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A Taxing Opportunity

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Tom Daschle is "deeply embarrassed and disappointed" over his failure to originally pay more than $120,000 in taxes.

Tim Geithner was rightfully raked over the coals last month, when the eventual Treasury Secretary owned up to underpaying his own taxes.

President Barack Obama has hit a pair of tax-dodging speed bumps in his appointments, but the news should lift the spirits of Jackson Hewitt (NYSE: JTX  ) and H&R Block (NYSE: HRB  ) .

These tax-filing specialists are already gearing up for their busiest season, as citizens ready their 2008 tax returns. Daschle and Geithner's public missteps seem perfectly timed to prod even more potentially lax filers into getting right with the IRS.

This would normally be great news for accounting software makers, too. H&R Block's TaxCut, Intuit's (Nasdaq: INTU  ) TurboTax, and 2nd Story's TaxACT are popular programs this time of year. Over on Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) , five of the six best-selling software programs right now are tax-preparation titles. The lone standout on the list is Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Office suite, though one can always argue that the public has spreadsheets on its mind.

But in this case, Geithner did use TurboTax in filing his flawed return. He takes full responsibility for the mistake, and Intuit was quick to defend its program and error-checking safeguards, but that's just the kind of situation that may nudge taxpayers to head out to their local Jackson Hewitt or H&R Block office, even after preparing returns with a software program or for free online.

The question now: Which company will first be bold enough to play off Daschle and Geithner's tax stumbles in its marketing?

April is now just two months away. Let the clever ads begin.

What are you doing to get your 2008 tax return done? Want some tips to get a jump on next year's return? Check out our Tax Center to get up to speed. 

Microsoft and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Amazon.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz forks over his taxes gladly. However, he does not own shares in any company mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy forgives your calculation errors.


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Rick Munarriz
TMFBreakerRick

Rick has been writing for Motley Fool since 1995 where he's a Consumer and Tech Stocks Specialist. Yes, that's a long time. He's been an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and a portfolio lead analyst for Motley Fool Supernova since each newsletter service's inception. He earned his BBA and MBA from the University of Miami, and he now lives a block from his alma mater.

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