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 Feedback Requested: Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) Shops
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Camille Brown
Valued Contributor

Springfield, MO
USA
219 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  07:22:25 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I was wondering about the many shops I see for RALs. For some companies the shopper is an employee and will have a W2. For others, an IC and a schedule C would be filed. When the preparer is filling out the returns, would this not be a tip off that the customer is a mystery shopper? On one of the shops, I noticed the customer would need to expect a rather large refund. It's not considered prudent to overpay so much that a large refund is due. Just wondered if it is not difficult to get these shops filled.


NOTE somewhat related topic
Feedback Requested: Tax Preparation Shops
http://forum.volition.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=7591


Camille Brown

MattMS
Star Contributor

Genoa, Illinois
USA
360 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  07:58:04 AM  Send MattMS an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
I did a tax return shop last year, and mentioned mystery shopping (with the companies approval) directly. There really isn't any other way to get around it I don't think. My preparer still didn't suggest all the required options, but was helpful. I'm not totally sure he understood what I did, so who knows.

Matthew - shopping North Central & North West Illinois
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Servanne
Star Contributor

Silver Lake, MN
USA
2430 Posts

Posted - 01/25/2008 :  11:39:24 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
The ones I saw said not to have a complicated tax return, nothing itemized or out-of-the-norm. I thought mystery shopping fell in both the out-of-the norm and the itemized categories, so I never applied for one. Has any full time shopper done his shop? If so, how did you answer the tax preparer's questions? ( well, I would assume you answered honestly, but what I mean is if asked about your MS activities, etc)

Servanne
Merrily shopping my way through the Twin Cities, Western Minnesota and beyond...
MSPA Gold Certified since April 2007!
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Rita Collins
Star Contributor

Michiana, MI
USA
518 Posts

Posted - 01/28/2008 :  5:51:20 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Most (normal) people don't seem to know what mystery shopping really is. My guess is the location does not even though they are being mystery shopped.

To handle it - just say you have a business (you do). Here are my business expenses and my income statements.

Rita Collins
Shopping Michiana
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Jen Ohio
Star Contributor

North Olmsted, Ohio
USA
285 Posts

Posted - 02/05/2008 :  03:59:56 AM  Send Jen Ohio an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
I completed one of these last year and am scheduled for another this week. If it is the same MS Company that I did them for, the tax place is unaware they are going to be shopped, so you are welcome to be open about discussing mystery shopping with the tax preparer. Last year I was nervous about revealing that I mystery shop, during a shop nonetheless, but my scheduler reasurred me it would be fine. I answered everything honestly and it turned out the tax preparer used to be a mystery shopper too! A few other employees overheard our conversation and thought it was really cool, no one had a clue I was actually shopping them!

I would definetly recommend trying one. This is a very simple shop to submit, a few basic questions and one essay on the whole experience. It is nice to get those outrageous tax prep fees refunded! The RAL and tax filing costs were close to $200 for me, which are fully reimbursed. I'm not sure why normal people would pay this much The shop fee also went up this year by $15 which suprised me being that most companies decrease their shopper fees
Good luck to everyone that tries one, in my opinion it is well worth it!

Finally Silver Certified!!
Shopping Northeast Ohio Full Time
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Kelly M
Valued Contributor

Clarksville, Arkansas
USA
209 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  08:43:13 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Ok I am thinking about doing a RAL loan through SG Marketing but I am very nervous because of all the bank loan reimbursement, you name it.I hate the thought of maybe having to pay 500.00 or more up front for bank fees,processing fees etc.I also still see lots of these shops left for people to pick up, so it makes me think these shops are not all they are cracked up to be, any input would be appreciated.

Kelly M
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LeeM
Contributor

Dunedin, FL
USA
70 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  10:38:22 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
My daughter completed a RAL shop last week. The fees are very high but they are deducted from your loan check, so there isn't really any out-of-pocket expense. SG takes 45 days to pay, per their website, but the shop fee is high, in my opinion, and, again, you don't have to actually put any money out. She had a little scare because her loan didn't get approved but the scheduler said she will get paid because she did apply for the RAL and that is what the shop is all about. As far as the number of shops available, I think there is just a large amount of tax preparers that are to be shopped and each shopper can only do one. Most of our local shops have been taken - especially since they offered another bonus if done by 1/31.

Lee
Shopping in Dunedin
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Joyce in Maine
Valued Contributor

Maine
USA
123 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  11:05:10 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
HI -

I also did one last week. You are shopping the process of getting the loan not the tax preparer. With all the fees - ours was over $300. I also had the same scare our loan did not go thru -- that set me into a total panic because I thought I would not be reimbursed the fees. I contacted the scheduler and she assured me we would be reimbursed the fees. She said she had several calls about the loan not going thru. We have one of those credit monitoring services --I ran it the night our loan was declined. Two of the agencies rated us at 750 which is excellent and one rated us at 710 which is good. The bank will not tell you why you weren't approved - but that you will be receiving a letter. The shop itself was fairly easy - and so was the form. But the stress about the not being approved really scared me. I am not sure if I would do it again.

Joyce
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RosemarieSoCal
Member

CA
USA
24 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  12:19:29 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I would not recommend these shops. I conducted one for an independent tax consultant. I had already completed my return when I went to have my taxes prepared for this assignment. The tax consultant was incompetent and completed my return incorrectly. When I asked questions about how he had arrived at his numbers, he simply stated that he uses professional software.

I went home and rechecked my numbers with several different programs online. They all came up with the same amounts that I did - not the tax preparer. The end result is that I was shorted on my return and will have to file an amendment.

The higher than normal shop fee enticed me to take on this shop but it was not worth my time in the end.

BEWARE!!!

Rosemarie

Rosemarie
Shopping Southern California
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Steveo
Member

CA
USA
40 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  1:03:21 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I completed on of these last week. I think it is a great shop. It took over an hour but the reimbursement for the preparation, loan fees plus the shop fee is well worth it. It is a good idea to get an estimate of your refund by using the free Turbo tax software available.

Steve
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SheenaC
Member

CT
USA
46 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  3:27:51 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I completed one on Friday. It went really well but I had to definitly keep the tax preparer in sight at all times .He kept on messing up on my paper work. As for the MS, he had no clue what is was when I told him and told me not to file it because I made under 600. I will be filing a amdentment but the shop itself was easy. All fees are being paid back. So I'm out 239 for a few weeks but it was worth it. I will be doing one of these next year.

Sheena
Shopping CT
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EricFL
Member

Middleburg, FL
USA
46 Posts

Posted - 02/07/2009 :  8:33:09 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I also did a RAL tax shop and like others, was denied the loan. Regardless, I received positive feedback from the scheduler about my report and will be receiving my fees/payment.

I had already completed my tax information online (as I do every year) and had a copy ready for the preparer just to key into his computer. He mis-keyed the amount of taxes I paid from my regular job, which decreased my refund by $500. After going over the paperwork again, he saw his error and corrected it.

I would do another one next year since there are no out of pocket fees. Just be sure to pre-calculate your tax return to be safe. After all, you are evaluating the loan, not the preparer.
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BDuffaut
Member

USA
18 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2009 :  06:36:45 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Do they run your credit for the loan?
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Anna-L
Valued Contributor

TN
USA
223 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2009 :  07:01:27 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I wanted to take one of these this year, but unfortunately due to IRA income no refund for us this year!

Anna
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Joyce in Maine
Valued Contributor

Maine
USA
123 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2009 :  4:06:14 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Yes - they do run your credit for the loan -- but they must have strange requirements -- like I posted above - we have good to excellent credit and ours didn't go thru. It's kind of weird -because there really isn't a way not to pay back the loan-- they are giving you a loan for 8 to 14 days - until the IRS direct deposits your refund into their account - so unless you owe back taxes to the IRS - they are going to get their money. If you check with the accounting companies that offer these -- there is about a $30 fee to apply for the loan -- which they get even if they don't approve the loan. We were only going to have to pay $13 in interest for the loan -- so they are making most of their money from the loan application -- I would be interested in knowing how many people are turned down.

Joyce
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EricFL
Member

Middleburg, FL
USA
46 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2009 :  6:10:56 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
The website indicated mine was denied because of the nature of the return, meaning "IRS may not approve this tax return, so we aren't giving you any $". My return was simple enough. Maybe they are only approving 1040EZ's. I know a few others that tried for a RAL and all of them were denied.
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BDuffaut
Member

USA
18 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2009 :  6:31:06 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
If they have to run your credit then is this really worth it? I mean each time you run your credit it affects your standing. Just a thought...
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PJLaw1
Star Contributor

Nowhereville, NW
USA
370 Posts

Posted - 02/08/2009 :  7:07:30 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
True your credit is ran and if denied would be documented. Technically this loan would look good and bad on your credit. First if it is paid off that will be good however because of the short term of the loan. I used to know the points but paying of a loan gives points and length of an account gives points depending.

But with the knowledge of this I did the shop last week. I have really good credit. I got both loans the IRAL and the RAL. My return was like 5-6k. I had a huge amount of paperwork for the associate. She was overwhelmed. She said maybe you should go to someone else. But everyone else was busy and I wasnít waiting. I pretty much told her what to put into each field. But remember the shop is not about the associate. My fees were huge. I think it came out to over $500. 2x check printing fee, 2x finance charge, loan application, $265 tax prep fee, refund account fee. I always do my own taxes. I got the early bird bonus and I donít know if I will do this next year. Compound the inexperience of the associate, shop report and credit implications it might not be worth it when I came do it in my underwear at home for free.

Philip
Silver Certified
Shopping Eastern NC
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Sandi G
Star Contributor

Tallahassee, FL
USA
918 Posts

Posted - 02/18/2009 :  09:49:31 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
merciful heavens, I don't know if I'll do this one again. I file the 1040, Schedule A, and Schedule C. That poor lady did not have the slightest idea how to do anything other than a basic form. I got there at 1:30, and didn't leave until 5:55. The store closed at 5pm... I had receipts for everything, organized by the form that needed to be completed. I knew exactly what needed to be done, explained everything to her, but she didn't know how to plug that into her software. She got out the training manual, she called support for help, they had to review the whole thing with her - tedious does not even describe it. She was so sorry for having problems, but it was just clearly outside her scope.

After all that, I found out today the bank denied the loan. I wanted to know why, since "I obviously didn't spend all that time there just to wait for the normal return process that I could have done myself. It wasn't like I needed help with the filing." She had to do some digging, but came back with the response that the IRS takes longer to pay out returns that have deductions because they have to verify them first. That's a risk the bank doesn't want to take, so they are just denying them. Charming. That seems like a bit of a scam to me. I'm getting the fees reimbursed, so it doesn't affect me, but I would be livid if I'd [foolishly] paid all that money for nothing.

I think there are several different banks processing these, so that might not be the policy of all of them. If I qualify for these shops next year, I will at least find a location that actually knows something about taxes, and I'll be prepared to be denied.

--Sandi
traditional & video shopping FL and GA
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Joyce in Maine
Valued Contributor

Maine
USA
123 Posts

Posted - 02/18/2009 :  4:04:52 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Yes -- I also think there is something "funky" about these loans. I was really not thrilled with the process -- we waited at the tax place for our appointment for over 45 minutes after it was scheduled. Our person - also was not too swift -- I was also helping him and telling him how and what to enter. I noted above that we were turned down - even though we have excellent credit. I received the letter from them saying I was turned down because I claimed real estate taxes and charitable contributions. Which if that is the case, they should tell you that up front. I was charged the $29.95 for the loan application and $20 for a check -- even though the loan wasn't approved -- thank goodness it was reimbursed -- but I would have been really mad if I actually had to pay all the fees and the loan was turned down.

Joyce
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CherieN
Valued Contributor

MD
USA
248 Posts

Posted - 03/15/2009 :  11:29:56 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by EricFL

The website indicated mine was denied because of the nature of the return, meaning "IRS may not approve this tax return, so we aren't giving you any $". My return was simple enough. Maybe they are only approving 1040EZ's. I know a few others that tried for a RAL and all of them were denied.



If only I had found this thread earlier. I completed one of these and my loan was denied. My credit is good for someone my age and they gave me the same reason. It makes me wonder why they even have the shop. Who cares if they are promoting the product if you aren't going to be approved.
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