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Taxes may be among the few certainties in life, but they usually are not considered one of the more fun features. With advertising that attempts to highlight the span of its offerings, H&R Block is seeking to change that image somewhat, suggesting that “tax season” is a time that regular people actually can enjoy, if they do it right.

Close up of hands filling in tax formThe advertising campaigns that started just after the new year bring back a spokesperson who proved popular last year, the green-bow-tied, real-life tax accountant Richard Gartland. Last year he encouraged Americans to “take your billion back,” emphasizing that many people who do their own taxes wind up overpaying. This year, he has changed it to “billions,” but the concept is the same. Whereas most people associate tax day with a payment, H&R Block is seeking to prompt them to imagine getting a bigger refund than they previously thought possible, by relying on its professional experts.

But H&R Block also acknowledges that more than one-third of U.S. taxpayers do their taxes themselves, so it offers online assistance too. With its software, taxpayers can complete and submit their federal and state income tax returns for less than $10, while still receiving some limited, online help from the tax professionals. Although it has been offering the online service for 15 years, with this renewed advertising push, it is focusing powerfully on the $9.99 price, seeking to reinforce the enjoyable idea of saving money.

In addition to its televised advertisements, H&R Block produces videos for social media, in an attempt to reach the millennial market more readily. Tax laws change every year, but the passage of the Affordable Care Act created more changes than usual. Thus the tax service promises customers that it can help them understand their tax liabilities and responsibilities, whether they come in to brick-and-mortar storefronts with all their receipts or aim to complete their paperwork at home.

Discussion Question:

Can advertising convince citizens that tax time is fun and that buying tax advice is an enjoyable purchase?

SOURCE: Ashley Rodriguez, “H&R Block Ushers in ‘Refund Season’ with Slew of New Ads,” Advertising Age, January 9, 2015, http://adage.com

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