Save Me Steve: Tax Prep Red Flags - Dallas News |

Save Me Steve: Tax Prep Red Flags

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With the start of tax season comes the complaints. It's time to learn from each other's mistakes to avoid getting ripped off.

"Steve, the tax place had me set up my refund direct deposit into their account, that way I wouldn't have to pay money up front. They said they would send me a check for the difference. Now I can't find these people and I have no money."

No dollars… and no sense either. This is a huge red flag. Giving someone else access to your refund up front is a horrible idea. If you do ever see that money -- and that's a big "if" -- there is no way to control whether or not the correct amount will come your way. Bad, bad, bad idea!

If you don't have the cash to pay for tax prep up front, either consider doing your taxes yourself or see if you qualify for free tax prep help through the IRS vita program. If you make less than $52,000 a year, you qualify.

"I was promised a free tablet computer for doing my taxes with "Company X." I didn't get the free tablet and I haven't heard from them since."

What is it about "free-gift-with-purchase" that renders us mindless? I want you to look around the room. If you are surrounded by overly logoed freebies it's time to take your drink out of the free koozie and end the trend today.

Here's a little free-gift with no purchase required -- my two cents. If you want a tablet computer, work hard, save up for one and buy it yourself. I can almost guarantee you the one you would have gotten had this deal been for real wouldn't have been worth more than $50 or $60 anyway.

"I tried a new place this year because it was so convenient -- right in the food store. I paid the man but now his office (folding table and chairs) is gone. Where is my refund?"

Most tax places are seasonal, I will give you that. But a card table and folding chairs at the supermarket, Laundromat or hardware store would not be my choice for a tax prep company. I go to a CPA who is a former IRS agent and he charges the same – if not less -- than what many of you tell me you're paying at these fly-by-night places. And guess what, I never get ripped off!

Here's the worst part. This "company" you used will not be easy to track down, generally because they will do business under one name and be registered under another. And if you think you're going to complain to the store in which they set up shop, think again. Almost always there is little to no affiliation.

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