February 20 2006
H&R Block Helps Operation HOPE Give Katrina Victims Major Tax Benefit
(Los Angeles, CA) February 20, 2006 – As part of its ongoing commitment to help hard-working Americans improve their financial lives, H&R Block (NYSE: HRB) is participating in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Program just launched by the William J. Clinton Foundation. In collaboration with Operation HOPE, another Clinton Foundation partner, H&R Block is providing free tax preparation through its in-office tax professionals to 5,000 low- to middle-income taxpayers who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina and are eligible for the credit. The program runs from March 1 through April 17, 2006.
“The financial pressures facing working Americans as they attempt to recover from Hurricane Katrina are unprecedented,” said Mark A. Ernst, chairman and chief executive officer of H&R Block. “We appreciate the commitment President Clinton has made to assist those who need help the most, and we’re proud to be part of this effort.”
The EITC is a key federal tax credit available to millions of low- to middle-income taxpayers. It was established in 1975 to help offset the impact of payroll and income taxes on the working poor. Though it can provide up to $4,400 per working family, many deserving taxpayers do not claim the credit due to a lack of awareness or filing complexity. H&R Block offers all EITC-eligible taxpayers free online self-preparation of their tax returns as a member of the Free Filing Alliance (available at www.irs.gov).
Said President Clinton: “The main idea of the EITC is still the old idea of the American Dream, that if you work hard and play by the rules, you ought to have a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one. I hope this joint initiative helps more Americans achieve their dreams and reaches those Americans whose lives were shattered by last year’s hurricanes.”
“We’re deeply grateful to the Clinton Foundation, H&R Block and the other organizations that have stepped forward to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast regain their financial footing,” said John Bryant, chief executive officer of Operation HOPE. “I challenge other groups and companies to get onboard and help us overcome the difficulties facing so many of our fellow Americans.”
For tax year 2005, the federal government projects 22 million working families nationwide will receive about $40 billion through the EITC, with each family receiving an average of about $1,800. About one-in-four EITC recipients have been H&R Block clients in recent years.
Even so, the Governmental Accountability Office has estimated that up to 25 percent of those eligible for the credit fail to claim it. Many of those up to 7 million families do not claim the EITC due to a lack of awareness or the complexity of eligibility requirements and tax forms.
H&R Block is committed to raising awareness about the EITC among low- to middle-income Americans. In recent years, H&R Block has partnered with a number of community organizations to increase participation in the EITC program and to provide financial education and outreach services to working families. These efforts include:
- City of San Francisco Working Families Credit: H&R Block partnered with the City of San Francisco to fund, sponsor and co-brand a two-year pilot of a local version of the EITC and provide discounted tax preparation services to qualified families. In 2005, eligible families received an estimated payout rate of 10 percent of their federal EITC, equaling about $240 for families with one dependent and about $360 for two or more. The partnership continues this year.
- City of Miami Anti-Poverty Initiative: H&R Block developed a five-year program in partnership with the City of Miami in 2005 to provide community outreach surrounding EITC and discounted tax preparation services to qualified families. The efforts made during the 2005 tax season accounted for just over $20 million in total refunds, a dramatic increase from the city-wide campaign in 2004, which logged approximately $1.5 million in refunds.
- Operation HOPE, Los Angeles: H&R Block worked with Operation HOPE to develop a shared referral system, discounted products and financial literacy services for low-income families. The partnership is slated to last four years and is being implemented through five HOPE Centers and 22 H&R Block offices in South Central Los Angeles.
- ACORN - H&R Block EITC Outreach: H&R Block and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) have jointly developed an outreach campaign in 65 communities designed to help more low-income consumers claim the credit.
New York City EITC Coalition - EITC Pilot Project: Beginning in 2005, Block partnered with Service Employees International Union local 1199 and a number of other unions to provide coupons for discounted tax preparation services through a program targeting qualified families. This program continues in 2006.
The Clinton Foundation’s EITC Awareness Program was conceived as a grassroots outreach campaign targeting the hotels, apartment complexes, relief sites, disaster assistance centers and other locations where Hurricane Katrina survivors currently are living. In addition to H&R Block, other organizations partnering with the Clinton Foundation in this effort include the ACORN Institute’s Katrina Benefits Access Project, Operation HOPE’s Project Restore Hope, Deutsche Bank, E*Trade Financial, The First American Corp., the New York Bankers Association and Microsoft.
# # #