This year's tax season got off to a quicker start at H&R Block Inc. after last year's slow beginning, the Kansas City-based company said Tuesday.
H&R Block prepared 3.4 percent more tax returns through Feb. 28 than it had a year ago. The increase came across the board, with the largest percentage gains in its online operations but the biggest total number of returns being handled at its tax offices.
Block offices saw 6.41 million returns through the end of February, up 0.7 percent from a year ago. Do-it-yourself software and online filings totaled 3.64 million returns, up 8.2 percent from a year ago.
Comparable data for total tax return filings at the Internal Revenue Service were not available for that date. But Block said it was doing better than the national trends the IRS released for the tax season through Feb. 23.
A year ago, early tax filings from all preparers and filers were down 10 percent as the season got off to a slow start. H&R Block, however, had declared it gained a larger share of the market during last year's early filing slump because its filings were down only 7 percent at the time.
By the end of the tax season last year, H&R Block had seen a 0.8 percent drop in the total number of returns it handled. That was an improvement over two years ago.
CEO Jeff Jones said the results from the first half of this year's tax season show H&R Block is building on its momentum.
Two programs helped bring back customers from last year, namely the zero-interest and no-fee Refund Advance Loans and Free 1040 EZ filings. Both promotions are aimed at early filers and ended Feb. 28.
The promos were less effective at bringing in new customers.
"We were a little disappointed with the vol of new clients we saw from those two programs," finance chief Tony Bowen said during a conference call with analysts.
H&R Block said it prepared 10.697 million returns through Feb. 28, up from 10.345 million a year ago. The recent total is up from two years ago when Block filed 10.635 million returns in the season's first half.
The company also released its financial results through Jan. 31. Losses totaled $245.6 million on $448.4 million in revenues during November, December and January. Both totals were higher than a year ago.
H&R Block does most of its business in February, March and April leading up to the tax filing deadline which is April 17 this year.