H&R Block using Facebook (and tattoos) to school students on taxes

The Calgary-based tax prep firm has created a two-part application with a virtual calculator and a social space for spending refunds.

Do students find taxes fun? Seems like a no brainer – the operative word being ‘no.’ But Calgary-based H&R Block Canada is trying to change income tax’s bad rap with a Facebook application aimed at college, university and high school students.

‘Students make up a large population of our clients, and we’re always trying to find new and innovative ways to come into contact with them,’ H&R Block senior tax analyst Cleo Hamel tells MiC. ‘This is another opportunity that we decided to jump into because everybody’s into Facebook these days.’

The first on-site tool is the Calculatron, which students can use to enter their income, province, tuition and tax-withheld to work out estimated return amounts. Designed by H&R Block’s creative and media AOR, Due North Communications, and built by Dashboard (both of Toronto), the app is geared to student incomes of under $30,000.

When site users qualify for refunds, they can spend their loot in the Social Life Simulator, which offers a vast array of tempting virtual activities from dinner and a movie to piercings and tattoos.

‘Unfortunately, taxes can be a negative topic for a lot of people; they just don’t enjoy it,’ Hamel explains. ‘So it’s really nice to be able to give our brand a different look and a different feel. People can look at it and say, ‘there’s more to it, there’s some fun too.”

The application will be pushed to H&R Block’s existing student consumer base through email advertising. But Hamel hopes the initiative will also spread virally. Users can invite their friends to join them on cyber-splurges and, of course, all Facebook activity is logged in a user’s News Feed for his or her network to see.

‘If I go onto the application and I’ve been on there four or five times a day for the last week, anybody watching is going to wonder why, and will check it out,’ says Hamel. ‘And the viral infection thing is just catching on, so I think for us, for our branding, it’s great, because people will see our brand a little more often.’