BALTIMORE - From finding your W-2's to tracking down your receipts and crunching the numbers, doing your taxes can really leave you stressed. Baltimore's Colita Dempsey knows that for sure. She says the process left her, "Frustrated, upset, the whole nine."
Dempsey has been feeling that tax time frustration, but it's not because she filed on her own. Last month, she learned a company had filed them without her permission. She says, "I went in on the 28th of January to file my taxes and the young lady at the desk told me they had already been filed and I was like, ‘How in the world did that happen?'"
Lashondra Nash of Baltimore also got a surprise when she was ready to file. She tells ABC2, "I found out they had already been done."
Dempsey and Nash claim Instant Tax branches in Baltimore filed their taxes without permission or their paperwork. Both say the company got their information when they applied for loans. Dempsey explains, "If you signed the loan you were supposed to come back and give them the opportunity to do your taxes."
Both of the women tell us they were willing to let Instant Tax do their returns, but how the company handled it bothers them. They say Instant Tax filed without their knowledge and then had their refunds deposited into a third party account.
And when they were able to get their checks, they discovered instant tax had charged them more than 700-dollars in fees. Nash says, "I was shocked. I was upset."
And she's not alone. Angie Barnett with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland says, "People are all up in arms." Barnett says the BBB has heard complaints about six Instant Tax branches, with people upset about the way their taxes were filed, the price they were charged and where their money ended up. Barnett worries, "It's a pattern that's reflective of either the management of the company or the company as a whole from their headquarters."
Instant Tax is a franchise company, with 22 locations around Baltimore. We went to the two branches Dempsey and Nash visited, but as soon as employees inside saw us, they locked the doors and wouldn't come out to answer questions.
After leaving a business card, we got a call from Nick Vargas, who says he owns all the Baltimore Instant Tax locations. He admits some returns shouldn't have been sent out and blames the problem on new employees added as he expanded from nine stores to 22.
Vargas says customers with complaints are getting the extra fees refunded. Colita Dempsey is one of them. She says, "I still think it was really wrong. You're messing around with peoples' livelihoods; you're messing around with their money."
The BBB isn't the only one fielding complaints. Both the Attorney General's Office and another state agency have heard from angry consumers about Instant Tax. Vargas says between 20-30 customers have been impacted by having returns sent without permission. He says he is going complaint by complaint to make things right and is asking customers to be patient as his business deals with its growing pains.