(KMOV) -- UPDATE: A St. Charles family says they are still waiting for a tax preparation firm to refund $400 in fees after the company promised to return the money last week.
The owner of the St. Ann branch said, last week, that the matter was a misunderstanding and if the couple was unhappy, the company would refund the fee. The family also received an e-mailed letter, telling the family to return to the St. Ann location for a refund on Friday.
Last Friday, the family said MoneyCo gave them a refund check for $2,615, but told the family to return another day for the fee refund.
Willie Jacobs, the owner of the St. Ann location, wouldn't answer questions over the phone when News4 contacted him on Tuesday afternoon.
News4 contacted Markey Granberry at MoneyCo USA's home office in Memphis, Tennessee. Granberry said he didn't know why the family didn't receive the fee refund, but that he would make sure the family received it.
Juan Sanchez says he went to a tax preparation firm with the intention of getting a free estimate. He later learned the company filed his return and kept a chunk of the refund.
Sanchez went to a MoneyCo USA branch in St. Ann after the company sent him a letter, promising a free estimate. Sanchez filed last year's return with the company when it was called Mo' Money Taxes.
After getting the estimate, Sanchez said he decided to go with another preparer. However, he learned MoneyCo filed his return, anticipating a $3,083 refund. Sanchez said MoneyCo called to say they had a check for Sanchez for $2,615. MoneyCo charged $468 in fees. It's not clear if Sanchez received a refund anticipation loan, but he says he never authorized the preparer to file.
Sanchez understands English, but doesn't speak it well. The second preparer he visited, Ricardo Rodriguez, helped translate.
"His daughter went to the office to have her tax return processed. She sent these documents back for Mr. Sanchez to sign. He just held onto them and he didn't sign them," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez contacted News 4 after calling Money Co on Sanchez' behalf.
News 4 contacted Money Co's home office in Memphis, Tennessee and the St. Ann, Missouri branch for information.
Willie Jacobs, with the St. Ann branch, said it was all a misunderstanding. Jacobs said Sanchez' adult daughter gave the tax preparer the go-ahead. When asked if Juan Sanchez signed any of the required documents, Jacobs said he did. However, Jacobs refused to show News 4 the signature, citing privacy concerns.
Jacobs said Money Co would refund $400 in fees to Mr. Sanchez by Friday, February 11th.
"I'm gonna still do that because we don't need anything negative to come to our office," said Jacobs.
The Better Business Bureau said customers should not rely on a free estimate in picking a tax preparer. The estimates wouldn't be accurate unless the preparer completes the return, said spokesman Chris Thetford.
The Better Business Bureau also recommends customers ask for a contract from their tax preparer. Know what fees are charged and whether the cost will change, if the return is complicated. Ask if the preparer will represent you if the IRS audits you.
Also, understand whether you are getting a Refund Anticipation Loan. The loans are short-term loans with high interest rates. Often, they are advertised as "instant" or "24-hour refunds". The IRS doesn't give refunds that quickly. The refund anticipation loan will get you a check a few days before the IRS, but the interest rates can range from 50% to 500%, according to the Better Business Bureau. If you electronically file your return, the IRS can direct deposit the refund within a few days.
The IRS will now load a debit card with your refund amount, if you don't have a bank account.
Tax filers who earn less than $49,000 a year can get free help from the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Find a center here: www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=219171,00.html
MoneyCo USA was previously known as Mo' Money Taxes. The Attorney General in Arkansas filed suit against the company in December, accusing the tax preparation firm of breaking consumer protection laws in that state.
The laws require tax preparers provide disclosures when facilitating refund anticipation loans. Companies also can not charge fees on top of the loan fee, charged by the lender.
According to Jim DePriest, Arkansas Deputy Attorney General, a Mo' Money office in Arkansas did not provide the required disclosure and charged fees, prohibited under Arkansas law. The investigation targeted other tax preparation firms, but Mo' Money is the only one facing a lawsuit in Arkansas.
Arkansas' Attorney General pushed for the legislature in that state to pass the consumer protection laws in 2009.
"We can't understand why low income consumers actually take out refund anticipation loans," said DePriest, referring to the disclosure requirement.
"If this is presented to you as follows: you have a 500 dollar refund coming. You can get it in 8-15 days. Five hundred dollars, in full, or you can take 350 dollars right now. For us, that's important information for consumers to know," added DePriest.
When News 4 asked Granberry about the lawsuit in Arkansas, Granberry replied, "no laws were broken in Arkansas."