Henry Bloch, easygoing pitchman and tax guy who founded H&R Block, dies at 96

Amid a mountain of tax returns, Henry Bloch started small but turned H&R Block into a giant
(Courtesty H&R Block )

Henry Bloch, the easygoing pitchman who helped found tax preparation giant H&R Block, died Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., the city where he opened his first storefront tax office.

He was 96 and died of natural causes, the company announced.

Bloch founded H&R Block in 1955 in a tiny office on Main Street with his brother, Richard, angling to take advantage of the vacuum left as the Internal Revenue Service stopped providing free income tax return service. Richard Bloch died in 2004.

Henry Bloch retired as H&R Block’s chief executive in 1992 and as chairman of the board of directors in 2000.


Henry Bloch outside one of his storefront tax offices.
(H&R Block)

“Through his honesty and integrity, Henry embodied the best of American business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. In so many ways, he was ahead of his time and a model for today’s entrepreneur,” said Jeff Jones, president and CEO of H&R Block Inc., in a written statement. “His vision lives on through our H&R Block associates and the many philanthropic organizations that he supported.”

Born July 20, 1922, Bloch was the son of a prominent lawyer. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in mathematics.

Bloch, who flew 32 combat missions over Germany as a navigator in World War II, also was a philanthropist. A foundation he started along with his wife, Marion, supported numerous charitable causes in Kansas City, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute at St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Marion Bloch died in 2013.


“This is an enormous loss to the community and to the Nelson-Atkins,” said Richard Green, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, in a written statement. “Henry Bloch had an unfailing vision and enthusiasm that was borne of genuine gratitude.”

Bloch is survived by four children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.