Republic Bank Steps Up with RAL Funding for Liberty and Jackson Hewitt

... which is kind of ironic, considering both chains were founded by the same man and now are bitter rivals.

Progressive Accountant reports today:

In the wake of the exit of Santa Barbara Bank and Trust from the refund loan business, tax services company Jackson Hewitt has reached an agreement under which Republic Bank & Trust would increase the amount of funds it provides for financial products to 45 percent in the 2010 tax season, up from 25 percent a year ago. The terms extend through Oct. 31, 2012.

The deal follows Santa Barbara's announcement it was selling its business after the Office of the Comptroller refused to approve its lending as part of any financial product program offered by tax preparation companies. Santa Barbara had been expected to provide 75 percent of the capital for products such as refund anticipation loans.

Meanwhile, Liberty reports:

Liberty Tax Service (Liberty) today announced that they have signed a three year agreement with Republic Bank (Republic) (NASDAQ:RBCAA) to have Republic provide tax refund products for over 90% of Liberty’s locations.

“I am pleased to announce we have strengthened our relationship with Republic by entering into a three year agreement that makes Republic the primary originator of tax refund products for our offices,” said John T. Hewitt, Chairman and CEO of Liberty Tax Service. “This agreement ensures Liberty offices will be able to facilitate Refund Anticipation Loans and Electronic Refund Checks for the upcoming season for those customers who want a tax refund product.”

Liberty Tax Service is the fastest growing retail tax preparation company in the industry’s history. Founded in 1997 by CEO John T. Hewitt, a pioneer in the tax industry, Liberty Tax Service has prepared over 7,000,000 individual income tax returns. With 41 years of tax industry experience, Hewitt stands as the most experienced CEO in the tax preparation business, having also founded Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (NYSE:JTX).

At the same time Brandweek is reporting that Jackson Hewitt is planning a big ad push starting Jan. 11:

A new push from Jackson Hewitt, however, is all about the joy of a big refund check.

The TV, print, outdoor and online campaign from Zimmerman Advertising illustrates the notion of large refunds by showing consumers toting around giant checks (like the kind presented at charity events) after visiting Jackson Hewitt. The approach contrasts with rival H&R Block's ad campaign, which touts the firm's ability to answer tough tax questions.

Client marketing chief Debra Dowd, who joined Jackson Hewitt a year ago after serving as head of marketing for Almay Cosmetics at Revlon, among other posts, said that emphasizing refunds was a "really obvious place to go," since research showed that many Americans actually look forward to tax time.

"It's one of the largest checks you'll get this year," she said, noting that the sour economy puts people even more in the mood to get some cash back. A radio ad emphasizes the joy of refunds with cries of "Let's go to a ball game!" and "Let's go to our favorite restaurant!"

Ads breaking on Jan. 11 will also be tagged to show Jackson Hewitt's affiliation with Walmart. Earlier this month, the tax firm announced it was expanding its in-store footprint at the retailer to 1,800-1,900 locations, vs. the previous estimate of 1,500-1,750. Dowd said the Walmart association dovetails neatly with Jackson Hewitt's demographic target: "Main Street Americans."