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H&R Block Inc. said Wednesday the number of tax returns it prepared this season dropped 4.9 percent.

The drop was larger than the 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent decline the company forecast last month.

Do-it-yourself online filing and fewer overall returns played into the drop for the nation's largest tax preparer. Through April 9, the Internal Revenue Service said total returns were down 3 percent, while self-prepared electronic returns were up 5.8 percent.

H&R Block's major competition is coming from Intuit Inc.'s TurboTax. That company said Monday total sales through the end of tax season rose 10 percent from last year through April 15.

H&R Block's online returns rose 2.6 percent, while returns prepared through the Free File Alliance rose 4.7 percent. Free File provides basic federal tax software at no charge to taxpayers who earn less than $57,000.

H&R Block shares closed Tuesday at $18.11.

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