H&R Block to Give $100 Coupon or Free Tax Software to Gay Couples Barred from Online Tax Service After ACLU Letter
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HARTFORD, CT - After pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, H&R Block has agreed to give $100 coupons or free TaxCut software to all gay couples who incurred additional costs because they were barred from using the company's online tax service, TaxCut Online. The coupons can be applied towards the costs of future tax preparation expenses with the company for the 2008 tax season. The company has also agreed to direct future tax filers with civil unions to a free online support specialist to help couples complete their taxes.
"We're pleased that H&R Block has decided to do right by gay couples throughout the country," said Rebecca Shore, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project. "Saying you've been civilly united will never be the same as saying you're married, but at least gay couples will no longer face the prospect of paying more to prepare their taxes."
The ACLU sent a demand letter to H&R Block on March 25, 2008, demanding that it stop penalizing gay couples with civil unions who were barred from filing their taxes through the company's online tax preparation service. The ACLU sent the letter on behalf of Jason Smith and Settimio Pisu, a Connecticut couple who attempted to use the company's online service but were told through the website that "We Don't Support Connecticut Civil Union Returns." Connecticut law makes it illegal to discriminate based on civil union status.
"No one enjoys doing their taxes. But it's especially annoying when you're reminded in a not-too-subtle-way that your relationship is considered inferior," said Smith. "We're glad H&R Block came through in the end."
Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut, added, "While this story has a happy ending, these kinds of problems will continue for gay couples as long as the state insists on barring gay people from marriage."
The $100 coupon is available at www.taxcut.com/tax_tips/aclu.html
A copy of the letter from H&R Block announcing its decision to provide rebates and online support and other information about the matter is available at www.aclu.org/lgbt/relationships/34632res20080325.html
A photograph of Smith and Pisu is available upon request.