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Many tax preparation services offer refund anticipation checks or "assisted refunds," but are they worth the extra fees?
Justin McCoy is a Charlotte resident who says he considered getting an assisted refund in order to get his money faster.
"I've got bills to pay," said McCoy. "I'm unemployed, so I definitely need the money."
This year, the IRS is running behind. Tax filing started later, which means taxpayers like McCoy have to wait longer to get their refunds.
"Basically that caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, because they were expecting those funds to pay the bills," said Najam Usmani, a Jackson Hewitt franchise president in Charlotte.
Given the delay, promises of quick cash can be very appealing.
"Oh yes. Most definitely. Because it'd be a way for me to get my money faster," said McCoy.
Jackson Hewitt, H&R Block, and many other companies offer refund anticipation checks or assisted refunds. In some cases, they can help you get your refund before the IRS processes your return, but not always.
"Instant" refunds have been outlawed; it now takes one to three weeks to get an assisted refund. That could be slower than the IRS.
Then there are the fees. Reputable companies charge about $25 to $55 for the service.
"That basically is a convenience fee that the bank will charge for extending that money to you," said Usmani.
Lesser known tax preparation companies may charge even more. That's something McCoy learned the hard way.
"It happened to me two years ago."
He had to pay a hefty fee, and the company made a mistake on his return, which cost him even more.
"Always go with a name you can trust. Not just a name that came out of the blue and started a tax place. Because they can mess you up real bad," said McCoy.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to find a reputable tax company.