Tax service accused of filing fraudulent returns

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April 4, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---They promise easy, fast and accurate tax returns...but one Jackson-Hewitt franchisee is accused of doing anything but.

The Justice Department filed a federal lawsuit against Atlanta-based owner Farrukh Sohail for cheating the government out of more than $70 million by making bogus deductions and false claims.

So what does this mean for you?

Well, if you filed your taxes with Jackson-Hewitt in the Augusta-Aiken area, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

However, Ramesh Khosla, the owner of the Augusta practices, says it still unfairly reflects poorly on all of them.

"It's an isolated case," he said. "There are more than 6500 Jackson-Hewitt offices across the country. This was a little more than 100, and one particular person."

The Justice Department says in the filings that employees were encouraged to ignore telltale signs of fraudulent information.

But Khosla insists his employees undergo an intense training process to make sure they detect red flags well before an audit is ever conducted.

"We are very careful of this," he said. "Whenever our customers come in, we make sure we have a process for customers to fill out a data sheet and make sure when we feel misled on anything we let the customer know."

He added that it is the Jackson-Hewitt policy to take responsibility and pay the interest and penalty for a customer if one of their preparers overlooked an error while filing a customer's tax returns.

The lawsuits against the Atlanta-based franchisee also allege that managers and employees at the Jackson-Hewitt franchises received kickbacks for filing fraudulent returns.

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