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H&R Block earnings: Where are the PPACA tax claims?

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A second giant tax preparer, H&R Block Inc. (NYSE:HRB), has talked about seeing fewer consumers with Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) tax concerns in the past few weeks than it expected.

Individual income tax filings for 2014 are due April 15. As of the end of February, H&R Block U.S. tax season filing volume was down 4.2 percent from the volume number the company posted a year earlier.

Liberty Tax Inc. (Nasdaq:TAX) reported disappointing volume numbers in February.

Tough competition, marketing program changes, and news of filing fraud affecting a big online tax-preparation service may have affected volume, the company says.

But the company is saying that another culprit may be a law familiar to LifeHealthPro.com readers: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Before the current tax season started, tax preparation company executives were expecting consumers with PPACA tax problems to flood into their offices.

Where’s the flood?

For a look at what H&R Block executives are saying now, read on. 

Count on a blackboard

1. The number of filers is still lower than the company expected.

H&R Block is not giving any concrete figures, but executives said during a conference call with securities analysts that the number of clients affected directly by PPACA program, other than by a need to check the “insured” box on a Form 1040, has been lower than it expected.

William Cobb, the company’s president, said the company now believes that PPACA exchange delays in sending Form 1095-A coverage notices, PPACA exchange moves to correct erroneous Form 1095-A notices, publicity about the errors, and consumer confusion about the notices they have received may have led affected consumers to put off doing their taxes.

The result may be the consumers affected by PPACA problems will be coming in late in the tax season, Cobb said.  

Charlie Riedel, AP - clocksetter

2. Dealing with PPACA questions does take plenty of preparer time.

Cobb said the taxpayers who come in and do need help with PPACA-related problems have many questions.

“Many have been required to complete additional forms or worksheets,” Cobb said. 

See also: PPACA tax credit: What if you get married?

Image: The courthouse clocks of Clay County, Kan. (AP photo/Charlie Riedel) 

One shoe hasn't dropped

3. Preparers and preparation services that fail to enforce documentation requirements could cause problems for the IRS.

Cobb noted that its tax system for consumers who file their own taxes requires exchange plan users to add Form 1095-A information before filing a return.

At least one competitor’s product does not require consumers to attach Form 1095-A before submitting a return.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will have to send to mail to those consumers and get them to file an amended return that includes a 1095-A, Cobb said.

See also: Form 1095-A: PPACA tax rules get real