Canadian Accountants File Complaint Against H&R Block

On the heels of the recent H&R Block advertising controversy in the United States, H&R Block Canada is now the focus of an upset accounting profession.

Last week, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) sent a letter to the Canadian Competition Bureau claiming that television ads run by the tax-preparation firm of H&R Block Canada "specifically and deliberately" discredit the accounting profession.

In February, the CICA voiced its objections to ads that ask viewers to take the "Double Check Challenge" to find deductions overlooked by their tax preparer. David Smith, the CICA's chief executive, wrote to H&R Block Canada on behalf of his organization’s 68,000 members, saying, "To insinuate that chartered accountants do not provide quality tax preparation services that adhere to the highest standards is both highly inappropriate and completely inaccurate."

As of early April the ads were still running, and the CICA has elevated its concern by issuing a formal complaint to the Canadian Competition Bureau.

Peter Premachuk, an H&R Block Canada spokesperson, is surprised that there is such interest in the campaign. "The Double Check Challenge is a service that has been offered for years, and this is the first time that Chartered Accountants are even mentioned in an H&R Block Canada ad," he told AccountingWEB. "We do view Chartered Accountants in Canada as competitors, even though we have a number of CA's on our own staff." Only one of the three television ads that H&R Block Canada is running mentions Chartered Accountants. When asked if he could understand why a post-Enron accounting profession might perceive the ads to be disparaging, Mr. Premachuk indicated that he did not see the ads casting a negative shadow on CAs, rather that the Double Check Challenge in H&R Block's view is a superior service.

This isn’t the first time that H&R Block has felt the wrath of accountants. In February, AccountingWEB reported that U.S. accountants were angered by ads run by H&R Block in the U.S. The American Institute of Certified Accountants complained that the ads "cast a negative light on CPA professionals." H&R Block denied the allegations, saying the ads weren’t intended to be disparaging toward CPAs but rather to show the bewildering number of choices consumer have at tax time.

Even though April 15 in the U.S. and April 30 in Canada mark the end of tax season, the controversy is likely to continue.

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