H&R Block reports a nearly 6 percent decline in tax returns through February

The delay in the start of tax-filing season caused by the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington resulted in a 5.8 percent decline in tax filing business through February at H&R Block Inc., the company said Thursday.

In its first official update on the 2013 tax-filing season, the Kansas City tax preparation giant said the “unprecedented delay” in the traditional mid-January start of electronic filing has caused “changes in the timing of taxpayer filing patterns.”

As a result, Block said it believes industrywide tax filings through February 28 are lagging up to two weeks behind from the comparable period in 2012.

Block said its business appears to be steadier than the rest of the tax prepartion industry. The company estimated that industrywide tax filing is down about 8 percent. However, Block still expects filing season to return to normal and is forecasting growth in overall returns filed by 1 percent to 2 percent by April 15, the traditional end of the season.

“We entered this tax season with a very thoughtful plan and while we’ve had to make some adjustments due to the unprecedented delays and competitive factors, I am pleased with our execution to date,” Bill Cobb, Block’s president and chief executive said in a statement.

“Our analysis of industry data gives us confidence that we are on track with our plans for fiscal 2013,” Cobb said.

Block also reported fiscal third quarter financial results, which is typically a down period for the company. It generated reevenue of $472 million in the quarter, down from $663 million in fiscal third quarter 2012. The company’s net loss widened to $17 million in the quarter from a loss of $4 million in 2012.