And you thought tax season was stressful on you?
Tax preparer Jackson Hewitt
Net income came in at $18.2 million, or $0.61 per share, 34% below what it earned in the same period last year.
Keeping up a multiyear, industrywide trend, tax filings remained weak early in the year, partly attributable to pending legislation regarding the alternative minimum tax that hits wealthy families.
Another reason for the decline stemmed from (surprise, surprise) ripples in the banking sector. In years past, Jackson Hewitt offered customers tax return loans backed up by Uncle Sam's annual refund. This year, the banks Jackson Hewitt worked with in the past didn't offer those services, so customers didn't have as much of an incentive to hurry into the tax office.
Finally, an ongoing claim by the Department of Justice that charged 125 Jackson Hewitt franchises with fraudulent tax practices continued to take its toll. That case affected its reputation in select locations, adding to the unexpected slowdown in business.
Or, heck, maybe it's just that consumers wait until crunch time to take care of what many cringe thinking about: the complicated and daunting world of taxes.
Keep an eye on the White House
This year may be a deciding one for Jackson Hewitt, along with rivals H&R Block
The more simplified taxes become, the less consumers and business rely on tax preparers. The IRS expects more than 80 million tax returns to come through its self-directed e-file program this year. For tax preparers whose most valuable asset is the service they provide, those aren't pretty numbers.
That dwindling outlook may have been what sparked Berkshire Hathaway
Going forward, Jackson Hewitt has enough problems to deal with before it can even start to worry about how ugly the economics of the industry are. With pending litigation, a weakened reputation, and a massive debt load, it's going to take some serious work to get back on track.
Before you get around to doing your taxes, check out this related Foolishness:
Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, but none of the other companies mentioned in this article. He appreciates your questions, comments, and complaints. Jackson Hewitt is an Inside Value and Hidden Gems Pay Dirt recommendation. April 15th is just another day for the Fool's disclosure policy.