H&R Block ads present more opportunity than challenge

Lots of CPAs are upset by H & R Block’s current advertising campaign. In a few ads, they take blatant pot shots at CPAs’ accuracy in preparing tax returns.

These ads upset me too. I’ve spent most of my career working with CPAs and advocating for the value, knowledge & insights CPAs provide, as well as CPAs’ tremendous public service.

The AICPA has asked H & R Block to pull the ads and we’re told H&R Block has responded that they’ll reevaluate the ad series. But we can also use this as an opportunity to boost the public’s already high opinion of CPAs.

In national surveys, CPAs have consistently ranked among the most trusted and respected financial professionals. So we don’t have to defend CPAs’ credentials so much as reinforce why a CPA is the best professional for the job.

An Akron Beacon Journal reporter nailed it two years ago when she pointed out the advantages she gained in using a CPA for her own taxes. She also did them herself, and used H & R Block for comparison.

Her experience with the CPA was the least expensive and required less time, yielding the largest return. The CPA found more qualifying credits and an additional $800 she could claim through amended prior-year returns. She summarized the experience as a “good checkup that put her on the right path.”

Her experience with H & R Block? Not so good.

The preparer didn’t ask the right questions for her situation. The fees were higher, her federal refund was lower, she ended up owing on her state return, and the process required more visits to the H&R Block office. Although she was paying for expert advice, she didn’t feel she received it.

At The Ohio Society of CPAs, our goal is to steer the public toward developing a year-round relationship with a CPA, not just at tax time. The benefits of looking on financial management as a year-round necessity, not just a tax-time task, are more important today than they’ve ever been. We reinforce this in all of our consumer communications. And the media recognizes the CPA profession’s expertise because they call on us to provide CPAs for interviews and to answer consumer tax questions, not the other guys.

Visit our Tax Headquarters to see how we’re positioning CPAs to the public. And e-mail Amy Johnson at the OSCPA for talking points you can use to encourage everyone you know to use a CPA rather than a preparer who isn’t licensed, receives minimal training, and is paid an hourly wage to prepare returns just four months out of the year.

If you want a first-hand view of the training and compensation for H & R Block tax preparers, see this blog series from The Virtual CFO. It was written by a CPA who considered working there before he earned his CPA.

The proof is in the returns.


3 Responses to H&R Block ads present more opportunity than challenge

  1. Adrienne says:

    Wonderful post as always, guys. Seems H&R Block shot themselves in the foot on this one, eh?

  2. Crystal says:

    This post confirms my reservations about H&R Block.

    My boyfriend files his taxes every year with H&R Block, and they charge him an extremely high amount of money for something I could do myself. Tax preparers can’t possibly have as much experience and as much insight as a CPA who spends years studying will have.

  3. Clarke:

    I appreciate your comments here. I have in the year’s past felt that our profession was too mamby pamby and laid back and “can’t we all just get along” as others, especially other professionals who have horrific track records with the public, attack us. It is good to see the society taking such a pro-active posture in this matter.

    As I listened to the H & R Block add on the radio quite frankly, it made my blood boil. Many of us in the CPA profession love to get “ex” H & R Block clients because we call them “walking annuities” due to the mess that in most instances are created by there being with H & R Block. I have seen many instances in my career where we have had to come in and clean up the mess left by H & R Block’s hordes. Kind of like dealing with a rap victim. In fact one of my largest tax cases 20 years ago involved a client whose prior returns were prepared by H & R Block in such a manner and lack of professional oversight and concern for tax law/regulation compliance that we had to fight to keep the client from going to prison.

    I quite frankly think that this recent attack by H & R Block is due to the tough economic times and their desire to maintain their revenue base by attacking the big dogs in the tax return community…CPA’s. Here-to-fore CPA’s may have reacted by just saying “well ignore it and it will just go away” or “I won’t dignify their words with a comment”. I am therefore glad to see your approach and the one of the AICPA. One of my favorite moves is “The American President”. I particularly enjoyed the scene when after his being attacked over and over again in the press by an opponent, the current president (played by Michael Douglas) got on TV and basically said to his opponent making such slurs “I will meet you anywhere and anytime and we can duke it out”. You go for it Clarke!

    Thanks and thanks for being such a great leader of this organization. Let me know if you need me to “hold your coat” during this fight.


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