TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A warning if you're paying to have someone else do your taxes this year. Make sure you're closely watching the work they're actually doing.
One Toledo man thought he was being over charged. It turns out the company doing his taxes agreed, after the 13abc I-Team started asking questions. They are lessons everyone can learn from.
Marcus' taxes are not very complicated. Two W2s, social security, no property, no kids. He get the standard deduction. He brought his paperwork to the Liberty Tax on Monroe Street near Detroit in Toledo. His refund was $798 but the check he received when he walked out the door was less than half that amount.
"I said something's not right. I said I'd have to explain this to my mom when I got home. I think my mom is going to be mad," said Marcus.
A closer look at his receipt shows he was charged over $400 to have his taxes done. So after that fee Marcus only took home $390 leaving him confused and upset.
"Feel disappointed with them. I just wasn't happy with them," said Marcus.
"People will come in and say what do you charge? Well I don't know until I get in there," said George Hack with Liberty Tax on Monroe Street.
So what happened here? We went directly to Liberty Tax for answers. Liberty charged Marcus per form used to file his 2018 taxes.
"Whatever forms he needs in his return kinda gives us an idea of what the complexity of his return is," said Hack.
With little complexity, the fee Liberty charged Marcus bothered him.
For anyone in the same situation, make sure you're asking questions as the preparer is doing his or her work. You do not need to sign off on the return if you're not happy with it or not happy the fee.
"They do not have to finish with us. They are not obligated just because they sat down and we went through anything," said Hack.
They're your forms, your taxes, your refund but after you sign off and they're filed it's too late. That's what happened to Marcus but that's not the end of his story. Liberty Tax reviewed his return. Hack says that while they charge by the form, the preparer has some discretion.
"He does have a form on his return that can be complex. What we do is we allow.... we don't allow our preparers to charge any more but we do allow them to bring down, to discount, if they see a form maybe has a price on it but maybe they didn't use the whole form and the complexity of the form didn't justify the whole cost," said Hack.
The company decided to give Marcus some money back.
"Looking at it, I think we should discount down. No question," said Hack.
You can shop preparers. Hack says Liberty won't give you an exact price quote because he says the price depends on the complexity. Customers can get a price range. If the price exceeds that range, question it.
If you're not happy, walk out before you sign and the taxes are filed. There are other options. You can file both your federal and state returns online for free. Don't feel boxed in because you have control over your taxes.
"I was a little disappointed with this, wasn't happy but now the other day I thought about it and let it drop. I won't go with them no more and taught me a lesson. Let it drop," added Marcus.
One more lesson Marcus learned: Your tax preparation fee has nothing to do with your refund amount. It's actually illegal for a tax preparer to base your fee on the refund.