UPDATE: H&R Block CEO Bill Cobb has responded to the AICPA.
With about a month until April 15th…I mean, 18th, taxpayers who haven't filed their returns yet are probably starting to feel the pressure. A big issue for these procrastinators is how they get their tax return prepared: Do they do it themselves? Pay a CPA? Or shop around the tax return discount shops?
With this in mind, I'm sure you've noticed a lot of dancing Lady Liberties out there as well as advertisements on TV and radio. Which brings us to the subject of this post: an advertisement by H&R Block's Block Advisors that apparently is playing on radio and is on YouTube. Let's enjoy the video together:
Oh, boy. As you can imagine, word about the video and ads made its way back to the AICPA and they're not taking it well. Here's the message in this morning's CPA Letter Daily email newsletter:
Response letter to H&R Block's advertisements
H&R Block recently released a new radio spot and video that misrepresent the CPA's competence, client service and ability to represent clients before the IRS, and misleads the public. The AICPA has responded to H&R Block and distributed a letter to state CPA society chief executives for their use. CPAs who would like to express their opinions and request the advertisements be removed may use a model letter we have prepared, available for download on the CPA Marketing Toolkit. The AICPA will continue to monitor this situation.
We'll save you the trouble of downloading the model letter. Here's the text:
March XX, 2016
Mr. William C. Cobb
President and CEO
H&R Block, Inc.
One H&R Block Way
Kansas City, MO 64105
Dear Mr. Cobb:
As a CPA who has been serving individual tax clients for more than [X] years, I am writing to express my deep dismay and concern over your recently launched video and radio spots that grossly misrepresent CPA tax practitioners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJcBK1DCrbo. They are misleading and question our competency, practice standards and ability to represent clients before the IRS. The claims are not only unacceptable, they are inaccurate.
Many of your valued customers have benefited from the expert, objective guidance of CPAs who are employees of H&R Block. Taxpayers are putting their trust in them and your brand to file their taxes responsibly and accurately. To disparage the reputation of CPAs undermines their professional service and the credibility of H&R Block.
I am very disappointed to see your organization show such disregard for a time-honored, respected profession that has been committed to serving the public good for more than a century. These promotional spots tarnish who we are and what we stand for. On behalf of the CPA profession, my clients and the public interest, I am asking you to remove these spots from your tax season media buy.
Funny thing, the video is sorta accurate. Lots of CPAs don't specialize in preparing tax returns. Lots of CPAs don't prepare tax returns at all! Now, to be fair, that doesn't mean CPAs with no tax expertise won't be asked for help on a tax return. I believe every auditor can attest to that. However, a CPA who isn't a tax expert isn't going to conceal that fact. Most CPAs who aren't in tax recoil in horror at the mere thought of preparing a tax return, so consumers don't need to worry about being bamboozled by them. Rather, they should be wary of people who claim, boast even, loudly to be experts and/or better than everyone else. Sketchy tax preparers come in all forms — CPAs, lawyers, H&R Block employees — so no matter what, consumers should be vigilant, caveat emptor, etc.
Debatable accuracy notwithstanding, the AICPA seems a little thin-skinned about this whole thing. I get that it's their job to PROTECT THE SHIELD but they've gotten all huffy like this before. Remember the time they mansplained Dear Abby? It's like they're afraid that CPAs' reputations don't speak for themselves. Or they just don't want them to face extra competition. Or they simply don't want them to be criticized at all.
In any case, it's amusing to see the AICPA get worked up into a lather. Hopefully there's more where this came from.