Thursday 11 April 2013

Review of Taxes for Expats

About My Tax Situation
I'd like to think that I know a decent amount about expat taxes. At least my tax situation. I wrote a tax guide for overseas Americans and am often emailed to answer questions about taxes as well as getting PMs from users on Dave's Korean board. With that being said in 2012 I decided to hand it over to an expert and went with Greenback Tax Services. I was highly impressed with their service as you can see by the review I wrote about them.

Even though I was satisfied with Greenback I decided to try out another tax service. I thought it would be good to be able to compare. In late summer of 2012, Taxes for Expats approached me and ask if I would like to try their services. I said yes and they told me that they could enroll me in their affiliate programme. Shortly afterwards they said that they would offer me a free tax return in exchange for writing a review. I agreed.

Early in 2013 I emailed them and asked if the offer was still on the table and they said yes, so I went ahead and upload all my docs and filled out their forms. Because I'm too organised for my own good I also upload my 2011 return which Greenback had done so that they had a reference to work off of.

That's when the trouble began. They told me that the return was incorrect (I should have had the child tax added because of my daughter) and that I had to refile. I was alarmed and immediately emailed Greenback who promptly said they would look into the matter. They got back to me the next day and explained why I hadn't gotten the child tax was that the FEIE reduced my income to zero.

Up until now Taxes for Expats had been fantastic at responding to my emails. Sometimes responding within minutes. I sent them Greenback's reply regarding why I didn't get the child tax and then I didn't hear from them for nearly a week. When they got back to me they had good news and bad news. They decided to suspend their offer of a free tax return programme. This is understandable, however, taxes were due in less than a month.

In addition, if they are going to suspend a programme they really shouldn't renege halfway through it. They should give what they had promised to people and then stop it. More bad news was that they wouldn't just let me file my 2012 return, they said I had to refile for 2011 as well: it was all or nothing. In addition, because their standard fee includes less than Greenback it was going to cost me over $1000. Finally, to top off the bad news they didn't speak too highly of Greenback, there was a bit of mud slinging or bad blood or something. Now on to the good news, they were going to give me a discount as far as fees go, but it was still going to be nearly double what I expected.

I decided to sleep on it instead of firing off a rapid email. While I was thinking about whether or not to have them file my taxes they came back with a fourth fee (the first was pay the full fee but be in the affiliate programme, the second was a free return, the third was refile 2011 and file 2012) and that was they would prepare my 2012 return for fee as promised in summer of 2012 and spring of 2013, however, I would have to refile my 2011 taxes and pay those fees.

I honestly thought about accepting their offer. I waiting a couple days and decided that while Taxes for Expats meant well, the back and forth with emails was a bit too much. I believe that they are a new company and have to work the kinks out.

At first I was upset and stressed and on a small emotional roller coaster, but I think that it was for the best. I've never written a review for a product or service I've gotten for free and I believe that it would skew my opinion and I wouldn't be able to give them an honest review.

All in all I'll chalk it up to a learning experience. And while I can't review them on my tax preparation I still was able to learn a lot through all their emails. I'm using the same items I used in my Greenback review. Due to the dodgy feeling I got from Taxes for Expats, I never used them. Instead I stayed with Greenback Tax Services for my 2011-2014 returns.

Speed: NA
They never prepared my taxes.

Communication: 4
They were usually very, very fast at returning emails. The only issues I had were that I was dealing with three different people and that at one time it took them nearly a week for them to get back to me.

Price: 4
$330, which is cheaper than Greenback, but includes a lot less. For example in my case the Self Employment docs ($100) and FBAR (now FinCen Report 114) ($75) would bring my total to $550. While I could easily file the FBAR by myself, because I have Self Employment to pay it would be at least $450.

Quality: 4
Although they didn't file my taxes they did go over my 2011 return, which was not required of them. While they said that there was a mistake in the return, Greenback stood by it so I decided not to refile. The reason I gave them a 4 was because they didn't give a reason why I deserved the child tax.

Professionalism: 3
Although they were very quick to answer emails I was put off with how they were all too quick to speak negatively about their competitors. I also didn't like the fact that I had 4 different fees offered to me. Nor did I feel it was conducive to deal with 3 different people.

Overall Review: 3.75
All in all, as I said before I feel that they are working the kinks out and I hope that in the future they will have a solid business.


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