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Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has stopped processing electronic and paper tax returns from four more private tax preparers, the latest move in the office's efforts to stop tax fraud and identity theft.

Over the past two months, the comptroller's office has stopped accepting returns from 65 firms at 68 locations, including from 23 Liberty Tax Service franchises.

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The new businesses businesses include Taxpoint Solution Accountants in Upper Marlboro, Tax Care in Baltimore, ICS Group LLC in Lanham and Tax Time LLC, also known as Speedy Tax Service, in Washington.

"It's a shock to us," said Richard Opanuga, owner of Taxpoint Solution Accountants, who said his office submitted returns properly, including with documentation for business expenses.

A representative of Tax Care said his office is cooperating with the comptroller's office "and trying to get it resolved."

Representatives of the other offices could not be reached.

The comptroller said the four additional preparers flagged this week submitted a high volume of questionable returns, including reporting business income when the taxpayers did not own a business, inflating or failing to document business expenses, inflating wages and itemized deductions, improperly claiming dependents and requesting refunds at much higher amounts than in previous years.

Last month, the state announced criminal charges against the former owner of six tax preparation franchises in Baltimore, affiliates of Liberty Tax Inc., alleging the owner and her staff paid homeless and other vulnerable people to use their services, then submitted false returns to claim refunds they could pocket as fees. The owner and her eight employees were charged with preparing false tax returns and conspiring to steal from the state of Maryland.

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