A federal court has denied for a second time H&R Block’s attempt to prevent Intuit from airing two TV commercials for TurboTax that poke fun at part-time tax preparers who work for retail tax chains like Block.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, based in Block’s hometown of Kansas City, rejected Block’s request Monday for a preliminary injunction against the TV ads. The same court had rejected a similar request in January (see H&R Block Loses Lawsuit Trying to Stop Intuit TV Ads). In one ad, a shopper in a women’s clothing department is greeted affectionately by a store employee who remembers doing her taxes the previous week.
In the other ad, a plumber who is fixing a family’s kitchen sink reminds them that he prepared their tax return. Intuit contrasted the lack of experience needed at “major tax stores” to its own staff, saying it hires only CPAs, Enrolled Agents and tax attorneys to provide tax advice to customers.
In denying H&R Block’s motion for a preliminary injunction Monday, the court noted that while H&R Block makes “much of their training programs for tax preparers in their first year and beyond, training is not the same thing as experience.” The judge further stated that “it is not false or misleading…to draw consumers’ attention to the true statement that certain consumers who go to major tax stores could have their taxes prepared by someone who has no prior work experience preparing taxes.” The court further recognized that the statement, “More Americans trusted their federal taxes to TurboTax last year than H&R Block stores and all other major tax stores combined” is true.
Intuit hailed the court’s latest decision. “Today’s ruling is a victory for hardworking taxpayers,” said Dan Maurer, general manager and senior vice president of Intuit’s Consumer Tax Group, in a statement. “For the second time, the court has rejected H&R Block’s attempts to pull advertisements that make clear to taxpayers that TurboTax hires only CPAs, Enrolled Agents and tax attorneys to assist Americans as they prepare their own tax returns. This stands in sharp contrast to the prior tax experience of some of those who major tax stores advertise for and hire.”
He contrasted the ability to do taxes anytime with TurboTax without appointment against the approach taken by Block. “We urge taxpayers to take a second and look at who is preparing their tax return at H&R Block,” Maurer added. “Not only does TurboTax save taxpayers on average $100 or more over H&R Block stores, we stand behind every return with our 100% Accurate Calculations Guarantee and our Maximum Refund Guarantee so customers can be confident they’ll get it right the first time.”
H&R Block vowed Monday to continue the litigation despite the court’s decision to not grant a preliminary injunction against Intuit, in which it alleged unlawful misuse of the H&R Block brand and trademark as well as unfair disparagement of the H&R Block tax professionals in their TurboTax television commercials.
“While we are disappointed with the court’s decision to not stop these commercials from airing, we will continue to stand up for our tax professionals, our clients and our brand,” said H&R Block senior vice president and chief marketing officer Robert Turtledove in a statement. ”When our free Second Look reviews continue to find money left on the table due to mistakes or oversights made by taxpayers who used TurboTax to prepare their returns, we know the value that a professional tax preparer brings to clients.”
Block originally filed an action on Jan. 23 against Intuit seeking injunctive relief and damages based on a campaign that allegedly included false and misleading advertising, unfair competition and infringement of its legally protected trademarks in TurboTax television commercials. Though a request for preliminary injunctive relief was denied, the full case will proceed toward trial.
“We welcome the scrutiny and advice offered by Dan Maurer, general manager and senior vice president of Intuit’s Consumer Tax Group when he urged ‘…taxpayers to take another look at who is preparing their tax return …,’” Turtledove added. “Taxes are complicated. That’s why we invite you to let H&R Block take another look at your current return, or go three years back and review prior returns. Come into one of our nearly 11,000 offices or reach us online through BlockLive, and we will get you every penny you are entitled to.”