H&R Block Wants to Do More Than Taxes

Hoping to build on the large client base that brings one in seven of the nation's taxpayers to H&R Block each spring, the company has announced plans to market year-round financial services to its clients.

H&R Block, with more than 9,000 offices around the country, has expanded its services to include financial planning, home mortgages, brokerage services, and private wealth management.

Brokerage services are provided by H&R Block Financial Advisors, a brokerage launched in 1999. The company's mortgage division filled $6.5 billion in mortgage loans last year. The company's subsidiary, RSM McGladrey, offers traditional accounting and tax services and has begun offering financial planning services for business owners.

"The fundamental thing we are trying to do is fill in a gap for middle Americans," said president and chief executive Mark A. Ernst. "People of moderate means - people Merrill Lynch wouldn't consider working with - need advice on saving, especially how to save for retirement. We're going to do that."

Block is also rolling out a new Individual Retirement Account (IRA) program this year, designed for people who change jobs frequently and who haven't had a chance to build up savings. Customers can divert money from their refund check directly into a traditional or a Roth IRA established through Block. The program requires participants to begin with either an up-front investment of $300 or a commitment to invest $25 per month in automatic transfers from their checking account.

Block hopes the new financial services will keep customers coming back, not just each spring but during the year as well.

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