Taxpayers say income tax returns were filed without permission, exorbitant fees charged

Investigation reveals pitfalls of quick loans

TAMPA BAY - Tiffany Abrams says she simply wanted a $200 'holiday loan,' often used for quick cash around Christmas.  

In the end she was charged a lot more.  "$861 for a $200 loan," said Abrams.  

But after receiving the cash, she was surprised to learn the company had filed her federal taxes without her permission.  
 
The $861 in fees was deducted directly from her tax refund.  But Abrams says she never authorized anyone to do her taxes.  "I never authorized, no, and I have my W-2's right with me. I never took them my W-2s," she adamantly claims.  Tiffany says a December pay stub supplied for the loan was used instead.
 
Sue McConnell is with the Better Busines Bureau.  "Consumers are just surprised.  They run into hundreds of dollars, the amount of fees that are tacked on.  And of course, this is all removed, they don't get that in their tax refund.  Some of the consumers are also complaining that the taxes are done without their knowledge," says McConnell.  
 
Similar complaints have caught the eye of federal prosecutors.  In just the last six months, thirty tax preparers nationwide have been shut down.  
 
The Florida Attorney General's office tells the I-team there were 94 complaints against tax services statewide in the last two years.  
 
In February in Brooksville and Spring Hill, Hernando County investigators searched two LBS Tax Services offices. That investigation continues.
 
So what can you do to protect yourself?  Both the BBB and the Florida Attorney General's office recommends checking with them about complaint histories of tax preparers before you agree to any service.  
 
Also check if the preparer belongs to a state board or association that requires continuing education.  Ask if the business is open year-round.  And shop around for quotes.
 
Top five last-minute tax filing mistakes according to the IRS:
  • ·  Incorrect or missing social security numbers.
  • ·  Incorrect tax entered based on taxable income and filing status.
  • ·  Computation errors in figuring the taxable income, withholding and estimated tax payments, Earned Income Credit, Standard Deduction for age 65 or over or blind, the taxable amount of social security benefits, and child and dependent care credit. Also, missing or incorrect identification numbers for child care providers.
  • ·  Withholding and estimated tax payments entered on the wrong line.
  • ·  Math errors, both addition and subtraction.
To file a complaint about tax-related scams and any other types of fraud contact the Florida Attorney General's Office fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or visit  http://www.myfloridalegal.com
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