12 On Your Side: BBB investigating Instant Tax Service

By: Elizabeth Owens Email
By: Elizabeth Owens Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A local tax preparer company is back in the news after viewers recently contacted News 12 On Your Side.

We first told you about Instant Tax Service around this tax season last year. An on your side investigation revealed the company had not filed some customers' taxes and were charging them filing fees.

Now people are complaining employees are giving them misleading information that's leaving them broke.

Appolina Bert says she went to Instant Tax Service after watching an advertisement about their loan program. She says she went to the office on Peach Orchard Road to get a $300 loan.

"She handed me a check for it and I said, 'OK what's the interest for it?' And she said no interest, only the preparer's fees," Bert said.

Those fees? A whopping $558 just to submit her federal taxes. Bert says the employee told her as long as she paid the loan back by Jan. 16, then they would not file her federal taxes and charge the preparer's fees.

Bert says she went in to pay off her loan on Jan. 16.

"They said, 'You need to talk to the manager.' They typed some things into the computer and said, 'Actually your taxes have already been sent off,'" Bert said.

She says they told her they would deduct $558 in fees from her tax returns.

News 12 obtained the loan document which states: "Borrower may, at any time, without penalty, prepay all or any portion of the outstanding principal balance."

12 on Your Side went to talk to employees at Instant Tax Service after the franchise owner refused an interview. Employees locked the front door and went into the back of the building when they saw the News 12 crew.

Yonathan Michael, the franchise owner, agreed to a sit-down interview with News 12 after Liz OWens placed several calls to his corporate office.

Here is part of the transcript from that interview:
News 12's Liz Owens: "When do you guys actually send the paperwork off to the IRS?"
Franchise Owner Yonathan Michael: "Well, 17th of January."
Owens: "They told her they already sent the paperwork in on the 16th. Is that even possible?"
Michael: "Well it's not really possible, but I don't know. A lot of 'he said, she said.'"
Owens: "Is that what you would normally charge? $558 for the basic?"
Michael: "Well, it's not $558. There's a computer glitch."
Owens: "We did add it up and it is $558."
Michael: "Well, like I said, I'm willing to work with the client. There's got to be some sort of misunderstanding."

Michael says he is investigating Bert's case and some of his employees may be disciplined. He decided to refund Bert her money after we contacted him about this story.

"Immediately when he heard from the news channel, he called me within minutes of speaking with you," Bert said.

The Better Business Bureau of the CSRA is investigating Instant Tax Service and has removed their B- rating until they find out more information on the company. The BBB has also alerted the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.


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