What happened

Tax-preparation company H&R Block (NYSE:HRB) reported that its 2018 tax season got off to a strong start. February, March, and April are H&R Block's busiest time of year, so shareholders are encouraged that things are looking good so far.

H&R Block filed 6.41 million tax returns in its offices through the end of February, a modest 0.7% year-over-year increase. The real boost was in its do-it-yourself software, which filed 3.64 million returns, an increase of 8.2%. In total, the company prepared 3.4% more tax returns through the end of February than it did last year.

IRS tax forms and a pencil on top of $100 bills.

Image Source: Getty Images.

Additionally, H&R Block reported $488 million in revenue, which handily surpassed analysts' expectations of $459 million, although earnings came in a little short.

As of 10:45 a.m. EST on the day following the announcement, shares were up by approximately 12%.

So what

This is especially good news for investors, considering that last year's tax season wasn't quite as good. A year ago, H&R Block's filings declined by 7% from the previous year.

It's also worth noting that the company cited its no-fee, interest-free refund-anticipation loan program, offered in partnership with online-based bank BofI Holding (NYSE:AX), as one of the reasons for its continued success in its in-office business.

Now what

To be clear, this data only includes the first month or so of tax season, so there's no guarantee that H&R Block's year-over-year growth will be as promising as it appears now. Having said that, I think this is a good sign for H&R Block and its partners that 2018 could be a strong year.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.