TRAVERSE CITY — Take 26 educated tax professionals, add some extended hours, mix in a heaping dose of the Best of Both and it equals No. 1.
The Kingsley H&R Block office filed more than 13,000 returns in fiscal 2016, making it the busiest of approximately 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail tax offices worldwide.
"I have an awesome staff," H&R Block franchise owner Tony Temple said.
The 13,000 returns combines office visits and online tax preparation through Best of Both, an H&R Block product that allows do-it-yourself clients the opportunity to have a tax professional review a return remotely before it is submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.
"It's basically leveraging technology," Temple said.
The software is how a community with 1,500 residents can have a hand in more than 13,000 returns. On average, an H&R Block office will file 1,200 returns in a tax year, company officials reported.
"We have an amazing franchise community at H&R Block," Senior Vice President Kip Knight said in a press release. "We have committed individuals who are experts on the tax code and who use the latest technology to get our clients the best financial outcome.
"Congratulations to Tony Temple and his staff in Kingsley, Michigan, for using that expertise and technology to file the most 2016 tax returns of any location."
The H&R Block office at 6951 Cougar Trail in the Kingsley Industrial Park saw big increases in online and foot traffic in fiscal 2016. Temple estimated that office clients increased 50 percent, while digital traffic was up 70 percent.
Temple said it all has to do with his staff, which includes four enrolled agents who are licensed to practice in front of the IRS. The enrolled agents also handle audits, even if the client didn't file with H&R Block.
"A lot of it has to do with our tax professionals," he said. "They are experts in the tax code. That, in addition to our latest technology, delivers an outstanding product."
To stay on top of changing tax codes, Temple requires his staff to take 24 hours of continuing education classes a year. Enrolled agents have additional mandated requirements.
"Block has a great educational program," Temple said. "It's a top-notch training system."
Temple said extended hours also allow the office to thrive on both ends of the tax return business.
Starting Jan. 15 and continuing through the first days of April, the Kingsley office is open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. For the final two weeks leading up to the tax deadline, the office is open 24 hours a day.
"It's catering to the client whenever they're available," Temple said.
The extended hours also make the office available to handle clients across the globe.
Online filers can specify using a tax professional in their area to review the return — if that expert has availability. If the client doesn't request local help or a local professional isn't available, online filers go into a database pool that can be tapped by any H&R Block representative.
Temple estimates that 70 percent of his digital clients come from outside of Michigan.
"It's hard to say because there are so many," he said.
Even without the online component, the Kingsley office has grown since Temple opened a franchise in the village in 2005.
Formerly located in a suite in the Village Plaza near Northland Foods, the H&R Block office quickly outgrew that space and spilled into a second suite next door. Temple purchased the former Paradise Meats building just to the east in 2014.
"We didn't have enough room," Temple said. "We acquired the meat market building when it became available and that's worked real well for us."
That's just part of Temple's involvement in the village, where he has been a resident for 17 years. He owned the Kingsley Cafe in the village, but sold it last fall.
Temple has served as school board president the last three years and is board treasurer for youth organization Rock of Kingsley. H&R Block is also active in school functions and made a $5,000 donation to a local St. Baldrick's fundraiser that shaved the heads of two current and one former TV 9&10 News personality.
"I believe in supporting the local community," Temple said. "We really try to keep things local. We couldn't do it without the community support."
Now that the Kingsley H&R Block is No. 1, what does the office plan for an encore?
"We've had that discussion and my staff says we can top that," Temple said. "The fiscal year just started on May 1. We'll see what we can do next year."