I think the questions should be done by "snail mail" (not by
phone or by e-mail), just because a response on H&R Block letterhead is a
lot harder to fake than an e-mail. (If they say something REALLY looney,
which is pretty likely, people will think we made it up.) However, when
someone did try to get an answer to the question by visiting two local H&R
Block offices, the results were rather amusing. (I have removed the names
and locations, to protect the ignorant.)

Tapdance #1:

The question, again, was whether they determine their clients' taxable
domestic income under the rules of 26 USC § 861(b) and 26 CFR § 1.861-8 (in
addition to any other pertinent sections). The office manager at one office
responded with "we use the IRS regulations" and said that there were a lot
of other sections other than those mentions. No kidding? Golly, gee. He
added to this brilliant non-response by saying that "people a lot smarter
and richer than us" (like Leona Helmsley) have learned the hard way that we
all have to pay taxes. What's funny about this is that these "experts" are
the ones who TOLD the rich people that they owe. After that the manager
preached about how he doesn't want to live in the country for free (as if
that has some bearing on what the LAW says about what is taxable). He then
suggested going to a lawyer for an answer. Hmmm... one of the biggest tax
preparation companies in the WORLD says that if you want to know how to
determine your taxable income, you should GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. (On that
point, I agree.)

I have to point out, the question was whether THEY use 861(b) and 1.861-8 to
determine their clients' taxable domestic income. This is hardly an
overly-abstract theoretically question. They either DO, or they DON'T. How
can they NOT KNOW whether they do? Then again, maybe they don't know; the
manager said "we go by the tax code", and when then asked "don't you use the
regulations?" he responded with "isn't that the tax code?" That really
builds my confidence in the "experts." How about you?

Tapdance #2:

Again, the question was presented to the office manager (different office).
He spent a while trying to find anything in the company computer program
that mentioned 1.861. Apparently he had no luck. After being asked the
question again, he evaded for a while, and then made a rather interesting
(and disturbing) admission. He said they do not use individual sections to
do their job; they use IRS Publication 17. Yep, they use a LEGALLY
WORTHLESS "publication," and IGNORE the legally-binding regulations. Better
yet, they put their own cover on the IRS Publication 17, and call it "H&R
Block 2003 Publication 17." If any of you still thought that tax preparers
are actually knowledgeable about THE LAW ITSELF, I hope you start to


Larken Rose
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.