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Liberty Tax Service offers professional services

statue of libertyBy Molly Doyle
Every business needs to address accounting and taxes, providing an ongoing opportunity for franchises specializing in professional services, but the field is highly competitive. To keep ahead of the curve, franchisees and their staff must keep up-to-date with the latest technologies and, most importantly, put their customer first and ensure they are satisfied with the services provided.

Becoming a franchisee
Liberty Tax Service has 255 franchises across Canada and a head office in Markham, Ont. Its primary service is tax preparation for individuals, businesses and corporations. Once someone becomes a new franchisee, he/she is kept up-to-date through many communication and training tools.

“To become a franchisee, there is an application process tied to your expertise, financial background and history,” says Chris Bushey, director of Canadian franchise operations. “We will work with any interested prospect, but there is also a qualification process. The prospective franchisee and the franchisor must decide if we are the correct fit for each other and determine if we would like to move forward in opening a franchise territory.”

In-person training in the Toronto area involves five days of learning how to run the franchise. New franchisees learn how to get the applicable Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) file numbers, set up their office and find specific sites for best practices in marketing, bookkeeping and internal accounting.

For H&R Block, another tax services company with 389 franchises in Canada, the application process is similar, with an approval period and background and reference check.

“We look to ensure we are getting someone who can keep up with the training and business aspects and will prove they can be an independent business owner,” says Heather Whelan, regional director in charge of franchises. “We offer all of the training that is required internally to manage their business. Then the franchisee director or district manager spends time with them at different points throughout the year to provide information about what they should be focusing on.”

Padgett Business Services, a tax, accounting, bookkeeping and payroll company, looks for different kinds of franchisees, ranging from accountants to salespeople.

“For me, getting into the system was all about using a variety of my skills,” says Scott Furlonger, a franchisee in London, Ont., since 2005. “I knew I loved dealing with small businesses, which were an underserved market. I had experience with marketing and human resources (HR), so I could help our clients out with a lot of aspects of their operations.”

liberty2Back to school
Both H&R Block and Liberty Tax hold a tax school in the fall, traditionally a slow season, to provide both franchisees and their clients with information on how to prepare taxes.

“A course is offered every September to December,” says H&R Block’s Whelan. You start with level one, which is a basic course open to the public. It is structured training with a textbook and exercise book and applies to about 80 per cent of all tax returns filed. Then we offer levels two to five, which cover advanced tax topics. Every franchisee takes a training class each fall with two three-hour sessions over those three months.”

Liberty Tax’s course takes six, eight, or 10 weeks beginning around Halloween and running until the end of the year. Members of the community are also invited to learn how to file tax returns.

“This is also used as a hiring platform for those who find they enjoy this work and would like to investigate employment opportunities at our franchises,” says Bushey.

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