I hired Taxmasters to help deal with a minor tax issue. During the initial consult, they told me one thing. After taking my money (it was A LARGE sum of money, many thousands of dollars), their story changed completely. When confronted about the changes, Taxmasters associates began to lie. The first obvious lie came a couple days after the initial phone consult. I found out later that I was lied to during my initial phone consultation as well.
After the first couple lies, I realized that I had been victimized by what is commonly known as the old "bait and switch", wherein you are told one thing to get you to part with your money, and then you are told something else once they have your money. I terminated the contract within days of the initial phone consult, which set into motion many weeks of ordeal, in which Taxmasters fabricated outrageous, defamatory lies about me, in attempts to keep my money, amongst other tactics.
During my ordeal, here are a few things I have noted:
- Taxmasters associates APPEAR to operate from a script; a process designed to ensure that, no matter what, Taxmasters prevails. Examples: Taxmasters might make every attempt to get your payment BEFORE giving you a contract for review. Next, they might only speak in general terms, avoiding specifics of your finances during the initial phone consult, and later might claim that you withheld information from them; information which they did not ask for. Next, Taxmasters appears to have an orchestrated "third-party review" process (which does not appear to me to be a REAL third-party, meaning a non-Taxmasters employee) to verify your INTENT to pay, which they then later use against you, should you attempt dispute the charges. There are many more indicators I could list, which appear to support the theory that Taxmasters associates operate in a scripted, coordinated, and/or orchestrated fashion.
- Taxmasters associates seem to prefer to do business via telephone, where there are NO RECORDS of what is said. Taxmasters might then attempt to use this AGAINST you, should you end up in a dispute. Shortly after I had terminated phone call access, Taxmasters became unresponsive to direct emails sent to them. Why? Because emails generate a paper-trail; evidence which could be used against Taxmasters in any dispute.
- Taxmasters contract contains many clauses which favor ONLY Taxmasters. One example, there is an "abuse" clause which allows Taxmasters to terminate the contract and keep the funds, should Taxmasters decide to utilize it. Taxmasters COULD claim that you were abusive in a phone call, which of course is subjective because the call is not recorded, and abuse could be quantified as just about ANYTHING, including things which may not have even transpired, since phone calls are not recorded; another good reason to cease telephone contact immediately and insist all communications be in writing.
- Demagoguery is truly the "last bastion of a scoundrel". People who resort to this type of rhetoric generally do so because they are on the wrong side on an argument. Taxmasters appears to utilize demagoguery, to distract from the REAL ISSUES at hand. If Taxmasters can create a "straw man", an argument about your character or some other such nonsense which has no basis in fact but is highly prejudicial, they can at best case hope to prejudice objective mediators and others who might take interest in a case, and in worst case, distract them. That is, after all, the purpose of demagoguery.
- Taxmasters, over a period of years, has developed quite a history, which explains itself and needs no characterization from me. Go the the BBB website (google "BBB"), and research Taxmasters of Houston. I suggest you review the RATING and rating justification in detail, currently listed as "unsatisfactory". In addition, review the "detailed view" of the Consumer Complaint History", which will show you statistics for the last 3 years. Pay particular attention to the last 12 months, and the differences between the last 12 months, and the 24 months that preceded them. Also, compare the BBB rating justification to the posts contained here on [redacted]dotcom. You might see striking similarities. Use all of this data in any dispute you might have with Taxmasters. More data can be found through a "google" search on Taxmasters, and the names of the prinicpals, Patrick Cox, Alex Clamon and Fred Hackett. An amusing side note, the Taxmasters website has a "D&B Listed" logo on it; an official looking bit of fluff. Why is this there? What does it have to do with Taxmasters representing clients to the IRS? With the quality of Taxmasters as a service business? Nothing. "Dun and Bradstreet" ratings are FINANCIAL ratings (like for investors), not quality of service ratings as issued by the BBB. Yet, it DOES look official on their website, doesn't it? D&B... BBB... see any similarities? I guess with 143 BBB complaints in the last 12 months at last count, it wouldn't pay to have a BBB link on the Taxmasters site, now would it? Taxmasters is not a BBB Accredited Business, according to the BBB website.
In the end, I prevailed. I had all of my funds returned to me (not by Taxmasters, who in their last communication still maintained a right to it).
Based on my own personal knowledge, from dealing with Taxmasters, I would not recommend Taxmasters to my worst enemy. If you are considering whether to hire Taxmasters, I suggest you give great weight to the BBB report, and to the reports of consumers here at [redacted]. Also, I suggest you contact the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and speak to someone in their Consumer Fraud division, to get more knowledge. Knowledge IS power.
If you already find yourself in a dispute with Taxmasters, while I cannot resolve your issue for you, here are a few friendly words (not to be taken as legal advice; consult an attorney for that):
- You might want to cut off ALL telephone communications with Taxmasters. Written communications forces honesty, and documents lies. If you wish to cut off telehone communications, do this in writing. Send copies of the notification via email, certified mail AND fax, to ensure delivery (save delivery confirmations on file). Insist that all future communications be in writing. This will force Taxmasters to take positions, and to make statements which YOU can then use against THEM.
- Start a journal. Document each and every event (no matter how insignificant it might seem at the time) related remotely to your dispute, by date and time. Your journal can be used as evidence. Use it faithfully.
- Open a file, and keep every scrap of paper you write or receive. Also, keep copies of whatever you find on the internet. Use all of this data as references in your dispute, and make copies to send to all the different agencies (your bank, the BBB, etc.). When you receive an email, letter or other document, annotate it with the date and time received before filing it. SAVE THE ENVELOPES! They have datestamps on them. Compare the datestamps on the envelopes you receive, to the letters inside of the envelopes, to see if letters have been pre-dated in efforts to make it appear as if they were written long ago. When you respond to communications, place a copy of your response, annotated with the date, time, and method(s) sent, into your file.
- Time is critical. Do not delay in filing your disputes. Delays can and probably will be portrayed as YOUR FAULT; evidence that you approved of the direction and work of Taxmasters. Once you have reviewed your options in detail, decide which direction to go, and go there full speed ahead.
- Be VERY CLEAR in your demands. Ambiguity will probably be used against you. If you wish Taxmasters to cease doing something, be specific and tell them to cease and desist.
- Power of Attorney MUST be revoked in writing, should you desire to limit Taxmasters ability to continue working on your case, in contravention of your stated demands to not work. If you have previously granted them Power of Attorney, and if you wish them to stop working on your case as a result of your dispute, send them a notice revoking their Power of Attorney effective immediately, and send it via email, registered mail and fax keeping confirmations from all on file (send ALL documents or communications to Taxmasters in this manner).
- File complaints with each and every agency that you can file with. Send them a full written statement, and copies of all of your collected documents on file, and reference these documents in your statement, if you are able to. Maybe write up one detailed statement with all the attachments, that you can send to each agency that you file a complaint with. Tell the whole story, from start to end. Be accurate. Be detailed. Be truthful. Be complete. Explain in detail how this has affected you personally. If you paid by credit card, file a complaint with your bank (dispute the charge). It is important to file with your bank QUICKLY. File complaints with the Harris County District Attorney and the Texas State Attorney General (contact information can be found online, and even some of the forms). File a BBB complaint online, or via phone if need be. Online is better. File a complaint at [redacted]dotcom, to help other consumers who might have comparable issues. Try the US Attonrey General's office as well, since Taxmasters IS conducting their business across state lines. Also, if you are doing business with Taxmasters through the US Mail, you can also file complaints with the US Postal Service Postmaster General.
- Be professional in ALL communications. Sarcasm is okay at times, and does serve to make points occasionally. Don't get angry however, and make statements which might hurt you later.
- Carbon-copy (cc:) all of your responses to Taxmasters to every agency that you have filed complaints with, by listing them next to "cc:" at the bottom of your email or letter. Let these people know that you are forwarding all of this to the appropriate agencies. Periodically or as need requires, send out the copies to the agencies.
- Don't give up the fight. SOME companies make their money off of quantity versus quality. The more people who get discouraged and quit, the more profit is realized. SOME businesses understand this, and take this into account in their business plan; they expect to lose a few accounts, and are willing to do so in order to win in the cases that people just give up fighting. If you give up, they immediately profit. In other words, SOME companies will do no work, yet keep the money paid. It is pure profit, since they do not have to pay labor or overhead to deal with your case.