Every year as soon as the ball has dropped in Times Square and the New Year’s signs are taken down, the big tax chains begin swinging into action and opening their doors for their only season of revenue. They aren’t the only ones getting into the tax preparation business. Rent to Own Furniture and Appliance stores, Car Lots, and Check Cashing stores seem to have salepersons who are now able to prepare and file taxes when just last month they were employees hawking their respective products. This presents a danger to the consumer for a few reasons and we will examine those reasons here.
1. Experience and Training
As it is for the average customer walking in to the big tax prep chains, they are dealing with tax preparers who, as smart as they may be, often have little to no experience in the preparation of tax returns. The training for these newbies at best is eight hours of training over a weeks’ period of time. These are school bus drivers, students, retirees, and others drawn to part time work. Having trained some of these preparers, for three of the major tax prep chains, I can tell you that yes, there are talented people in these positions, but there are others who I would argue that they aren’t ready to be paid to prepare a return Tax Preparation Services. The argument I got back from the tax store owners was that they needed warm bodies filling seats and filing returns, capable or not. The goal was always numerical, not accuracy.
However, in the examples of the car lots, check cashing stores and furniture and appliance stores, the person preparing your return may actually have less training than the newbies in the tax prep chains. These preparation services are called, “third party” because while the tax prep chains use unqualified persons every year, their main work focus is the preparing of returns. The other examples are using tax preparation services as a ‘hook’ to get you into the door to buy a Television, Car or to cash your rebate check.
More often than not these ‘preparers’ before tax season were sales people and after tax season will continue to be sales people. Their experience in this aspect of their store is likely less than yours is. You would be better off using Turbo Tax online or one of the free IRS websites to prepare your taxes than going with these guys.
2. They Have a Vested Interest in the Outcome
Any time the person preparing your return benefits should you receive a higher refund, there is an opportunity ripe for fraud, and once you sign that return, their obligation to accuracy ends, and you are on the hook. Some of these stores offer the tax preparation for free to get you in the door, and if they can bump up a refund of $2000 to $4000 thinking you would get the better car, and they would get a better commission in the sale of that vehicle or appliance, your best interest is out the window.