You can't make this up. In H&R Block's "The Double Your Refund Instant Win Game," an individual can win twice the amount of his or her federal tax refund up to $10,000 or prizes such as free tax preparation, cash, or a CD.

Here are the three ways to enter:

1. Go to any participating H&R Block office, get your 2004 federal tax return prepared by an H&R Block tax associate and you'll receive a Double Your Refund Instant Win Game Card. Scratch and match two of the same prizes and you win.

2. Prepare and pay for your 2004 federal taxes using one of H&R Block's online tax programs. When the tax preparation is complete, you'll get a virtual game card.

3. Hand print on a 3" x 5" card, your name, address, day and evening telephone number, and date of birth, and mailing it along with a self-addressed, stamped return envelope to: H&R Block Double Your Refund Instant Win Game Entry Request, P.O. Box 8104, Grand Rapids, MN 55745-8104.

I wonder if this will open up a whole new set of marketing initiatives by others. How about a tax practitioner offering $20 of free play on a slot machine at a casino or on an online offshore casino site to its new tax prep clients?  Or maybe a George Foreman grill, or a chance for cosmetic plastic surgery? The possibilities seem endless.

Why promote tax preparation on the qualifications and professionalism of the tax practitioner? That is getting to be such a hard sell.  Isn't it easier to treat tax preparation as a commodity and create interest by hyping tax prep like McDonald's does for its hamburgers with Monopoly game prize pieces?

This all reminds me of the pet shops that sell hamsters, rabbits, gerbils, and other pets for 99 cents if you buy an $80 so called "starter kit," which includes a cage and some pet food. I wonder if H& R Block is also giving out refund anticipation loans along with its "The Double Your Refund Instant Win Game," cards.

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