A federal judge has ordered Instant Tax Services, the fourth-largest tax preparation firm in the U.S., to cease operations on allegations that the company engaged in “systemic and pervasive tax fraud,” the Justice Department said on Thursday.
Fesum Ogbazion, along with three companies he owns -- the holding company TCA Financial, LLC, ITS Financial, LLC and Tax Tree LLC -- were all named in the suit. The company’s clientele consists mainly of the working poor.
The suit alleges that ITS Financial encouraged franchisees to engage in tax fraud and deceptive marketing practices by granting a franchise to anyone who could afford to pay for it, regardless of whether they had any accounting experience. Franchisees were provided with inadequate training, encouraged to lie to the IRS, and encouraged to charge their customers thousands of dollars in junk fees without their knowledge or consent.
The bogus fees were often deducted from their return checks before customers even received them, therefore keeping customers ignorant of exactly how much they were charged, Reuters reported.
Ogbazion rewarded employees accused of fraud instead of disciplining them, even rewarding one accused fraudster with his own ITS franchise. Indeed, ITS had little incentive to stop the fraud, as it took a large cut -- about 18 percent -- of all franchise gross revenues.