District Court Rules That The TurboTax 2013 Ads Can Continue To Run
The recent TurboTax 2013 ads/television commercials focused on the accounting experience of the TurboTax 2013 staff while also pointing out the lack of experience of tax preparers from other major tax preparation companies. These ads sought to undermine the credibility of tax professionals from other companies by claiming that these professionals worked in plumbing and retail jobs outside of tax season. An outraged H&R Block went to court over the issue. They made several valid points about the ads, but ultimately, the district court ruled in favor of allowing the TurboTax 2013 ads to continue to air.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri ruled on the advertising case, and the court decided that the adverts were legal. H&R Block was not mentioned in any of the Intuit TurboTax 2013 ads but they are the company’s biggest competitor. However, it was implied within the ad that they were focused on H&R Block preparers as well as a couple other popular tax preparation store’s employees. When arguing against the advertisements, H&R Block made claim that the TV ads were unfair, and they presented a number of points around that issue.
The ads claimed that the employees of major tax companies only worked in the accounting industry during tax season, and they claimed that these professionals worked in other industries during the rest of the year. In fact, H&R Block does hire tax professionals who also work in outside industries throughout the year, but they train these individuals to prepare, sign, and file taxes to a great degree. Many of the professionals who work there are not accountants.
In spite of the fact that a number of the ad’s claims were true, H&R Block stated that the ads undermined people who work two jobs during the year, and that the ads sought to diminish the intelligence of people who work in the plumbing and retail industries. The tax preparer further claimed that the ads understated the reality of how much experience most of their employees have. According to the tax giant, the average person who has their taxes filed by H&R Block gets to work with a professional who has ten years of experience in the industry.
The TurboTax 2013 ads created pictures of tax professionals who were under-trained, underprepared, and under experienced. At the same time, these ads highlighted the experience of the TurboTax 2013 staff. Their staff, TurboTax claimed, were all certified accounts with years of experience. In retort, H&R Block pointed out that Intuit TurboTax had never actually prepared a single tax return while they had prepared millions face-to-face over the last sixty years of their history.
Ultimately, this was a battle between a tax preparation company and a tax software company. As people change how they approach taxes, more battles like this may occur. However, the district court ruled that the TurboTax 2013 ads were not harmful to H&R Block in any way that was illegal, and thus, tax payers may see more ads like this in the future.