H&R Block and TurboTax brawl for customers

The tax preparers are taking shots at each other in a big-money struggle for market share.

By Jason Notte Feb 4, 2013 5:43PM
Income tax numbers at the accountantRemember the fiscal cliff and all those changes to the tax code? If you think they're driving the average taxpayer nuts, just look what they're doing to H&R Block (HRB) and Intuit's (INTU) TurboTax.

TurboTax fired the first shot earlier this tax season by suggesting that not only were tax preparers at H&R Block and other shops part-timers who aren't dedicated to their customers, but moonlighting plumbers with no background in financial planning whatsoever.

H&R Block turned around and sued Intuit, alleging the ads infringed its trademarks and falsely asserted that its tax preparers aren't real experts. Its motion to withdraw the commercials was denied, so now the battle's gone online.

H&R Block chief executive Bill Cobb fired off a rebuttal letter about as dry as you might expect a piece of corporate correspondence to be, but its marketing team responded by putting its tax preparers in front of the camera and listing their credentials. Cobb also mentioned, in a memo obtained by PR Daily, that more commercials explicitly targeting TurboTax are on the way.

As AdAge discovered, the two companies' commercials are just the latest escalation of their pitched battle for the hearts and minds of America's mathematically challenged taxpayers. H&R Block's ad spending increased 14.7% to $278.7 million in its 2012 compared to the year before. Intuit, meanwhile, decreased advertising expenses from $177 million in fiscal 2011 to $151 million in 2012 fiscal year. However, it poured more money into marketing TurboTax while trimming spending in other areas.

With even the Internal Revenue Service jumping on social media this tax season -- launching a Tumblr account and beefing up its Facebook page, multiple YouTube channels and Twitter feed -- tax prep companies are feeling the pressure to step up and avoid getting shoved out of the way.

Going after some of the very plumbers and store sales clerks that use your service may not be the best way to gain new customers, but the small pool of folks who need their taxes done by these companies isn't getting much larger. Gaining new business means taking some away from your competitors, and that tends to get ugly -- even by tax season standards.

More on moneyNOW

Feb 5, 2013 4:19PM

Why in world do we not go to an across the board tax? 7% 17% whatever it is and collected by a way down sized agency, just do it already!!! Put this 100 year old & cumbersome tax system behind us (TurboTax, HRB & the IRS) should all be things of the past. 

Feb 5, 2013 2:11PM
"Double tapped exemption" resulting in tax balance of $4000? Kind of hard to do when this year's exemption amount for most taxpayers is a $3,800 deduction to income. Which is higher than past years. If you are in the 15% bracket it's worth $570 - 25% bracket will yield $950. Something else is going on here. Let it be known, don't trust anyone who follows a statement with "no catches" 
Feb 5, 2013 11:55AM
Giver...what the heck are you blathering about???  It has nothing to do with this article!
Feb 4, 2013 7:00PM
Go to the VAT and put them, Tax Attorneys, CPAs, and the IRS out of business!
Feb 5, 2013 12:03AM

I took my taxes to H&R.....once. They double tapped my exemption and 9 months later the IRS advised me I owed them $4000.00 PLUS interest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

H&R advised me that since I didn't pay their $39 "Oops" protection fee, They weren't liable.

I've left nothing out of this post, no catches, nothing, pure and simple.

Idiots and morons.

Feb 5, 2013 7:03PM
Well while these guys are hell bent on continuing with their bickering spectacle - real people and preparers are patiently waiting to file because of late forms that pertain to their returns...sad sad sad. 
Feb 5, 2013 2:53AM
Maddoff should have been hung by his neck in public. Why are tax payers paying for his luxuries in prison do you actually think he lives in a cell like other inmates?

The banks are ten times worse they created the building industry crisis by allowing bad loans they knew could not be paid back, The ruined the construction, logistics, manufacturing, administrative, and most of their labor market my allowing home builders to over build and mortgage brokers to give bad loans and pocket huge commissions.

The bank ceo's, the lobbyists, and all crooked politicians should be hung along Maddoff they ruined the job market with their greed.
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