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H&R Block


reported third-quarter earnings today that beat Wall Street's slightly lowered estimates by a whopping 26 cents, as the company's U.S. tax operations turned a profit outside of the fourth quarter for the first time in history.

The company cited an early start to the tax filing season, expense controls, e-commerce improvements and strength in its mortgage business as factors in the profit. H&R Block noted that the early tax filing trend will take away some revenue from the fourth quarter, but the company is "on track" to meet its revenue and earnings targets for the year. Analysts expect the company to earn $2.79 for the year.

For the third quarter ended Jan. 31, H&R Block earned $5.6 million, or 6 cents a share, up from its year-ago loss of $7.1 million, or 7 cents a share. Five analysts surveyed by

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First Call/Thomson Financial

estimated the company, which is based in Kansas City, would lose 20 cents a share.

H&R Block also posted third-quarter revenue of $661.4 million, up 29% from $512.5 million in the same quarter one year ago.

Shares of H&R Block closed at $45.45, up 76 cents, or 1.7% in

New York Stock Exchange

trading this afternoon.