St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 12, 2010
– Several St. Louis area residents tell the Better Business Bureau (BBB) they are frustrated and angry over long delays and other problems in obtaining refunds from a nationally known tax preparation service.
In at least two of those cases, each involving tax refunds of more than $7,000, customers report that the Dayton, Ohio-based Instant Tax Service could not tell them where their refunds were or when they might expect them.
“They can’t even tell me where my money is; they can’t tell me anything,” said a woman from St. Louis, who said she is owed a federal refund of $8,000.
Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO, said the BBB reports are “troubling. In many cases, these are consumers who can’t wait weeks for money they had been promised in a few days. They have rents, car payments, utility bills. This is money they need today.”
Some of the complainants said they paid a premium for 48-hour service, but did not get their refunds for two to three weeks. Others said they have yet to receive their refunds, even though the Internal Revenue Service has told them the agency transferred refund payments to an Instant Tax Service bank nearly two weeks ago.
Sam Tsehaye, who operates 15 Instant Tax Service franchises in the St. Louis area, said earlier this week that the more serious cases involve customers who asked for direct deposit of their tax refunds into their own banks or other financial institutions. Tsehaye said the refunds were supposed to go from the IRS to Instant Tax Service’s bank. That bank then was supposed to remove filing fees on behalf of Instant Tax Service and the remainder was to be deposited in the clients’ accounts.
In some cases, though, he said, that did not happen. He said he is working with a new bank this year and the bank has had trouble transferring the deposits. As a result, he said, the bank is mailing the checks to the local Instant Tax Service offices and Instant Tax Service is notifying customers to pick them up.
“In the 11 years I have been in business, I never had this issue,” he said. “We’ve been trying hard to please them and try to work with them and get their money to them as soon as possible.” He noted that he had made a private loan to one of his customers to assist her until her check arrives. He said those who have had problems will have their entire filing fee reimbursed.
Jordan Goiton, a district manager for the franchises, said the company also will make partial refunds to anyone who was promised 48-hour service, but did not get it.
The St. Louis woman said she filed her taxes from the service’s office at 1409 North Grand Blvd. on Jan. 17. She said the IRS told her that it transferred her refund, totaling just under $8,000, to Instant Tax Service’s bank on Jan. 29.
For some reason, the money never made it into the woman’s account. She was so upset when she didn’t get her money last week that she asked a police officer to accompany her to the office, she said. The officer suggested she contact the BBB and/or hire an attorney. “I need to pay my bills,” she said.
A woman from northwest St. Louis County said she filed from an Instant Tax Service office at 10468 St. Charles Rock Road on Jan. 13 and paid for 10-day processing. She said the IRS told her it deposited her $7,300 refund in an Instant Tax Service bank account on Jan. 29, but the money never made it to her financial institution.
Officials there have told her “they don’t know how to get it into my account.” In the meantime, she said, her bills are “piling up. I can’t get any help.”
A man from Highland, Ill., said he paid $280 for 48-hour service from a Granite City office of Instant Tax Service, but it took nearly three weeks to get his $2,000 refund. “You can do it from home for free and get it in three weeks,” he said.
Following are some tips for locating a good tax preparation service.
- Get referrals from family and friends.
- Look for credentials. Ideally, your tax preparer should either be a certified public accountant, a tax attorney or an enrolled agent. Also, find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that holds its members to a code of ethics.
- Read all information carefully to determine such things as costs of the service and how quickly you will get a refund, if one is due.
- Contact the BBB for a Reliability Report at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-645-3300, email@example.com