Roberta Elliott works as a dishwasher and busser at a restaurnt in Brunswick County, and is the sole breadwinner for her family of five, since her husband lost his job in construction. She went to a local tax preparation company for help with her taxes this year, only to have the woman she hired make a big mistake on her tax return.
“I knew she was wrong. I kept trying to tell her she was wrong, the only thing she'd tell me is how tired she was, and she'd explain it later," said Elliott.
The tax preparer accidentally added Roberta's tips twice, making her annual income appear higher than it actually was, and significantly lowering the amount of her tax return. Though Roberta thought there was a mistake, she did not figure out what it was until the next day after she had already signed her tax returns and submitted them to the IRS.
Roberta had to file an amended return, which means a huge delay in getting the $4,500 refund she desperately needs.
“I asked them, I said, ‘I don't think this is fair. I don't think this is right. It was your mistake. I had to point it out to you. You give me the prep fee back, but still, that doesn't help my family." Roberta's family was in the process of moving when this happened, and needed the tax return money for first months rent and a security deposit. Thanks to the delay, they may have to move back in with their parents in West Virginia.
The tax preparation company apologized for the error and gave Roberta a full refund for preparing her taxes, but that does not come close to the $4,500 she was counting on from the tax refund. Local CPA's WWAY consulted about her dilemma said there is not much else that can be done.
"It's just an unfortunate situation that it's not something that's fixed very quickly and very easily,” said J. Wesley Casteen, CPA. "Most preparers are going to file returns electronically, and once those returns are filed electronically, they are submitted and they are done, there's no way to bring them back out of the system.”
While you may think that the person or company you hire is a responsible for a mistake on your returns, in the eyes of the law, it's up to you to ensure the information on your returns is accurate. If you have any doubts, like Roberta did, do not file your returns until you get your concerns resolved.