Upon receiving the letter from the State of New York demanding an additional $895 I immediately went back to Liberty Tax. The woman who had helped me before was there. But instead of being the mountain of confidence with “11 year’s experience who didn’t like to make mistakes” she seems now to angry and annoyed at me. Apparently “doesn’t like to make mistakes” just means you get angry when you do. Seeming lost, she jumped back and for to her manager (which is weird cause I thought she was the manager) but he was busy with other things. So much of the experience was spent waiting for him to finish what he was doing.
Most of this waiting time was spent looking at the giant Liberty Tax promise poster which clearly stated “If you’re not 100% satisfied we’ll refund your preparation fee.” As she struggled with the software trying to figure out how to amend the tax form with out having to start a whole new one, I decided after all was well and done, unless they got what I owe to New York very low, I would demand my preparation fee back ($262.) Why not? I decided to go with them over H&R Block (I still had their numbers written down with my tax documents.) When you are selling tax services, you’re selling numbers and the ability to produce those numbers. If you fail at that you’ve failed at your job. And c’mon, this is New York. New Yorkers don’t put up with bull shit! (Actually they do and in larger amounts than I’ve ever been exposed to.)
The error came down to one part NY state (they attributed my Seattle earnings to taxable NY income) but mostly parts Liberty Tax declaring me a partial resident then having me pay no Manhattan resident tax. (Turns out if you’ve live in Manhattan 180 days you still have to pay a prorated amount.) The amount owed went from $890 to $710, but then with some deductions to finally $360. Then said I wanted to talk about refunding my preparation fee. The “nice lady” said her manager would have to deal with that. She went over to him (once again he was on his iPhone) and brought over a printed copy of the poster to point out to him.
Eventually he sauntered over to me. “So you’re going to pull this on us now?”
“Pull what? I went with you over H&R Block because I was only going to owe $90. Now I owe $400.”
“But that’ wasn’t our fault. And we fixed it for you.”
“Yes it was your fault. There’s a $360 discrepancy here. If it’s New York’s fault, help me take it up with them, otherwise you pay it.”
“I mean, I’ll give you your money back. Fine, that’s just fine. I’m just saying, it wasn’t our fault. And you’re pull this on us now, after it’s all done.”
I walked out of there triumphant but ambivalent. Yes, I was in full right to ask for my money back. $360 is a lot of money that will make the coming month rather difficult. Yes, it was clear Liberty Tax lacked professionalism and courtesy. They lacked the dignity to hold themselves accountable and own up to their mistake. There’s were a whole list of reason I could come up to feel better about asking for my money back. But at the end of it I still felt wrong.
Ultimately I came to this, had I walked in there that afternoon and said “You guys fucked up, give me my money back, I’ll go have someone competent do my taxes right” that would have been okay. But I didn’t. I employed someone’s services to do a job (albeit a shitty one) then I had that same individual do further work to their best of their ability, fix that job. Someone had worked hours for me. And to not pay them for that work, because of a very poorly worded corporate policy, felt wrong. (Yes I realize that that $260 is not going into that tax preparer’s pocket.)
I called the manager back when I got home and told him to cancel the check.