FOX 2 follow up on a company contact 2 has warned you about for weeks. Tuesday, the Missouri Attorney General announced the state is suing a national tax preparer.
MoneyCo USA has been in the news for weeks after hundreds of angry customers complained. The complaints we heard from match the issues raised in the Attorney General's lawsuit. There are multiple franchise locations in the St. Louis area. At least two of those franchise holders are named as defendants. The lawsuit names MoneyCo USA and its franchise at 8955 Natural Bridge owned by Bedford-Benjamin Investments Company, and the office at 9918 Halls Ferry RD owned by Randy Williams.
The company with headquarters in Memphis, TN has had problems in other cities as well. Delays, hidden fees and mis-information sent taxpayers running to authorities.
The Attorney General's suit alleges the defendants were
- Failing to distribute IRS tax refunds,
- Failing to give consumers copies of their returns and other documents.
- Concealed from some taxpayers the fact that their refund would be deposited into MoneyCo's bank accounts
- Preparation and filing fees were misrepresented
- And charging consumers fees and filing taxes without consent.
The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division head Doug Ommen joins MoneyCo taxpayers in asking for better service.
'The lawsuit that we have filed allows us to go to court to seek an order or injunction from the judge restraining them from engaging in repetitive conduct. Based on the complaints we believe they`ve been involved in. ' Hollis Jennings says the fees were crazy but she was really upset when she got a call from her preparer once the refund check arrived.
'Her fees she took off was five hundred and eighty dollars, and she told me I needed to bring her some more money, or I wouldn`t get my paperwork. So I didn`t take her anymore money and I don`t have my paperwork. So I don`t know how I`m going to go about getting my paperwork. '
The Attorney Generals office will present evidence to support the injunction request at a hearing later this week. Below are some tips from the office on avoiding tax preparation scams.
As part of National Consumer Protection Week March 5-9, Koster warns all consumers to be leery of tax scams, including schemes involving return preparer fraud, phishing and hiding income offshore. As with any scam, he said consumers need to be aware of anyone promoting ideas that seem too good to be true.
Koster said taxpayers should watch out for these common scams relating to taxes:
Return Preparer Fraud
Dishonest preparers can derive financial gain by skimming a portion of their clients` refunds, charging inflated fees for return preparation services and attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. In 2012, all paid tax return preparers must have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) and enter it on the returns he or she prepares. Taxpayers should contact the IRS to see if a PTIN has been issued to their preparer.
Phishing is used by scam artists to trick victims into revealing personal or financial information online. IRS impersonation schemes rise significantly during the filing season and can take the form of emails, tweets, phony websites, phone calls and faxes.
Consumers can be misled by scam artists telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and that they need to provide their personal information to claim it. Scam artists will then use the information they get to steal the victim`s identity, access bank accounts, apply for loans and charge credit or debit charges in the victim`s name.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. Consumers who receive suspicious emails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links. Emails that claim to be from the IRS but do not begin with http://www.irs.gov should be forwarded to the IRS mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phony tax preparers may have confusing or misleading forms to lure consumers to do business with them. Consumers need to read all documents thoroughly and have a clear understanding of what fees they may owe or refunds they shall receive and where the refund is going.
Koster emphasized that during tax season, consumers should check the qualifications of the person doing the tax preparation. Consumers also should be on the lookout for inflated tax preparation fees and be cautious about the promises of guaranteed or inflated refunds.
Taxpayers should get a copy of their tax return from the preparer. He said taxpayers should never sign a blank return and should review the entire return before signing it.