ACORN members will protest at Liberty Tax offices in more than 60 cities throughout the U.S. and Canada from Tuesday, February 1 to Friday, February 4 to demand that the tax preparer change its sales practices with Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs), which steals hundreds of millions of dollars from low-income communities every year.
With members dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam, ACORN 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 (VITA) sites that are run by community organizations and where lower income families can get their taxes done for free.
On February 1, ACORN members will deliver the organization’s message in person to Liberty Tax’s headquarters in Virginia and present the company with a Customer’s Bill of Rights.
In addition to actions targeting Liberty Tax directly, the group 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. According to ACORN, these particular banks are notorious for gouging lower income consumers in other ways, such as payday lending.
“We are tired of people in our neighborhoods getting ripped off,” said Johnny Clark, ACORN’s National Treasurer. “We have sat down with H&R Block and come to an agreement, and we are at the table with Jackson Hewitt. Now we are targeting Liberty.”
For over a year, ACORN has been waging an aggressive campaign against RALs, which are short-term loans secured by the recipient’s tax refund. Customers are charged extraordinarily high interest rates to get their own tax dollars back from the government just a week or so faster than they otherwise would.
In January the group announced a partnership with H&R Block, in which the largest tax preparer in the country eliminated the administrative fee it charged to RAL customers and improved the disclosures it gives to customers, in order to offer them the lowest cost option first.
ACORN also recently announced that Jackson Hewitt, the nation’s second largest tax-preparer, had responded to the groups’ actions by entering into serious negotiations with the community group to change its practices related to RALs.
ACORN has now begun its campaign against the third largest tax preparer, Liberty Tax, to get them to take similar steps.
This tax season, ACORN is also conducting a grassroots door-to-door outreach campaign to help more families claim their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefits, to warn them about high-cost refund loans, and to let them know about free tax preparation sites which ACORN and other organizations operate.