updated 2/29/2012 3:22:43 PM ET 2012-02-29T20:22:43

H&R Block Inc. said it will offer mobile phone users with the Android operating system free tax filing services through April 17.

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The nation's largest tax preparation company said Wednesday it is offering free simple federal and state tax returns to customers who download its tax preparation application for Android phones. It already offers the service to customers who use iPhones, which use a different software operating system.

The offer is part of H&R Block's strategy to boost online tax filings as it competes with rival TurboTax. The company said earlier this month that online customers were driving growth in the total number of tax returns it has processed this tax season. Total returns were up nearly 7 percent from last year, while digital tax returns rose 16.7 percent, led by online growth. Retail tax returns, by contrast, rose by 2.1 percent.

The Android operating system can run on a variety of mobile phones, made by different companies like Samsung. The iPhone software and applications for it only run on phones and tablet devices built by Apple.

H&R Block said its Android application lets customers complete a federal 1040EZ and state tax return by photographing their W-2 and automatically importing that data into the application.

Generally, a the 1040EZ tax form is used by single or married taxpayers who do not itemize deductions, have no dependents and earned less than $100,000 last year.

Block is also offering free 1040EZ filing through April 30 at its retail offices in the Atlanta, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Montgomery, Ala., areas. Its nationwide promotion has expired.

Taxpayers whose adjusted gross income was less than $57,000 in 2011 also qualify for free software through the Internal Revenue Service FreeFile program. Block is among the 15 software providers for that program. For more details, visit the www.irs.gov.

Shares of H&R Block fell 11 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $16.42 in afternoon trading.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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