Tax service in hot water over preparing returns

FOX 5 I-Team investigates

Tax service in hot water over preparing returns

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ATLANTA -

Every year people pay too much to have tax returns prepared, and usually they are returns that can easily be done for free. But, if you really hate doing your own return, you might want to pay anyway – but only so much.

Lucretia Marshall says she paid hundreds of dollars more that she says she agreed to pay. Whether you're desperate to get your tax refund to pay bills or not, it's your money and there's no point in giving more of it away than you have to.

When the I-Team tried talking with LBS Tax Services on Campbellton, they got a quick "good-bye' from an employee.

Marshall says she hasn't gotten much further since she complained to the BBB that she was "lied to" and "given excuses" by LBS Tax Services over the cost to file her taxes.

She says the LBS tax preparer handed her a Post It note with an estimate of how much her refund would be.

"The sticky said about $2,500, basically around $2,500," said Marshall.

She says the amount didn't seem right and asked LBS how much they were charging.

"At that point I'm told $799. I said, "Oh, no," Marshall said

This single mom pushed back.  She says she clearly negotiated a lower fee for her relatively simple return.

"I said the most I'm willing to pay is $400.

TheI-Teamtalked to IRS licensed tax preparer Bill Nemeth. He says she was right to fight the $800 fee.  

"Typically, we would all agree that that's outrageous," said Nemeth.

In Mashall's Better Business Bureau complaint, she says she did ultimately agree to $450. Weeks later she got her return, and it was a smaller refund than she'd planned.

"They took $821 out," said Marshall.

The I-Team tried talking to the people at LBS Tax Services on Campbellton Road. They did not want to explain how a simple return could cost over $800.  They even went as far as to cover the windows. Marshall says she wrote in her BBB complaint that management admitted to her they overcharged her.  

"She said, ‘Ma'am I agreed to do it for $600.' I said ma'am if you agreed to do it for $600. You took $821," Marshall said.

But since then, she says communication is dead. She is out money that she desperately needs, not for anything fancy, but for real world problems.

On Monday, the Texas Attorney General's Office issued a restraining order against the Florida headquarters of LBS Tax Services. According to the Florida Secretary of State's office, the owner is a man named Walner Gachette. Gachette, according to Georgia records, runs several local LBS locations.  

But, the City of Atlanta has no business permit on record for the Campbellton Road location. The city tells the I-Team they will be investigating the branch office soon.

Here are free filing and in-person options to consider when doing your taxes:

1. Free Electronic Filing Program

2. IRS Free File

3. Free tax preparation sites

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