Thursday, July 23, 2009

Musical chairs and revolving doors in the tax prep business

A few interesting observations:

There's been some fascinating "musical chairs/revolving doors" among the tax prep franchise chains and important government positions.

1) H&R Block's former Chairman and CEO, Mark Ernst, is now Deputy Commissioner of the IRS in charge of operations.

2) Richard Breeden, who took over as Chairman of H&R Block from Mark Ernst in 2007, is a shareholder activist and former head of the SEC. Breeden gained control of Block by waging a successful proxy fight, criticizing Block's previous management for their involvement in the subprime mortgage market, which he estimated had cost Block $4.5 billion in profits over the previous two years.

3) Jackson Hewitt got a new President and CEO last month, Harry Buckley, who had previously been President and CEO of H&R Block. Interesting coincidence: Jackson-Hewitt announced this appointment on June 4, the same day the IRS announced its plans to investigate ways to regulate preparers.

4) A former H&R Block employee, John Hewitt, originally founded Jackson Hewitt and later also launched Liberty Tax, the third biggest national franchise. Liberty Tax is privately held and is much smaller than the two market leaders, but it has a high degree of visibility due to its "guerilla marketing" tactics of paying people to stand out in the street dressed in Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam costumes to flag down potential customers.

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