MILWAUKEE -- Tax time can be stressful, but for some people, it has them screaming for FOX6's Contact 6! They want their refund checks now, and when a local tax service didn't respond, FOX6 viewers called Katrina Cravy for help.
Cell phone video taken inside Instant Tax Service near 81st and Appleton last month shows one woman who is not happy, and she let everyone know! The national franchise business promises fast loans and refunds, and customers in the commercial look satisfied - but the cell phone video shows otherwise!
So far, seven people have turned to Contact 6 regarding this office, including Edna Brown. She was there last month to demand a refund. "Everybody else was mad too. So I'm just like 'let me pull my phone out,'" Brown said.
Brown recorded the confrontation and also took pictures and Contact 6's producer asked a few questions. An Instant Tax Service employee told Contact 6 it costs roughly $380 to get taxes done, but those complaining to Contact 6 say they were charged way more than $380. Brown was charged nearly $700! These customers say they weren't told how much until after Instant Tax Service had filed their taxes.
"I think it's a scam. I really, honestly do," Brown said.
After calling several times and getting the runaround about who was in charge, Contact 6's Katrina Cravy went into the office to see for herself. There were no lights on, but once FOX6 came inside, people took off, including the same woman - "Brittany," with whom Katrina Cravy had spoken on the phone. Katrina Cravy asked for the name of the owner, and "Brittany" said she "didn't have his number."
The Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection says beware, especially if the place charges a lot. "Some are not good. Some are downright criminal and/or fraudulent," Bureau of Consumer Protection Administrator Sandy Chalmer says companies can charge whatever they want, but must provide the proper and agreed-upon service.
"As a consumer, you have an obligation to ask 'what are your qualifications? What is your experience? Give me some references.' Because there are people out there who will take advantage of people who are very eager to get their tax refunds," Chalmer said.
When Katrina Cravy showed up at the office, employees asked her to leave. Soon after that, Katrina Cravy was on the phone with Instant Tax Service Manager Dante Berry, after being told earlier Berry didn't work there anymore.
Berry told Contact 6 all customers agree to charges between nearly $600 and $700, and he could provide it. Later he called back and asked Katrina Cravy to resend all the complaints Contact 6 has received - to him at a new email address.
Thankfully, Berry has already taken care of Brown's complaint. "After I had contacted you all and did everything I did, they called me up before the second check even got there. They wrote me out a personal check for $699," Brown said.
Here are the IRS warning signs for bad tax preparers:
- They don't sign the return, or put their preparer ID number on it.
- They don't give you a copy of your tax return, which is what Brown says happened to her.
- They promise larger than normal refunds.
- They charge a percentage of your refund.
The National Society of Accountants says the average cost to file without itemized deductions is $129. You can also file for free on the IRS website. If you choose direct deposit, you should get your check within five days, with a lot less stress.
There are reports the FBI raided an Instant Tax Service just outside Dayton, Ohio. The company's corporate headquarters are based in Dayton. Messages left at that office by Contact 6 were not returned.
CLICK HERE to file a complaint with Contact 6.