The Department of Justice filed an anti-trust lawsuit against H&R Block. This second-largest income tax preparation service intended to acquire the company that owns third-largest income tax preparation service, TaxACT. Based on the number of customers who used these companies’ services to self-file 2010 tax returns, the combined company would still be a distant second to Intuit’s TurboTax. The new combined tax-filing service would be run by TaxACT’s management team, which is surprising considering H&R Block’s At Home product has more customers and is a more recognized brand.
According to the government agency, the proposed merger would result in too much consolidation in the marketplace, decreasing choices for consumers and increasing prices. Consumers’ interests are better served in a competitive marketplace, and the Department of Justice has the job of stepping in when a merger or acquisition would result in unfair competition. For a while, the DOJ has been quiet, allowing companies to consolidate, deferring to market forces. The DOJ didn’t act when AT&T planned to acquire T-Mobile, a deal that would create a duopoly among mobile phone service providers. The government also didn’t have a problem with Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal, which put the full stream of television, from production to broadcast to delivery, in the hands of one company.
H&R Block responded to the government’s suit with claims that the merger would increase options for tax-filing customers.