The fight for the 2012 tax season has begun among the companies who provide tax services -- H&R Block Inc. (NYSE: HRB) and Intuit Inc. (INTU).
H&R Block's shrink-wrapped tax software is now available through its Web site, marking the start of the 2012 tax season. Pricing is broadly consistent year over year, excluding the Basic State stock keeping unit (SKU), which is up 8 percent year-over-year.
"Intuit will release its shrink-wrapped product on Nov. 25, though both companies will make their online SKUs available next week (H&R Block on Nov. 30; Intuit on Dec. 1). Since online is more than two third of tax units, we await the release of these products to better understand 2012 pricing dynamics," said Ross MacMillan, an analyst at Jefferies.
MacMillan said pricing of H&R Block's shrink-wrapped tax software is broadly consistent with the beginning of the 2011 tax season, though he noted that the price of the Basic State SKU is up 8 percent year over year from $36.95 last season (beginning and end) to $39.95.
H&R Block intends to make its Online Tax Software available on Nov. 30. During the 2011 tax season, Software units made up 37 percent of H&R Block's total 5.7 million Tax units, while Online product made up 63 percent.
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Intuit's Turbo Tax Desktop software will be available on Nov. 25 though Turbo Tax Online will be available on Dec. 1.
MacMillan noted that during the 2011 tax season, Turbo Tax Online comprised about 72 percent of the total 22 million TurboTax Units Sold (excluding Free File Alliance), so he awaits the release of Online pricing data since he views these products as the most meaningful drivers of Intuit's Consumer Tax software revenue.
The brokerage reiterated its "hold" rating on shares of Intuit with a price target of $55.
"Our price target of $55 is based on the stock trading on 17 times of our fiscal 2013 EPS at the end of fiscal 2012. This is just ahead of the three year average of 16 times but slightly below the five year average of 18 times. Risks include simplification of the U.S. tax code, SMB demand, market share, and operating margin expansion," said MacMillan.
Intuit stock closed Monday's regular trading down 2.46 percent at $50.76 on the NASDAQ Stock Market, while shares of H&R Block closed down 2.52 percent at $15.08 on the NYSE.