Dozens of Southern Californians who owe money to the IRS say they’re now deeper in debt, after paying for tax negotiations services they’ve paid for, but never received.
Foothill Ranch resident William Wilkerson says he paid the formerly Irvine-based Authority Tax Services thousands of dollars in 2013 to help lower his $18,000 debt with the IRS.
"They said they could negotiate the penalties away," Wilkerson said. "But, they did absolutely nothing!"
Wilkerson told the I-Team he paid ATS $3,500 for their services. He displayed emails that he said were sent to him by ATS, acknowledging payments made, and requesting payment if he was late.
But when ATS took his money, Wilkerson says, they did nothing in return to help with his debt.
Steve McFarland with the Better Business Bureau says complaints against Authority Tax Service have been increasing steadily over the past two years.
"We have 69 complaints on ATS," says McFarland. "The number one complaint that we hear from consumers is ‘we gave you a deposit as soon as you got our money we don’t hear from you anymore.’"
That sounds familiar to Wilkerson.
Every time he asked about his case status, Wilkerson says he was told he had a new case manager.
"I’ve had probably 8 to 10 case managers," he said.
Wilkerson says the ATS offices also kept moving. The Irvine office closed soon after he signed up, and the company website published a new office address in downtown Los Angeles. Then, the LA office suddenly closed, and Wilkerson was given a new address in Toluca Lake. When the I-Team went to that address, we found a post office box.
Jonathan Kramer, who owns Mailbox Toluca Lake, says he’s been visited by several ATS clients who are furious about their dealings with ATS and want their money back.
"They don’t know what their next step is," Kramer said. "They were hoping to find a live person to settle their issue."
For the $3,500 Wilkerson paid, he said ATS did his 2013 taxes, but his return had to be re-submitted because it had multiple errors. He ended up negotiating to restructure debt payments himself, something he could have done all along for free.
"In all honesty, when it was all said and done, nothing was done," Wilkerson said.
The I-Team reached out to ATS for weeks, before finally getting this emailed response:
"The Managers and Members decided to liquidate the company on August 1, 2014. The company’s rapid growth and the competitive nature of the industry made it impossible for the business to continue. As part of the company’s dissolution, the Managers and Members referred to Liquidation Managers to wind up the company and all of its pending cases. At the time ATS stopped operating, the company was handling over 3,000 cases. As of today, there are less than 1,000 pending. All cases are being handled and refunds where appropriate have been made throughout the process. The Liquidation Managers are committed to getting each client the best Tax Resolution possible."
The ATS website (www.authoritytaxservices.com) says clients with concerns can call its processing center at 800-634-2024.