As a growing tax business we realize that creative marketing is essential to the growth of our business. This tax season with a fully fledged marketing effort we are noticing more and more the ads of our competitors and frankly a lot of them make us sick!
First off, you see a lot of the “free” return offers. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It’s not!
And it’s not really anything special. You can go to IRS.gov and get the same “free” basic Federal tax return done for free. The difference here is that it is the old “bait and switch” where you are baited on the “free” product only to find out that there is an added cost.
The additional costs in these so-called “free” products add up quickly. For example the retail software products and nationwide tax chains charge extra to do State returns. These are included in your price quote from JFTS. If you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is what most early-season filers depend on to get a large refund, there is an extra cost. Again, this is included in your JFTS quote. Next thing you know “free” return has ballooned into a $400+ bill for just a basic return with a few additional credits claimed, like the couple in this video.
Where our marketing differs, is our free consultation is a product with value. To consult with a tax professional, especially a CPA, usually costs upwards of $150/hr. At JFTS we don’t believe in charging for advice, so we offer free consultations as a way to build trust with our potential clients so YOU can decide whether our services are right for you.
Now that we’ve discussed price, on to the other aspect of marketing that bothers us “no audit guarantees.” You see this in both the software products and nationwide companies, however, what’s the value in the guarantee when it only guarantees you from mistakes that THEY make? For software it protects you from calculations made by the software and not errors made when you input your data. These errors, despite all the “roadmaps” and “guidance” functions are easy to make, even for trained professionals. This is why our Tax Patriots are given extensive training every year on the professional grade software we use as it changes year by year. How many at-home tax preparers are provided training on how to use their software? NONE. Even worse, is most at-home preparers think that browsing the instruction manual or doing a quick Google search will yield the results they need, only to find out when they get audited that they did something wrong.
With the store-fronts, the audit guarantees are just as useless. At JFTS we make no such guarantees, we only guarantee that we will do our best to get your taxes done right the FIRST time and if you are audited then you have the information and guidance you need to protect yourself. The reality is that there are “red flag” audits where the IRS will choose a given subject, such as last year’s “red flag”, The First Time Homebuyer Credit. Then there are “selective” audits where the IRS will just choose random returns. For the selective audits it is usually a “marekt research” or “training” audit. With a “market research” audit they take a big business in a new industry and try to make an example of them. For a “training” audit, this is where auditors in training are given a list of returns and audit whoever they want so that they can get practice and experience.
The biggest protection against an audit is having a full consultation with a tax professional. With the store-front model they are given a standard interview format and in the heart of the tax season it is very easy to cut corners. The next thing you know you are being audited on an item that your preparer never interviewed you on, whether it was a credit/deduction due-diligence question or not asking the right questions to find out about all of your taxable income. Again, this is why the initial consultation from a JFTS Tax Patriot is essential and a “one-size fits one” approach is the ultimate value add in our services.
Bottom line: Don’t fall for “free” return preparation or “no-audit” guarantee offers!
Here at JFTS all we promise is to give you a professional level of service at a fair price and don’t believe in the false promises of “free” preparation or “no-audit” guarantees.
[…] Our job as a professional tax service is to inform consumers of the risks of flashy guarantees that are nothing more than good ol’ “bait and switch” tactics. We mentioned a few in a previous article titled: Buyer Beware! Watch Out For All The “Free” and “Guarantees” In Tax Ads. […]