H&R Block Tells Gay Couples In Connecticut: “We Don’t Support Connecticut Civil Union Returns”

March 25, 2008

ACLU Demands That Company Make All Tax Preparation Services Available To Gay Couples

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

HARTFORD, CT – The American Civil Liberties Union sent a demand letter to H&R Block today  demanding that it change its online tax preparation system to accommodate gay couples in Connecticut with civil unions.  The ACLU is representing a couple with a civil union who attempted to file their taxes on the company’s website through their online service, TaxCut Online, but were told, “We don’t support Connecticut civil union returns.”  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.  (A PDF with screen captures of the messages is available at
/lgbt/relationships/34632res20080325.html

“This is yet another example of the many ways that civil unions just don’t live up to marriage,” said Jason Smith 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. 

“The civil union law has been in effect for nearly three years now, yet companies still aren’t taking it seriously,” said Andrew Schneider of the ACLU of Connecticut.  “There is no excusable reason why the company that likes to claim it’s the world’s largest tax services provider shouldn’t make its products available to everyone.”    

Although the tax requirements for couples with civil unions in Connecticut are very similar to the requirements for married gay couples in Massachusetts, H&R Block’s online tax preparation service seems to accommodate married gay couples there. 

“Indignities like these are a constant reminder there is no substitution for marriage,” said Rebecca Shore, an attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project.  “Nothing can replace the dignity and universal recognition that comes automatically when you get to say we’re married.  In Connecticut, gay couples still can’t do that.”

A copy of the demand letter and the screen captures from H&R Block’s website indicating their refusal to process civil union returns is available at:  
/lgbt/relationships/34632res20080325.html

A photograph of Smith and Pisu is available upon request.

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