Liberty Tax Service

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Liberty Tax Service, Inc.
Public
Traded as NASDAQTAX
Founded Virginia Beach, VA USA, (1997)
Headquarters Virginia Beach, VA USA
Key people
John Hewitt, Chairman, CEO & President,
COO
CMO Martha O'Gorman,
CFO Kathy Donovan
CIO Charles E. Kirkpatrick
Products Tax preparation
Tax preparation courses
Website libertytax.com

Liberty Tax Service is a United States-based company specializing in the preparation of tax returns for individuals and small businesses, it is the third largest tax preparation franchise in the United States. The company began in Canada in 1997 when John Hewitt, co-founder of Jackson Hewitt, acquired a Canadian tax franchisor, U&R Tax Depot. In 1998, the company became Liberty Tax Service and opened 5 offices in the United States.[1] Liberty Tax Service is the primary subsidiary of Liberty Tax, Inc., a NASDAQ-traded company.

Liberty Tax Service appeared on Forbes "Top 20 Franchises for the Buck" in 2012.[2] Liberty Tax Service is well known for its wavers, people in Statue of Liberty costumes and Uncle Sam costumes, used as a form of guerilla marketing.[3][4][5][6][7] On October 28, 2011, a flash mob of costumed Lady Libertys danced in Times Square to promote Liberty Tax Service and celebrate the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.[8][9]

Products and services[edit]

  • Assisted Tax Preparation Services – Consumers may choose to visit from more than 4,000 locations in the United States and Canada.
  • Online Tax Filing Services – Consumers may select from one of the companies online websites:
    • Liberty Online – free (basic) and fee-based (deluxe and premium) editions for homeowners and small business owners, respectively. The difference from eSmartTax.com is the ability for consumers to continue filing the return at a Liberty Tax office if the person runs into an issue requiring professional assistance
    • eSmartTax – free (basic) and fee-based (deluxe and premium) editions for homeowners and small business owners, respectively
    • DIY Tax – free portal for simpler tax returns
    • HealthcareTaxInfo.com – focuses on supporting consumers with Affordable Care Act compliance
  • Financial Products – Consumers may elect to receive a Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL), Refund Anticipation Check (RAC), if eligible.
  • IRS Approved Course Provider – conducts training for tax professionals with basic and advanced courseware to maintain professional competency

CEO & Founder[edit]

A typical location in a strip mall in Hillsboro, Oregon

John Hewitt began his career at H&R Block as a tax preparer in 1969 and was later promoted to regional director of 250 offices. In 1982, he went on to found Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, which he grew to over 1,300 offices until it was sold for $483 million in 1997.[citation needed]

Awards[edit]

Entrepreneur magazine has ranked Liberty Tax Service on its “Franchise 500” list of best franchise opportunities since 1998. Liberty Tax Service is the only tax franchise on the Forbes magazine’s “Top 20 Franchises for the Buck.” (2012) [10] In July, 2011 Vetrepreneur magazine named Liberty Tax on its "Military Friendly" franchise list. In its Summer 2011 issue, Small Business Opportunities magazine ranked Liberty Tax one of the "75 Hot Franchises to Get Into Now."[citation needed] In June, G.I. Jobs named Liberty Tax Service on its list of "Military Friendly" franchises.[citation needed]

Olive Tree Publishing, Inc., the publisher of the Black EOE Journal, the Hispanic Network Magazine, and the Professional Woman’s Magazine, announced that Liberty Tax Service has been recognized in their publications the past three years. Liberty Tax Service is the only tax service that was included on the list of "25 Top Franchises for Hispanics" in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 published by Poder, formerly Hispanic Enterprise magazine.[citation needed]

Criticism and legal actions[edit]

Liberty tax has been the subject of a lot of criticism related to their business practices. Many of these have become the subject of legal actions by former franchise owners and some State Attorneys General:

  • Liberty tax makes use of "sign wavers," people dressed in costume actively advertising for nearby franchises. They have come under criticism for violating zoning regulations,[11] disrupting traffic [12][13]
  • Liberty tax was sued by the State of California for promising its customers speedy tax refunds while failing to disclose that they were actually taking out high-interest bank loans on their behalf subject to finance charges and debt collections, a state appeals court has ruled in upholding a $1.3 million judgment against the tax preparation firm.[14][15]
  • Liberty Tax franchises have been the subject of a Class Action suit in South Carolina, the suit claims that the firm inflated business expenses and produced false information about charitable donations and that the Liberty Tax Service office they hired did not follow through with a guarantee to assist them during the audit process. The suit claims that Liberty Tax had a plan or a scheme to increase their profits by filing false, fraudulent or inappropriate forms.[16][17]
  • Liberty Tax has been accused of engaging in Predatory Lending targeted at low income and military families. The alleged abuses relate to what's known as refund anticipation loans (RAL). An RAL is a high interest rate short-term loan secured by a taxpayer’s expected tax refund, and designed to offer customers quicker access to funds, rather than waiting for their tax refund from the IRS. The New York State Division of Human Rights in 2008 filed a complaint against Liberty Tax Service and others, seeking to limit the tax preparers’ ability to market RAL. According to DHR's court filings, military families and ethnic minority families have found themselves in deep debt having to use their tax-refund and savings just to keep up with interest payments that can balloon up to 700% annualized when they get RAL. [18]

References[edit]

External links[edit]