H&R Block continues to provide services that maximize
its customers’ tax returns with innovative tech.
By Bianca Herron
In 1955, Brothers Henry and Richard Bloch created H&R Block Inc., a new firm that specialized in income tax return preparation. At the time, the IRS in Kansas City, Mo., had just discontinued its practice of preparing tax returns for free to taxpayers. Within weeks, the company grossed more than $20,000.
As the company started to thrive, Richard Bloch suggested expanding the business to New York City, the next city the IRS had scheduled to discontinue its tax preparation services.
H&R Block targeted locations as close as possible to IRS offices and opened seven offices in 1956. In only its second year, the Missouri-based company’s revenue had tripled to $65,000.
Because the Bloch brothers had families and did not want to relocate to the Big Apple, they decided to sell the New York City location, giving birth to the H&R Block franchise network.
In 1957, H&R Block opened franchise offices in Columbia, Mo., and Topeka, Kan. One year later, the company opened franchise offices in Des Moines, Iowa; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Little Rock, Ark.
“We have an amazing franchise community at H&R Block,” say Kip Knight, senior vice president of U.S. franchise/Canada/Australia and Block Advisors. “Some of our franchisees have been with the brand for more than 50 years. I’ve never seen such longevity as with our franchisees – there are quite a number of H&R Block franchisees that have three generations of their family who have worked in their tax offices. We also have a robust Franchise Leadership Council (FLC) who works with us on a year-round basis to review strategic options and business initiatives.”
The global consumer tax services provider has prepared more than 700 million tax returns either at its retail locations or digitally since 1955. “Our tax return preparation services are provided by professional tax preparers in approximately 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail tax offices worldwide, and through H&R Block tax software products for the DIY consumer,” Knight explains. “H&R Block also offers adjacent Tax Plus products and services.”
Knight adds that although there are “many correct ways” to fill out a tax return, there is only one way that gets customers back the most money. “It takes knowledge, experience and judgment to know how to expertly navigate every deduction or credit of the tax code and get our clients the best financial outcome,” he says.
Additionally, Knight notes that H&R Block’s purpose is to look at its customers’ lives through the “lens of tax” and find ways to help. “This year, we’ve taken that commitment to a whole new level,” he says. “‘Get Your Taxes Won’ is about H&R Block’s deep tax expertise, robust data and the commitment of 70,000 tax professionals to getting the most back for every single client – guaranteed. This is about helping consumers get the best outcome on their taxes. I believe no one can do that better than H&R Block.
“The heart of what people care most about is getting the most money back on their taxes and having the best overall tax-filing experience possible,” Knight continues. “It’s also important our tax professionals and franchisees provide H&R Block clients key insights on what they can do to minimize their future taxes due. It’s key they do this in advance because if they wait until the end of the year, it’s too late.”
Growth Through Tech
For the 2017 tax season, H&R Block had an aggressive plan that featured a completely new marketing campaign, compelling promotional offers and an enhanced client experience, according to Knight.
“We’re excited about our exclusive new partnership with IBM Watson that is reinventing the way people file their taxes,” he explains. “H&R Block invented the tax preparation category 62 years ago and we were the first to e-file. Now, we’re leading again with the next great innovation in tax preparation. By combining the knowledge and judgment of our tax professionals with the cutting-edge cognitive computing power of Watson, we are creating a future where our clients will absolutely know they got their taxes won. They will know they got every deduction and credit due.”
IBM Watson will complement the human expertise of its tax professionals. “For example, imagine a funnel,” Knight says. “At the top of the funnel is a massive amount of data from multiple sources – including a federal tax code and yearly tax law changes amounting to thousands of pages – plus, Block’s deep insights built from over 600 million data points.
“IBM Watson learns as it goes and will be able to absorb, correlate and learn from this huge amount of information,” he continues. “The more it learns, the smarter it gets. Working toward the future, our new proprietary system with IBM Watson and our tax professionals will give clients the ability to experience, in real-time, multiple filing options and outcomes as they go through the tax filing process.”
Sidebar: Above and Beyond
At H&R Block, doing the right thing goes beyond tax preparation. “We are committed to doing the right thing in the community as well as we continue the philanthropic tradition established by our founders, Henry and Richard Bloch,” Senior Vice President Kip Knight says. In addition, the company partners with schools nationwide to help increase teens’ financial fitness through H&R Block Dollars & Sense.
“In addition, we are a proud partner with United Way, helping them to go beyond temporary fixes and creating lasting change in our communities,” Knight says. “We also fund the H&R Block Foundation which works to improve the quality of life in Kansas City through thoughtful, innovative and responsible philanthropy. Lastly, H&R Block also recognizes Featured Franchisees of the Year for their leadership, growth and service to their communities.”