Don't be ripped by your tax preparer

April 7, 2008 2:23:33 PM PDT
Before you pay a tax preparer to figure out your return, check out the disturbing results of a new undercover test. "My refund which was exciting was going to be $1400." But Instant Tax Service charged Kelsey Heilman $486.75 in fees - more than a third of her total refund!

"It was not clear to me that there was an option to have my taxes prepared that didn't include fees that were that high," says Heilman.

Kelsey is one of five undercover testers who went to tax preparation sites on behalf of Community Legal Services and the Campaign for Working Families. The testers went to large franchises like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt as well as independent companies.

The study shows that year after year, many commercial tax preparers are, "confusing and abusing their customers with very poor disclosures, high fees, and really costly mistakes."

Kelsey also says her tax preparer failed to tell her a RAL is a refund anticipation loan and for her, carried an interest rate of 85-percent!

Instant Tax Service disputes that and says Kelsey signed the fee disclosure form. Jackson Hewitt and H&R Block also say they clearly disclose all fee information.

Low and moderate-income families can get their taxes prepared for free. Call 215-686-2599 or visit