Tax prep giant H&R Block Inc. announced that it has opened up shop in the online virtual universe known as Second Life.Second Life is entirely built and owned by its residents, who have created a 3-D world that includes homes, vehicles, nightclubs, stores, landscapes, clothing and games. Last month, the site passed the 4-million-account threshold, though many accounts are not active and some residents have multiple accounts.

In announcing the opening of the virtual office -- located on its own island -- Block said that the effort is all part of a concentrated effort to connect clients with tax professionals in a setting they know. “We look for ways to connect with our customers anytime, anywhere,” said Tom Allanson, the senior vice president and general manager for Block’s Digital Tax Solutions, in a statement. “As we engage these Second Lifers in a conversation in a new space, we believe our digital tax services will appeal to them.”

Real-life tax professionals will be available in avatar form online to answer tax-related questions for free and will hold office hours in Second Life from 6 to 7 p.m. PST on Tuesdays and Thursdays through April 17. Among other features, a main auditorium will also allow visitors to watch a video describing the development of Block’s new tax preparation product, Tango.

The Tango product bundle costs 100 “Linden” dollars (the currency used in Second Life), though it retails in the real world for $70. The bundle also includes access to a variety of virtual scooters to tour H&R Block Island, virtual dancing shoes that allow users to do a tango-style dance when worn and other Tango avatar apparel. Block said that it plans to introduce other events in Second Life on a regular basis beyond the tax season.

In a statement announcing the foray, Block noted that when teleporting to H&R Block Island using Second Life’s map system, visitors should remove the company’s ampersand, and only type in the text, “HR Block.”

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