WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- In tonight's Troubleshooters report, a Leland man is less than satisfied with JK Harris. You may have seen the commercials for the tax resolution company offering to help you settle your debts with the IRS.
Bill Childers paid JK Harris $5,000 to help him settle a six-figure debt with the IRS. He says what little the company did he could have done himself, and it did nothing to reduce what he owed Uncle Sam.
"I saw their ad on TV like everybody does, and I said, 'Well, I'll give them a shot and see what they can do for me,'" Childers said. "So I called them up, and they said, 'Oh, no problem. We'll fix it for you.'"
Childers went to the company's Wilmington office, a non-descript room in the Murchison Building downtown, and signed a contract. He paid $5,000 for JK Harris to negotiate with the IRS on his behalf.
"My situation with the IRS kept going down hill," Childers said. "JK Harris had done nothing on my behalf. The only thing they did at the end of 12 months was file an installment agreement that I did not want filed."
In fairness, an installment agreement is what Childers agreed to, according to his contract with JK Harris, but he said he was under the impression the company was going to negotiate his debt down to a more manageable amount. So why didn't they?
"Income taxes are owed, and if they can be paid within ten years, then the tax payer usually does not qualify for an offer and compromise," said Bill Wandel, a JK Harris licensed tax representative.
JK Harris said the IRS will only compromise on the amount that's owed if the tax payer has a true hardship, like a major illness, unemployment or bankruptcy. If you have any assets of worth, including equity in your house, automobiles, even your IRA, the IRS will likely ask you to liquidate them to pay your debt.
While commercials for tax resolution companies may lead consumers to believe the companies can make miracles happen, Childers says be skeptical.
"They play on people's fears," he said. "People get a letter. They get scared, and the first thing you see on TV is JK Harris: 'We'll help you with your problem.' They can't help you. There's nothing they can do for you."
If you are in over your head with the IRS, know that you can do a lot of the negotiating with the IRS yourself for free.
Childers isn't the only person who's had problems with JK Harris. There are 849 complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau, but representatives for JK Harris were quick to point out, that represents only one percent of the company's client base.