Tax Pros customers complain of high fees

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  WREG has been getting phone calls and emails from Tax Pros customers upset about high fees and possible errors on their returns.

It seems like our newsroom gets flooded with tax preparation complaints about one company or another every year.

So, the News Channel 3 Investigators looked into what steps dissatisfied customers can take.

Plus, WREG discovered a new approach some cities are taking to combat these very problems.

Erika Roberts filed her tax return through the location of Tax Pros on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

When she went there last week to pick up her refund, she says she was surprised by the total.

"It shows through the IRS, $5349," Roberts told WREG.

However, Roberts' refund check was $4,087, A difference of more than $1200.

Roberts told WREG when she inquired about the difference with a Tax Pros employee, "She said well the bank charges transmitting fees and we charge $550 for self-employed."

A licensed cosmetologist, Roberts says she's never paid $500 in tax preparation fees before.

She also says it was her first time filing with Tax Pros.

It started when Roberts got a $300 advance from the company in January, so she expected for that, plus a $99 fee to be deducted from her refund.

But she says from the beginning, she was never able to get clear answers about costs.

"I still haven't gotten written information of how much my fees were, it's been all verbal."

Roberts says she also hasn't been able to get a full copy of her return.

She showed WREG a total of four pages she says Tax Pros provided.

Customers have made similar complaints on Facebook and to WREG.

The News Channel 3 Investigators met off camera with Tax Pros General Manager Margaret Johnson.

She explained, for the customers who got advances, the fee depends on the amount of money they received.

Johnson says tax preparation fees range from $75 to $580, depending on the complexity of the return.

Plus, everyone pays a bank processing fee, which is also a couple hundred bucks.

When asked if Tax Pros considered that excessive, Johnson said no, due to the "types of services" they offer, like being able to represent a client during an audit (using Enrolled Agents).

"I've never been done like that before," said Roberts.

Taxpayers who have problems with preparers can file a complaint with the IRS.

If there are errors on the return, a consumer can file an amended version.

Roberts is planning to do both, she's already talked to another preparer.

"He got me more back and he said it's something going on and it's not right."

WREG found some cities taking protections for taxpayers a step further. For example, New York and Chicago have a Consumer Bill of Rights.

In Chicago, tax preparers must disclose all fees up front and in writing.

In New York City, paid preparers must post signs disclosing any costs and fees. Failure to do so could lead to a violation and fine.

Maryland, California and Oregon have also adopted paid preparer standards. There's also a state law in New York.

Tax Pros told WREG customers can get a copy of their return, and an invoice with an explanation of the fees.

The company previously had an "A-" with the Better Business Bureau.

That rating is now under review. The BBB says it plans to sort out complaints made against the corporate owned offices versus the franchise locations.

The BBB says it had more than 140 inquiries into Tax Pros last month, and three people filed complaints.

Those complaints also centered around high fees and no paperwork.