Kansas City: H&R Block is the largest tax preparer in the country, grinding out close to 20 million returns a year. They make the market in more ways that one can imagine when it comes to moving taxes and refunds.
Their path crosses with ACORN in ways that might surprise until one thinks about it.
First, what we know as our constituency – low and moderate-income families, working people – they see as their market. They are not alone in that regard. There are other big players – Jackson-Hewitt and Liberty – who are almost as big and then a slew of smaller outfits and mom-and-pops in every nook and cranny of America.
Secondly, ACORN leaders and members are over the top about the fact that lower income families that are eligible for the earned income tax credit – good as money! – are still not getting it. We think everyone needs to see it as a crusade of the first order, given the demise of virtually every other federal entitlement, to move participation as close to 100% of the eligible families as is possible.
H&R Block files a lot of tax returns and finds a lot of families that are eligible for the tax credit. Too many of these families don’t have bank accounts or are desperate for the money yesterday, so a huge amount of the refunds end up siphoned off into various products, like the RALs – refund anticipation loans.
So, it was inevitable that our paths would meet and there would be a collision and for almost five months that’s exactly what has happened, as we have engaged these issues in every imaginable forum with the company.
Today, once again, ACORN’s team led by President Maude Hurd from Boston, Treasurer Johnny Clark of Dallas, and board member Alton Bennett from the Twin Cities, met with a top team of negotiators for H&R Block. We met in Kansas City at their World Headquarters today near the fashionable shopping centers at the edge of Lee’s Summit on the eve of the ACORN’s national board meeting.
We came close today and it will make a huge difference to millions of families and save them millions of dollars. Pushing and pulling, measuring victory in inches as much as miles and how close one can get against the benchmark of reality, rather than the ceiling of the ideal.
Reaching a tentative agreement today, we all know there’s still much of the devil in the details and endless work to be done, but here in Kansas City right on the front porch of their Main Street, we’ve taken some big steps to do the right things, stop the RAL thing, create partnerships that join the company with us in the EITC full participation mission, and keep the dollars at home where they belong.