This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", January 13, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: If you need a financial review to find out if you can own these designer fashions, my next guest might be able to help you out. He heads one of the few tax services that offers more than just tax services.

With us now is Mark Ernst, the chairman and CEO of H&R Block, who will be presenting at tomorrow’s annual investor conference.

Good to see you, sir. Thanks for coming.

MARK ERNST, CHAIRMAN & CEO, H&R BLOCK (HRB): It’s Great to be here.

CAVUTO: So the theme this year will be what?

ERNST: Well, the big theme which we have been encouraging people to think about for a long time, particularly the sort of middle America clients that we serve, is that tax time is this one time you should stop, take stock of where you are at financially, and use it as new year’s resolution point to plan your financial future. If you don’t do it any other time of the year, do it now at tax time. And we think that that is very good for most Americans.

CAVUTO: So you are trying to get out of the image, we just file your return and we’re out of there?

ERNST: That’s exactly right. We think that there’s a glaring need by many, many consumers in this country for financial help, financial suggestions, how to improve your life. And the reality is, most financial services companies don’t do this for people. Most financial services companies are very interested in the high-income, high net worth.

CAVUTO: But you weren’t even a financial services company.

ERNST: That’s right.

CAVUTO: So you had all their tax returns. People came to you every year and you decided, look, there’s a way to build off this.

ERNST: Right. And we think that there is a big opportunity to show people how to improve their life, not just at tax time, but how to get ready for next year and the year after that and year after that.

CAVUTO: There is some controversy with your firm, Mark, about these instant refunds, early refunds. Acorn and some other consumer groups had said that you were gouging people. Where does that stand?

ERNST: Yes. You know, the loan business is an interesting part, a sub-sector of the...

CAVUTO: In other words, someone is due a refund, you’ll give them the refund up front, there is a fee on top of that. These groups are saying you’re charging too much.

ERNST: Well, you know, and the reality is that we advise most of our clients that you should not be in a position where you need this kind of access to money. But the reality is, for most people, this is the one time every year they’re going to get a very big chunk of money in the form of their tax refund. And some people are in a position where they really need that money quickly.

And for them there is a product. But we think the long-term solution to that is not to, you know, eliminate products like this, but rather to help the IRS and the government speed up the time from which people get that money, so that they are not waiting around for six or eight weeks...


CAVUTO: So you think this blows over and is not a huge deal?

ERNST: I think that’s exactly right.

CAVUTO: And the market in general, still encouraged by what you are seeing?

ERNST: Yes. I think that’s right.

CAVUTO: Yes. All right. Your stock certainly has been a sizzling performer.

Mark Ernst, the H&R Block chairman and CEO. Thank you.

ERNST: Thank you.

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