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Updated: Thursday, 08 Mar 2012, 7:16 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 08 Mar 2012, 7:16 PM EST
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Instant Tax Services has been in business in Fort Wayne on South Calhoun for around two years. But, several complaints filed against it, two of which are unresolved, have the Better Business Bureau (BBB) giving it an 'F' rating.
"Most complaints are about when they're going to get their tax return and about the amount they were told they would be charged and the amount they ended up getting charged," Mike Coil with the BBB, said.
One Fort Wayne woman, who we'll call Sarah because she doesn't want to use her real name, said Instant Tax added a lot of fees that they couldn't explain. She went in to get her taxes done in January.
"I asked what their fees were first and the guy told me a hundred some odd dollars," she said.
Sarah gave him her information. As he was putting it in a computer, Sarah said the computer system went down. About 30 minutes later, Sarah said a different employee told her the fees were around $600.
"I said, 'Well, I don't want to file with you guys,'" Sarah recalled. "He took my information and when he saved it, he actually was filing my return."
She ended up paying $660.84 in different fees.
When Sarah contacted the BBB, she said Instant Tax finally called her back. She got around $100 back, but not all of the other fees she said were hidden.
"I went ahead and settled with that, but I'll never come back," she said.
Coil said other people have said they were told it's a $299 fee to file a return, but then after other fees. they end up paying $600 - $700.
"[Instant Tax] came in and we talked to them about their disclosure to consumers because it is very vague as to what the consumer is paying when you look at their sheet," he said.
NewsChannel 15 called Instant Tax on Thursday and simply asked how much it was to file state and federal taxes. We were told it depended on what type of return was being filed, but it would range in price from $99 to $299.
On Sarah's Instant Tax invoice, the Tax Preparation Fee was indeed $299. But, Instant Tax did not mention any additional fees to NewsChannel 15 on the phone.
These are the fees broken down on Sarah's statement:
Check Fee: $20
Account Processing Fee: $39
Finance Fee: $0
Technology Fee: $24.95
Refund Estimate Fee: $19.90
Tax Preparation Fee: $299.99
E-file Fee: $59
Bank Documents Fee: $81
Transmission Fee: $17
Service Bureau Fee: $100
That all adds up to $660.84, which is $360.85 more than $299.99 quoted as the cost to file taxes.
NewsChannel 15's Alyssa Ivanson also went into Instant Tax Thursday to ask about the fees. The first employee Ivanson asked said people are filing for a $99 fee that has to be paid up front. When asked about hidden fees added in, she said, "My clients know what I charge them. I can only speak for myself."
She said Suzan, the person in charge, was on her way in. Later, Suzan told Ivanson the highest fees will go is $661.
Ivanson read Suzan this quote from the BBB's website: "BBB file experience shows a pattern of complaints alleging that their tax return was less than expected due to fee retained by the company."
"We're not the cheapest as far as fees go, but if anyone complains, we check the file and if they didn't agree to it, we reimburse them. But, if they signed and agreed, then it's a contract," was Suzan's response.
Suzan explained that around Christmas, Instant Tax will give out loans to people who need cash fast. The deal to get the loan is that the person has to file his or her taxes there.
"Anyone can get a loan from $50 to $1,000 and if you take it, you have to come back and file taxes. Once you take the loan, even if it's $50, you have to come back. We reserve the right to do that," she said.
Sarah, the victim, said she didn't need a loan, but Instant Tax gave her a $50 check to "hold her over" for if she got approved for a rapid refund.
"They give loans and then you get stuck paying $600 to $800 dollars. My sister had to pay $1,000," she said.
Suzan claims customers get a sheet explaining how all the different fees work. She said if someone's return is less than a $1,000, they would just do an E-file for the $99 preparation fee up-front. If the refund is more than $3,000, it becomes a bank product and the fees would come out of the refund in the end instead of up-front.
"But, if someone says they can't afford that, then I tell them to pay up-front and that way they don't incur bank fees and other fees," Suzan said.
If someone files as self-employed, the total fees could be more than $660. Suzan explained it's hard to document all of the income and if the person is audited, so is Instant Tax. That is why those filing fees would be more expensive.
Suzan added she is working on the complaints given to her from the BBB, and resolved one with a customer on Thursday.
"I try to cooperate with customers the best we can, but they can't just change their mind and decide they don't want to do it. I met with the BBB and they asked me the same questions you are. Why do they have to pay these
fees. Because we don't make them do anything they don't want to. If we made a mistake, we will refund it, but it has to be legitimate, not just because they don't want to," Suzan said.
Coil said Suzan told him one of the unresolved complaints was fixed directly with the consumer. Coil said the BBB hasn't heard that confirmed by the consumer yet. The other unresolved complaint is in the process of being resolved. Coil said when they are both resolved, the 'F' rating would go away.
Coil added that consumers should always do their homework before filing taxes anywhere.
"Find out how long they've been in business, what kind of record they have with the BBB and then they have to give you an estimate of what your taxes are going to be," Coil said. "If they've been in business for a while, have a track record with no problems with the Attorney General and no problems with the BBB, then you can take your taxes there."
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