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Block: Definition of Assisted Is Changing

H&R Block reported results for a very unusual period for the first quarter ended July 31. The quarter reflected large number of returns filed during the extension of tax season to July 15. Executives also spoke of the redefinition of assisted tax preparation in market in which a hybrid approach to tax preparation is spreading.

Usually, Block loses money in the first quarter.  But with business shifting because of the extension the company reported net income of $91.3 million for the most recently ended period, compared to a loss of $150.2 million a year earlier. Block reported first-quarter revenue of slightly more than $601 million, up sharply from $150.4 million in last year’s corresponding period.

More than once CEO Jeff Jones told analysts on this week’s earnings webcast that digital tax preparation is not equivalent to do-it-yourself, although it is often discussed that way. Digital means things like I can upload my docs while someone does the work or I can drop them off at an office but approve online and pay online,” Jones said.

That is part of a shift in the definition of an assisted return. He said while tax professionals may sign a return, it does not mean the client visited an office. 

Certainly, that change has been shown by the TurboTax Live program that has been successful for Intuit, in which customers can seek help from a paid preparer by use of a one-way video link. Block offers on-demand chat and the ability to share screens with experts.

Blucora tested its first year of hybrid-assisted program or TaxAct with Blucora CEO Chris Walters reporting the test was expanded to 70-percent more than originally plan. He also said the company is developing. “We believe we have now learned what is needed to scale and plan to launch it next year as part of our core offering,” Walters said during his company’s conference call for earnings for the second quarter ended June 30.


Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
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