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Steven M. Doletzky, Liberty Tax FranchiseeThe United States has sued three men who operate Liberty Tax Service stores in stores recruited homeless individuals, promising to get them welfare, and the then filing fraudulent tax returns in their names. The Justice Department seeks to shut down as many as 15 stores operated  by the three and to recoup fees ranging from $650,000 to $1 million.

The Justice department wants to permanently bar the men, Steven M. Doletzky, Michael A. Garno and Michael A. Bass, from preparing federal income taxes for others. They are being accused of fee gouging, preparing returns based on pay stubs, claiming expenses clients did not know about and failing to present clients with copies of the return.

Doletzky is a former Liberty area developer who also once owned stores in Michigan.

In 2012 and 2013, he conducted training for Fanatic University, partially funded by Liberty, which approved training material. Liberty no longer contributes, but Doletzky markets himself as the founder and still sells courses to Liberty franchisees. A registration page for a January 3 webinar given by Doletzky had a recommendation from Liberty chairman and former CEO John Hewitt highly recommending the session. Since 2014, Doletzky has been CEO of Unified Partners, once a wholly owned Liberty subsidiary, which was established to focus on the sale of health insurance to the chain’s franchisees after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Doletzky was accused of recruiting homeless people in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area from places where they congregated, such as homeless shelters and the Salvation Army center. He allegedly obtained vans to transport them to stores. Fake returns were prepared and filed for them and most of the refunds went to Doletzky through his former business, Tax Professionals Largo. The government claimed the homeless were given $25 in cash each food and beverages.

The Justice Department’s complaint provided several examples of alleged fee gouging. In one example, an individual who received a $6,500 refund was charged a $1,500 fee. The men are also accused of sharing Preparer Tax Identification Numbers with individuals who did not have or could not obtain them.

The trio allegedly improperly clamed education and Earned Income Tax Credits on hundreds of returns. Donetzky’s stores allegedly prepared more than 500 returns that claimed education tax  credits even though no copies of Form 1098-T needed to document the credit existed for the years claimed. Gano’s stores prepared more than 450 such returns and Bass’ stores more than 300. The trio also allegedly falsely reported the preparers had such forms.

Doletzky owned or controlled five Liberty Tax stores through his Tax Professionals Largo business. He hired Bass as a preparer and store manager and by 2017, Bass owned at least one other Liberty store in St. Petersburg; five in Largo, Fla.; and one in Pinellas Park, Fla. He owned his stores through Bad Wolf Taxes & Accounting. Garno attended training classes taught by Doletzky in 2013. He purchased one of Deltzky’s stores in 2015 and two more stores in the St. Petersburg area by 2017.

 

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Tuesday, 10 April 2018
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