MILWAUKEE – A Milwaukee woman has spent months making phone calls, trying to track down her 2020 tax refund. The IRS released her money months ago, so where did it go? Unable to get answers on her own, she sought help from Contact 6.
It hasn’t been easy for Amy Seeger to balance her family’s budget while waiting for her 2020 tax refund. Her scheduled refund was $8,200.
“I have three kids. With back-to-school supplies, gas, inflation, life in general, that’s a lot of money to wait for a year and a half,” Seeger said.
The single mother said she spent hours on hold with the IRS, before being disconnected.
“My mom was actually the one that was like, ‘Call Contact 6,'” Seeger said.
So what happened to Seeger’s refund?
When a taxpayer files their return directly with the IRS, their refund is returned directly. Often the taxpayer chooses to receive their money by direct deposit. Seeger used the tax filing program available on the FreeTaxUSA website. His refund was sent to a bank called Santa Barbara Tax Products Group (TPG) to deduct his tax preparation fees.
“Trying to reach someone [at TPG] was just a nightmare,” Seeger said.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has over 1,200 complaints about TPG and gives it an “F” rating.
The owner of TPG is Green Dot Corporation. A Green Dot spokesperson told Contact 6 that TPG works with thousands of tax preparation companies across the United States, large and small. TPG distributed refunds to approximately 13 million taxpayers during the 2021 tax season.
In response to questions emailed by Contact 6, a Green Dot spokesperson said, “The refund is generally available in the taxpayer’s bank account as quickly as if the IRS had distributed it directly to them. If the taxpayer’s bank account information is entered incorrectly or the bank rejects the deposit, delays may occur.”
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The Green Dot spokesperson said “higher than normal call volumes this tax season…have caused some taxpayers to wait longer than normal for help.”
Jason Rose, owner of Acc-u-Rite Tax Service in Milwaukee, says he chooses not to partner with third-party companies.
“Why add an intermediate person into the mix?” Rose asked.
Rose says these banks can add time to a taxpayer’s wait. Its clients pay for their tax services in advance. When it comes to tax preparation websites, Rose warns that backend costs can be higher than if the taxpayer paid upfront.
“‘Free’ is rarely free,” Rose said.
Rose recommends taxpayers read the fine print before using tax preparation software and make the best choice for themselves.
“Depending on the cost, it might be worth it. Maybe you don’t have the money to be able to file taxes right now,” Rose said.
Robert Taylor, director of customer support for FreeTaxUSA, told Contact 6, “We are always worried when one of our customers has a bad experience…”
Taylor says that if a customer selects a product with an associated fee, they “may be able to pay their FreeTaxUSA bill using a portion of their refund. A small percentage of our customers select this option.”
He also says that “the vast majority of those who use this product are very happy.”
Seeger says that after Contact 6 wrote to TPG on her behalf, she finally got some answers. She also got an apology for her difficulties with customer service.
“You really saved us,” Seeger told Contact 6 reporter Jenna Sachs. “Wife [from TPG] so that was great. Knew everything. I knew exactly where my money was.”
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Seeger learned that after his refund was initially sent to an old bank account, TPG sent him a check. Seeger says the check never arrived.
Seeger filed notarized documents indicating that she never received the money. Eighteen months later, she finally got her $8,220 tax refund.
“Now I can get school supplies and I can pay some bills that we’re behind on,” Seeger told Contact 6.
The IRS tells Contact 6 that it “does not monitor banks, debit cards, credit cards, or other financial services companies that may offer taxpayer services…we do not endorse or do not control external suppliers or service providers”.
The IRS “recommends that taxpayers do their research and choose wisely when choosing a tax preparer…”
Green Dot Answers to Contact 6 Email Questions
“TPG (Santa Barbara Tax Products Group) is owned by Green Dot Corporation, a digital bank and fintech company headquartered in Austin, Texas. TPG supports consumers with accessible, value-driven tax financial products, including Refund Transfer. When a taxpayer chooses to use the refund transfer, they choose not to pay for tax preparation up front and agree to have the tax preparation fee deducted from their refund once they are made disposal by the IRS. This provides an attractive option for consumers who want this flexibility.
Do tax preparation services send refunds to TPG?
No, the IRS sends refunds directly to TPG once they have processed the tax return. TPG then deducts the amount owing to the tax preparer, in accordance with the taxpayer’s agreement, and remits the balance to the taxpayer. The refund is usually available in the taxpayer’s bank account as quickly as if the IRS had distributed it directly to them. If a taxpayer’s banking information is entered incorrectly or if their bank rejects the deposit, delays can occur.
How many tax refunds has TPG distributed to filers? And/or how much money?
Figures for the 2022 tax season are not yet available, but are disclosed annually in our public filings. For the 2021 tax season, TPG distributed refunds to approximately 13 million taxpayers.
Which tax preparation services send refunds to TPG?
TPG works with thousands of tax preparation businesses across the United States, large and small.
What can explain the delays in reimbursement? How long does the process usually take?
On average, taxpayers who file electronically with the IRS receive their federal refund within 21 days. The IRS says taxpayers who file paper tax returns could wait up to six months or more to receive their refunds. Certain circumstances could cause delays, which the IRS details here on its website as a resource for taxpayers.
What advice can you give to filers waiting for money?
- More importantly, taxpayers should file their tax returns electronically rather than sending a hard copy to the IRS. This will speed up the process, as the IRS advises that it can take up to six months for paper filers to receive their refunds.
- Taxpayers should verify that all information entered on their return is accurate, especially their name, date of birth, and social security number. If choosing to have a refund deposited directly to a bank account or card, taxpayers should verify that they have entered their account number correctly or risk having their refund delayed or deposited to the wrong account.
- Check the IRS”where is my refundfor refund status updates. Taxpayers should carefully read the information on this site because in some cases some form of government debt may be deducted from their refund and, in turn, they will receive a reduced reimbursement.
Would you like to comment on complaints about the difficulty for registrants to reach TPG by telephone or e-mail?
TPG experienced higher than normal call volumes this tax season, which unfortunately caused some taxpayers to wait longer than normal for assistance. This was partly due to challenges the IRS reported while answering customer calls, resulting in an overflow to our customer service channels. Customer experience and support are a top priority for us, and we are constantly focused on improving and improving our support and customer service channels. To that end, it has become a key area of investment this tax season, and we have significantly increased resources dedicated to our service channels (by more than 50% year-over-year) to better support taxpayers and resolve issues faster. problems of our customers.
Statement from Robert Taylor, Director of Customer Service, FreeTaxUSA
“If one of our customers selects a product or products that have a fee associated with them, they may be able to pay their FreeTaxUSA bill using a portion of their refund. A small percentage of our customers select this option. TPG, a subsidiary of Green Dot Corporation, is the banking partner we use to provide this service through the TPG Refund Transfer offering.The vast majority of those who use this product are very satisfied.Once the IRS processes the a taxpayer’s return, TPG receives the funds from the IRS, subtracts the amount owed to FreeTaxUSA, and forwards the remaining balance to the taxpayer.Typically, the taxpayer’s refund is in their bank account as quickly as it would have been if the IRS had sent it directly to them If the refund is from the IRS or TPG, there are ways to slow down, especially if the taxpayer’s bank information is entered incorrectly or if s he bank rejects the deposit. Our customers who do not use this service receive their statement directly from the IRS. FreeTaxUSA never receives refund money.
“We offer support to all of our customers and can contact TPG on their behalf if they have any questions or concerns.”