H&R Block Shares Up Despite ‘Bad Tax Season’

The tax preparer beat fourth-quarter earnings estimates and raised its dividend but tax return volume fell 4.5%.
Katie Kuehner-HebertJune 10, 2016

H&R Block’s tax return volume fell more than 4% during its tax-season quarter but its shares surged on Friday as earnings beat estimates and the company increased its dividend.

The tax preparer earned $700.7 million, or $3.13 a share, for the fourth quarter that ended April 30, down 5.2% from a year earlier. Excluding items, adjusted per-share earnings rose to $3.16 from $2.68. Revenue fell 0.2% to $2.3 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected per-share profit of $3.15 and revenue of $2.28 billion.

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H&R Block also raised its quarterly dividend by 2 cents, to 22 cents, yielding 4.1%. Its shares rose 12.3% to $24.19 in trading Friday.

But total tax returns declined 4.5% to 23.2 million, including a 5.8% drop in assisted returns and a 2.6% decline in returns prepared with H&R’s software. “Ultimately, this was a bad tax season,” CEO Bill Cobb said in an earnings call.

As The Motley Fool reports, “H&R Block has been challenged by a consumer shift toward do-it-yourself tax solutions like Intuit’s TurboTax.” Average price increases of 3% helped offset some of the loss in volume.

The company said it was investing in initiatives to increase  client volumes that will be funded through its cost reduction efforts. In April, it said it was planning to cut its workforce by nearly 13% in the wake of the disappointing tax season.

“We are ready to move on,” Cobb said Friday in a news release. “Going forward, we are committed to arresting the client decline and ultimately achieving client growth. We are developing aggressive plans for tax season 2017 that we believe will enable us to achieve this objective.”

Cobb added that those plans “will challenge us to think differently about certain parts of our business, while building on those areas of the business in which we were successful, such as pricing, mix, improved product attach levels, and the successful launch of our new Block Advisors brand.”