3OYS: Phoenix woman claims Jackson Hewitt's tax error cost her

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Samantha Whitright recently turned her hobby of cake-making into a part-time business.

“I just love making cakes," Whitright said. “I started it in 2011. I've always loved making cakes. I've worked for a lot of bakeries.”

As meticulous as Whitright is with her cakes, she says she pays just as much attention to her bills.

“I actually have all my stuff in binders and separated by what they're for," Whitright said. "I pay them all early so I don't miss a payment because I don't like late fees.”

One thing she wanted to make sure was done just right last year was her taxes, so she turned to tax professionals at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. Jackson Hewitt claims to be the second largest tax preparation company around.

“Since I have my small business, I want to make sure that everything is done correctly," Whitright said. "That way, I wouldn't get chased by the IRS.”

Whitright paid Jackson Hewitt around $300 to prepare and file her taxes. Everything seemed okay until recently, when she went to her mail box and found a letter from the IRS inquiring about her tax filing.

“I about had a panic attack," she said.

The IRS letter indicated she owed more than $1,600 because of an error made on her taxes. However, Samantha had turned everything over to Jackson Hewitt. The company has an "accuracy guarantee," according to its own website.

"We stand behind our work," the website states. "All paid tax returns come with our FREE Accuracy Guarantee, which entitles you to reimbursement of penalties and interest charged by a taxing authority if a Jackson Hewitt Tax Pro makes an error preparing your tax return."

Whitright said it did not seem like Jackson Hewitt took its "accuracy guarantee" very seriously when she turned to the company to resolve her error.

“He (a Jackson Hewitt employee) said that they will do nothing about it," Whitright said. "It's not their problem; it's mine.”

3 On Your Side got involved and, after numerous attempts to reach Jackson Hewitt, someone finally called us back. However, the employee didn't want to talk about Whitright's problem, citing confidentiality reasons.

Whitright said she hopes they can fix it, since the reason she went to Jackson Hewitt is because they had a "guarantee." Whitright began to cry while talking about trying to pay the money owed.

“It's expensive and I don't have that money," she said.

Jackson Hewitt eventually sent us an email stating the following: "While our research has been unable to uncover what exactly happened, the IRS letter clearly indicates that an error occurred. At Jackson Hewitt, we stand behind our work and offer all customers our Free Accuracy Guarantee, which entitles them to reimbursement of any penalties and interest if a Jackson Hewitt Tax Pro makes an error preparing a tax return. We are disappointed when an error occurs, and while Federal and/or State tax liabilities are always the responsibility of the tax payer, we are happy to not only pay the interest fee, but also refund her tax preparation fees as a sign of good faith."