Brand goes bad for Liberty Tax Service

Posted at 4:38 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 17:32:32-05
You can't miss Liberty Tax marketing characters like those dressed up like the Statue of Liberty, but these days, it seems motorists are speeding up when they spot them, avoiding the tax preparation franchises.
It appears Maryland's top watchdog may have inadvertently taken a bite out of their business.

"We found 1,100 fraudulent tax returns, what we think are fraudulent tax returns, in a very short period of time,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced last week, “and when we looked, they came from seven different businesses---all with the same name---Liberty Tax."       

RELATED: Maryland won't process electronic returns from Liberty Tax

This franchise on Baltimore National Pike isn't one of them, but the co-owners, a mother and daughter team, began to brace for a backlash from the bad publicity.

"We both said, 'What do we do now? Okay, it's seven.  We know the owners," Sue Medicus said.      

Five days later, the comptroller suspended more franchises, and the bulk of them all shared the Liberty Tax name.

"16 more,” said Medicus’ daughter, Anna Berry, “What are you kidding me?  It's heartbreaking, because you put your heart and your soul into this."

Their Catonsville franchise still isn't among those temporarily shut down, but their business has dropped off by 65 percent anyway, and there's far more than that at stake.

"I guess our livelihood,” Medicus said. “If the franchise and the name have no value, what do you do?"         

Despite making telephone calls and sending emails to their past clients, the business remains in a free fall, and less customers mean less hours for their eleven employees.

"We had clients try to refer people to us and they won't come, because they say, 'No way.  We don't know what's going to happen’," Medicus said. "It's shaken me to the corps.  I'm relying on all my faith right now."          

If you want to know if your tax preparer has been suspended or if you want to check on the status of taxes you've already filed, you can contact the Maryland Comptroller's Office Ombudsman at 410-260-4020.

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