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Liberty Tax Eyes 6,000 More Sites

John HewittLiberty Tax Service, the nation's third largest tax chain, believes that it can add more than 6,000  locations to its national network. That's on top of the roughly, 3,900 franchised and company operations now operating and would make it a more formidable rival for leader H&R Block.

That goal was outlined as Liberty's parent, JTH Holding, filed for an initial public offering. The amount to be raised has not yet been reported in documents filed with the SEC.

JTH expects to achieve the store unit goal by increasing the average number of offices offered by each of its franchisees and through new programs that encourage them to expand their businesses. That includes expansion into undeveloped areas.

Among programs offered are one in which existing store owners can operate in additional territories for one tax season before deciding to acquire those territories.

The company also noted, "We also offer several innovative programs for new and existing franchisees, including a 'no franchise fee' alternative that allows franchisees to minimize their initial investment in exchange for paying higher royalties during the first five years of the franchise term."

Ironically, the JTH filing comes on the heels of Jackson Hewitt Tax Services going private in coming to terms with its lenders following a prepackaged Chapter 11 stint. Jackson Hewitt was founded by John Hewitt, and he left that company when it was purchased by Cendant. Hewitt founded Liberty in Canada in 1997 and moved that operation into the United States when a non-compete agreement expired.

The SEC documents show that as CEO Hewitt received compensation of $1.3 million for the year ended April 30. That included a base salary of $287,790, $712,500 in option awards and non-equity incentive compensation of $303,849.

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