In preparation for the 2013 tax filing season, H&R Block has launched a series of compelling TV ads. In the main ad, the “H&R Block Guy” states that because of tax payers attempting to file their own taxes there was $1 billion dollars of unclaimed tax dollars last year. He goes on to say, $1 billion is equal to placing $500 on every seat of every professional football stadium in the country.
Wow! On first take that sounds like a whole lot of money. But is it? Quickly watch the 30 second video below and let’s break the numbers down a little.
Breaking Down the $1 Billion
Ok, according to the US census estimates of 2013 there was 316,128,839 people in the US. If I take out my trusty calculator – that is $3.17 (rounded up to the nearest cent). Only 3 bucks per person? What!
Well, that is not exactly right either. With the US income equality as it is, it is very clear that not all of the ~ 316 million people paid taxes in 2013. So, lets examine this a bit further. According to the IRS (I could only find 2005 data with accuracy – my hunch is that 2013 is probably worse – post recession – so we will round up later), there were 134.4 million tax returns filed. Of those, 90.6 million were taxable – meaning the return netted above $0.
Again, to do the math, $1 billion divided by 90.6 million equals $11.04 per tax payer. We are definitely getting better here but even accounting for probable 2013 tax payer numbers, I doubt that number would get much above $15 extra returned per person. Once again though, this is not a totally accurate portrayal of the situation. According to CNN, the top 10% pay 70% of taxes.
Getting into that last sentence is a long debate with many intricacies on why those tax numbers are true and how that breaks down even further (in terms of dollars paid even among the “10%”), but in the interest of time I am going to go back to the original TV ad which talks in simple terms about roughly dividing the $1 billion equally.
So in getting back to the advertisement, we have one more thing to look at – the stadiums. After some research, I found that there are 1,993,925 seats in 31 NFL stadiums in the US. So, let’s get out that calculator one more time and do the math. The answer is that H&R Block slightly underestimated the figure they use – it comes out to $501.53 per seat.
So although the dollar return per tax payer may not be very high, H&R Block uses more than fair figures. The end result in my opinion then is that this is a pretty darn effective ad campaign that stays within the boundaries of truth.