The IRS indicates that 80% of taxpayers will use a professional service or software to file their taxes this year. If you are going to hire a tax preparer, BBB advises you choose a trustworthy business.
Dozens of complaints were reported to BBB Serving Greater Cleveland in 2011 about tax services and unhappy filers have already started reporting problems in the early weeks of 2012.
One local business, Get Money Tax Service (Get Money), tops the list with 20 complaints from clients reporting disputes about fees and the quality of the tax preparation service.
Get Money promoted “holiday advances” with flyers that claimed, “Get Money Tax Service is offering cash up to $1,000 TODAY.” Its website also offers “Fast Money” and “...the highest percentage of advance approvals...” with “...no interest charges...”
In mid-January, BBB began getting complaints from Get Money customers concerning errors in returns, being charged a higher fee than was originally discussed, returns filed without authorization, and poor customer service.
Get Money has responded to all complaints and recently met with BBB officials to address the issues raised in the complaints. The company claims all customers are aware of the fees and have given permission to have their taxes filed in order to get refund advances.
Get Money is owned by Senayt Fekadu. Fekadu previously owned several Instant Tax Service offices in the Cleveland area. Instant Tax Service generated similar complaints before Fekadu closed her offices and transitioned to doing business as Get Money Tax Service.
The “GetMoney Holiday Advance” agreement is handled by NTS Financial. Fekadu told BBB she owns this business. Although this document states there are no interest fees charged for advances, there are “processing fees” ranging from $10 to $30 based upon the amount of the advance. Get Money did not consider these advances to be refund anticipation loans. The Ohio Department of Commerce generally considers processing fees to be interest charges which would require the business to have state licensing. Get Money does not currently have the required licensing and BBB could find no record of NTS Financial with the Ohio Secretary of State.
When choosing a tax preparation service, BBB advises:
Ø Choose a business that offers professional service with an established record of doing business in the area. Get referrals from family or friends and check the company’s BBB rating at cleveland.bbb.org.
Ø Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should be a certified public accountant, tax attorney, enrolled agent or certified E-file provider. Make sure the provider has a PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number).
Ø Read the contract carefully and get copies of all signed documents for your records.
Ø Never sign a blank return.
Ø Keep copies of all receipts and other important documents as a safeguard in case the tax service abruptly closes before your return is completed.
Ø Think about accessibility. Tax services that set up shop only during tax season may be difficult to find if you are audited or the IRS find errors in the return.
Ø Refund Anticipation Loans (RAL) can come with hefty fees. If you need quick cash and agree to one of these short-term loans secured by your refund, get a written contract that explains the terms. The Ohio Department of Commerce has more information about RAL’s at http://www.com.ohio.gov/fiin/docs/fiin_DFIRefundAnticipationLoansRALFinal.pdf
Ø If you file electronically and agree to have the refund directly deposited into your bank account, you should get your refund within two weeks or less. If your income is under $50,000 a year or you are over 60 years old, IRS volunteers will not only help you file taxes free, they’ll also prepare them free as well. You can look up free tax prep in your area at the IRS website.