Apex, N.C. — When a Wake County man didn't receive his tax refund check in the time promised and he couldn't reach his tax preparer, he called 5 on Your Side for help.
Dale Rea had his taxes done at a Jackson Hewitt franchise inside the Fuquay-Varina Wal-Mart. His refund of $7,375 was supposed to arrive within four weeks. When that didn’t happen, he went back to the tax office, but the office was gone.
Five on Your Side has received a couple of complaints about that particular franchise group, which happens to be in the middle of a legal battle with the federal government. This case isn't tied to that battle. But for Rae, it was a battle all the same – to track down his refund check.
Rea also tried calling Jackson Hewitt’s phone number, but he got only recorded messages.
“I just want to crawl through the phone and get ahold of that recorder,” he said.
When Rea went to Wal-Mart to find out what happened to the tax office, store officials said they had no affiliation with Jackson Hewitt.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute, these people came and set up shop in your store and you're telling me you don't have any idea who these people are?’” he said he asked the store officials.
Rea checked with the IRS and was told the check had been deposited in Jackson Hewitt's account weeks earlier.
“It's hard telling where my money is sitting,” he said. “It's sitting somewhere drawing someone interest. And it's not me.”
That’s when he turned to 5 on Your Side.
“I've reached the end of my limits,” Rea said. “At this point, I'm mad.”
Five on Your Side had a similar experience with Jackson Hewitt. WRAL called office after office. Sometimes we got the same recording. Sometimes we got one saying the number is disconnected, and sometimes we didn't get an answer at all.
The Jackson Hewitt franchise Rea used is owned by Smart Tax of North Carolina. In April, the federal government sued Smart Tax in three states and two other franchise operators.
The suit claims the companies based returns on phony W-2 forms, used "absurd" tax deductions and got kickbacks from customers. Soon after, Smart Tax agreed not to take on any new tax business.
But, finally, while WRAL was interviewing Rea, Jackson Hewitt called.
“Wow, a real-life human being,” Rea said.
Cheryl Dumpson from the local Jackson Hewitt headquarters told Rea he could pick up his check the next day.
Dumpson said the company is having problems with its r new phone system, which is why customers consistently get the recordings.
As for Rea’s check, she said the company called his house twice, but he doesn’t have voice-mail, so they couldn’t leave a message.
Wal-Mart didn’t return 5 on Your Side’s call.
If you have a problem with your tax service, you can file a complaint with the N.C. Commissioner of Banks or call 919-733-3016 and request to speak with Consumer Affairs.
You can also file a complaint with the N.C. Attorney General's Office or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.