John Hewitt Talks Taxes, Latest Company

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” said Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at Liberty Tax Service. The company, started by John Hewitt, has been helping people with their taxes since 1997. But, the entrepreneur behind the business didn’t start there. In fact, he has about 40 plus years in the industry and helped start one of the more well-known tax companies in the U.S. today. John Hewitt first started to become involved with taxes while a student at the University of Buffalo in New York.  “I started by taking a course at H&R Block while still in school,” said Hewitt.  “It was the most interesting course I’d ever taken.” After college, Hewitt went to work at H&R Block, beginning in the late 1960s. He held various positions throughout his time there, he says, eventually becoming the youngest regional director at the firm. Years later, Hewitt’s father developed a program that has shaken up the tax industry. The two came up with a way to use computers to prepare taxes, however, there “wasn’t enough of a market” for the product.THE CREATION OF JACKSON HEWITT Soon after developing the software, Hewitt left H&R Block. Eventually, he and a team of investors bought a local tax-preparation company called Mel Jackson Tax Service -- and later changed the name to Jackson Hewitt.  Under the new name, the company would go on to expand and become one of the top tax firms in the nation. John Hewitt remained with the company until the late 1990s, when the Jackson Hewitt investors decided to sell the company for about $480 million in cash. “I was against the decision to sell, but I only owned small stake in the company,” said Hewitt.  “It was an offer they couldn’t refuse.”THE BIRTH OF LIBERTY TAX SERVICE Soon after John Hewitt left Jackson Hewitt, he decided to focus on building another tax-service company.  In the fall of 1997, Hewitt and four others acquired U&R Tax Depot, a Canadian tax franchisor.  They changed the name to what is now known as Liberty Tax Service and bought a handful of offices in the United States. Today, Hewitt says Liberty Tax service has about 4,400 offices in the United States and Canada and hopes to be the “top firm in the industry by 2020.”  Also, the company launched a new brand called “SiempreTax+.” “We just started a novel concept in the Siempre brand,” said Hewitt.  “It will focus entirely on serving the Hispanic community in the United States.”LESSONS LEARNED Hewitt’s background and experiences at Jackson Hewitt played a big role in the creation of Liberty Tax.  He said one of the biggest lessons he learned came from store ownership.ADVICE TO OTHERS After 45 seasons in the tax business, Hewitt notes one area where he sees many common errors: tax returns.  “People make errors of omission rather than errors of commission,” said Hewitt.  “The key is to keep accurate records of anything related to income.” As for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Hewitt said, “have fun, find something you enjoy, work hard and persevere.  That’s what is most important.”

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