I understand that many liberty franchisees invested a great deal of time to become licensed insurance agents in anticipation of a windfall of customers needing health insurance. Liberty's fall in share price is nothing short of astonishing, as is its abysmal (a better word than Hewitt's word "disappointing") result. When do they announce their full Q4 results? The company seems to be adrift, lost in a sea of uncertainty.
98% of all filing is done by April 15. I don't think we need to wait for the last return to be filed to get some statistical indications. From what I understand, Liberty (and perhaps JH) have some sort of loan product in many states. Why would Block suffer less than others in the migration away from paid preparers? Early season filers are less price conscious than others, actually.
According to IRS, 53% of filers used a paid preparer. That is down significantly from ten years ago when the number was 61%. I doubt Block grew its market share - likely lost some in fact. But revenue will be higher. The cost of tax preparation is getting to be in the stratosphere. VITA returns in my area have skyrocketed, with all groups exceeding the target numbers in their grant awards. People are discovering that they can get their EIC tax returns prepared for free and receive their refunds direct deposited to their bank accounts in two weeks or less - for free. So Block's numbers will likely satisfy investors but the long-term trend is still negative.
Most stocks are owned by pension funds, mutual funds, etc. Stocks still seem to fall when year-to-year numbers are negative. A drop of returns of almost 9% year-over-year is huge. That usually would prompt a sell-off after the announcement. Liberty sold off significantly after announcing their return count was down less than 1% year-over-year. Their float is tiny, with most of their shares also held institutionally. Just trying to make sense of the situation...
HRB really should have had a bigger fall when it announced that, through Feb. 28, it's return count in its retail locations were down (8.7)%. IRS said it was down 1%. Paid preparers overall were down 4.4% according to IRS. Liberty said it was down by 0.9% and its shares tanked. What is propping HRB up?