Letter From H&R Block's Mark Ernst to AICPA President Barry Melancon

Dear Barry:

I must say that I’m surprised that our advertising has generated so much interest among the members of the AICPA. I only hope the advertising has as great an impact on our intended target market.

Your letter, as well as those from members of the AICPA at your prompting, leads me to believe that our advertising messages are being viewed quite provincially by your membership. We clearly do not make, nor intended to make, CPAs the point of any of our ads.

Watch the ads that you have challenged. What you will see in one of them is H&R Block promoting our “Double Check” service. This is a very popular client service because we have, in fact, found thousands of situations where American taxpayers did not receive all of the tax benefits to which they were entitled. Yes, some mistakes were made by CPAs, as one of our clients states in the commercial. But the ad certainly does not imply that all CPAs make mistakes.

The other ad you referenced depicts a taxpayer facing a bewildering array of choices for tax services, including CPAs and other tax preparation firms. The ad emphasizes that when faced with a multitude of choices, H&R Block’s unconditional Satisfaction Guarantee is a reason to choose us. Again, this does not denigrate CPAs, but rather establishes H&R Block’s national policy as a source of competitive differentiation.

The fact is that local CPAs are H&R Block’s largest source of competition. While I recognize that these are trying times for the CPA profession, that should not dictate that H&R Block’s advertising avoid suggesting that CPAs are a competitor. Further, I believe that it is disingenuous for you to suggest that H&R Block and our thousands of tax professionals should accept your view that “CPAs are still considered the benchmark against which all tax services are measured,” and therefore treat CPAs deferentially.

As a CPA myself, I have both an appreciation and respect for the competence of our profession and a strong interest in not incurring further damage to our reputation. What the profession most needs during this difficult period is strong leadership and an unwavering commitment to serving its clients responsibly and ethically. With thousands of CPAs in many parts of our organization, H&R Block is working to ensure that we deliver our services in a manner that demonstrates the value and integrity CPAs can provide. I encourage the AICPA to help its members focus on these very important goals rather than nitpicking H&R Block’s advertising.

Best regards,

Mark Ernst
H&R Block

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