The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on Monday to stop the biggest U.S. tax preparer, H&R Block Inc. from buying the maker of a rival, do-it-yourself tax preparation product called TaxAct....
The top three companies in the field account for 90% of the sales of online tax programs and do-it-yourself tax-filing computer software.
The proposed purchase "would combine the second- and third-largest providers in that market and essentially create a duopoly," the department alleged in a complaint filed in a Washington, D.C., federal court. H&R Block had agreed to buy 2nd Story Software, or 2SS, in a transaction valued at $287.5 million in October.
TaxAct has served as "a maverick in the market," prompting its two rivals to lower prices by introducing such innovations as offering free filing of federal tax returns on the Internet in 2005, the Justice department said. The department's complaint cites internal H&R Block emails that it said show Block wanted to buy the TaxAct maker to "regain control of industry pricing and avoid further price erosion."
... The department cited an internal H&R Block email saying that "the other possible strategic consideration is that Intuit and HRB together would have 84% of the digital market and we both obviously have great incentive to keep this channel profitable."
Will blocking this merger encourage further entry into the industry?
One thing I wonder is why the US government does not itself give away or sell tax preparation software. Is there a good reason for it not to?