Members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, announced plans to protest at Liberty Tax offices in more than 60 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada from Feb. 1 to Feb. 4 to demand that the tax preparer change its refund anticipation loans practices.
As part of an agressive campaign aganst RALs -- short-term loans secured by the recipient's tax refund under which customers may be charged high interest rates to get their refunds faster -- Acorn said that members dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam will protest at Liberty Tax's storefront locations to warn potential customers about the high cost of refund loans and inform them about nearby Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites that are run by community organizations, where lower-income families can get their taxes done for free.
Acorn said that it will also protest at the headquarters of the banks that work with Liberty Tax to make the refund loans: Republic First Bank in Philadelphia, First Bank of Delaware, and Republic Bank of Kentucky.
John Hewitt, founder and chief executive of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Liberty, said that a meeting with Acorn has been scheduled for Feb. 21. However, Hewitt told WebCPA, "We're sending them a threatening letter today, accusing them of slander and disparagement. We have the best bank disclosures in the business."
"We intend to attack their nonprofit status," Hewitt continued. "Last year they were picketing Block, then they crawled in bed with them and Block paid them a million dollars. They got their pound of flesh from Block, and now they're looking for an ounce from us."
"We have sat down with H&R Block and come to an agreement, and we are at the table with Jackson Hewitt," said Johnny Clark, Acorn's national treasurer. "Now we are targeting Liberty." In January, Acorn said that it announced a partnership with H&R Block, in which Block eliminated the administrative fee it charged to RAL customers and improved its disclosures. Acorn also said recently that Jackson Hewitt responded to its actions by entering into negotiations with the community group to change its practices related to RALs.
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