Many, many moons ago, I went to get my taxes done at one of those famous places. Like, THE most famous one. We had hit a couple of major milestones (buying our first house was the biggest) so it seemed the right time to graduate from the 1040 EZ, do-it-yourself form.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect THIS. My tax preparer was completely incompetent. He was so nervous he was literally trembling. He mumbled and stammered so badly I could barely understand him. And he gave terrible advice, such as “You live in Ohio but you work in Indiana? Oh, it will all even out.” Even I know that, if the city tax in Indiana is 0.9%, and in Cincinnati it’s 2.1%, it’s NOT going to “even out.”
But I was polite (shell shocked, really), paid the guy, and left. Then, I came back the next night and demanded that the branch manager re-do my forms. Believe me, there was a difference – a difference that would have led to penalties.
So, this article in the Consumerist wasn’t really shocking. It’s been 20 years since that incident. There have been so many advancements in software and technology (they have this thing called The Internet now) but one weakness remains: the human element.
An undercover investigation went, um, undercover at 29 different tax places and found all kinds of lapses in the system. Misusing earned income tax credits (EITC), ignoring side income, using incorrect forms, questionable deductions, not understanding the tax software, randomly filling in boxes to see if it magically resulted in less tax owed, and on and on. Sometimes these were honest mistakes…sometimes they weren’t.
Anyway, caution. If you think you are working with an incompetent or dishonest tax preparer, you owe it to yourself to do something about it. Or, you will owe it to the IRS, because if you end up getting caught, YOU’RE the one on the hook, not the tax preparer. So, check out the horror stories in the original piece, share any horror stories of your own at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!
My favorite line of the article: “When she went into a payday loan place to get her taxes done…” Yikes.