Liberty Tax Service
|Traded as||NASDAQ: TAX|
Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S.
|Headquarters||Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S.|
CEO Nicole Ossenfort |
COO Shaun York
CSO Ryan Dodson
CMO Martha O'Gorman
CFO Michael Piper
Tax preparation |
Tax preparation courses
Liberty Tax Service is an American 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 five offices in the United States. 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. Liberty Tax Service is well known for its wavers, people in Statue of Liberty costumes and Uncle Sam costumes, used as a form of guerrilla marketing. 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.
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.
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)  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". In June, G.I. Jobs named Liberty Tax Service on its list of "Military Friendly" franchises.
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.
Criticism and legal actions
Liberty tax has been the subject to 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, disrupting traffic 
- Liberty tax was sued by the State of California in 2009 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.
- Liberty Tax franchises were the subject of a class action suit in South Carolina in 2011. 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.
- Liberty Tax has been accused of engaging in predatory lending targeted at low income and military families. The alleged abuses relate to what is 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 RALs. According to the 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 RALs.
- Tax Service Franchise Reviews Archived 2011-10-28 at the Wayback Machine.
- http://www.kansan.com/news/2009/apr/16/life_liberty_tax_service_waver/[permanent dead link]
- Tax firm's 'wavers' not exempt from concern
- Arrest of Dancing Mascot Puts Liberty Tax Wavers In The Spotlight
- Case No. CV F 13-0547 LJO SMS
- Court rules against Liberty Tax Service
- Attorney General Prevails In Lawsuit Against Income Tax Preparation Company
- Five Signs You Might Have a Bad Tax Preparer
- The Ugly Truth about the Tax Preparation Chains
- Predatory Lenders Milking Consumers