MADISON HEIGHTS, Va. - An Amherst County woman who paid to have her taxes professionally done said she was shocked when the IRS notified her of an issue with the return and that the return would be audited.
"I told my husband, 'I don't know what to do! We have to file our taxes, it's the law,'" Monica Harris of Madison Heights told WSLS 10. "I didn't know where to go."
Harris said she initially paid a Jackson Hewitt Tax Service location in Madison Heights to prepare her return, but quickly found out there was a problem.
"It was probably less than a week that we got the audit," Harris said.
She said she paid extra for Jackson Hewitt's guarantee to help resolve issues that could arise during the tax return filing process, but when she initially tried to get help from the company, no one responded.
"She said, 'Someone will call you back,' and I haven't heard anything. Haven't heard a word," Harris said.
Harris said she and her husband paid another tax preparer to help them through this ordeal, and also turned to WSLS 10 to help them get in touch with Jackson Hewitt.
"I've already paid for the problem to be solved," Harris said. "I don't feel Jackson Hewitt deserves the money they charged me."
WSLS 10 reached out to Jackson Hewitt, and a spokesperson said, "Jackson Hewitt takes customer service very seriously. We are reaching out to the client today and are committed to finding a full resolution to her complete satisfaction."
Jackson Hewitt also said, “Taxes involve a significant amount of personal financial information; therefore, we do not comment on our clients’ tax returns. While this return was prepared at a franchise location, our client care team worked closely with the client, which we hope has led to a satisfactory resolution for her. We take the accuracy of our work very seriously, stand behind our 100 percent accuracy guarantee, and also offer free IRS Audit Assistance with every return.”
Harris said the company apologized for what happened, and she said they're working together toward a fair resolution. She said her tax refund will likely be delayed by at least six weeks.
"With my husband being laid off, that money was for us to live on and now we're having to struggle," Harris said.
Christopher Miller, an IRS spokesperson, said, "You should choose a tax preparer as carefully as you choose a doctor or a lawyer because, after all, they are dealing with your most personal, financial data and it's important to choose wisely."
Miller offered these words of advice:
Check the preparer's qualifications: "Not everyone has the same qualifications when it comes to doing tax returns. Anyone can be a paid tax return preparer, as long as they have an IRS tax identification number for preparers. However, tax return preparers have differing levels of skill and education and experience. So you want to ask those questions to make sure that they have the education and the background to do your taxes."
Check the preparer's history: "Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check if there have been any disciplinary actions against them or any license status revocation against them."
Ask about service fees: "You really should try to avoid preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund they're going to get you, or who will boast about bigger refunds than their competition. Because then they're simply trying to give you a bigger refund without it necessarily being an accurate refund and that can of course lead to problems."
Find a tax preparer who will electronically file your tax return: "It's the fastest, and safest way when you e-file and choose direct deposit to get your refund."
Review the tax return before you sign it: "Ask questions if something's not clear. You should feel comfortable about the accuracy of your return before you sign it."
Miller also said, "Make sure that the tax return preparer is going to be available. Not only today and tomorrow, but next week and next year because taxpayers may want to contact that preparer after this year's April 17th tax deadline."
Miller added it's important that your tax preparer asks you for records and receipts, and doesn't ask you to sign a blank tax form.
"When you sign a tax return, you're responsible for what's on that tax return, even if someone else did it for you," Miller said.
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