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LBS Tax Services reopens amidst angry complaints

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Photo: Video by fox4now.com

LBS Tax Services reopens amidst angry complaints

By Matt Grant. CREATED Feb 22, 2013

FORT MYERS - A Fort Myers tax preparation service accused of grossly overcharging customers is back open after being forced to close for more than a week.

Loan, Buy, Sell, or LBS, apparently has no interest in answering questions or responding to accusations that they're running a "bait-and-switch" operation.

Fox 4 stopped by LBS again Friday looking for answers but got kicked out by an armed security guard.

"Can we leave our [contact] information?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"No," the security guard said. "No news media inside."

LBS may not want talk with us. But we found no shortage of angry customers.

"I hope they do shut 'em down," one customer said.

"I don't trust this place at all," said Nader Khabaaz.

According to Khabaaz, LBS told him it would cost $75 to do his taxes. But he says they charged him $500.

"I said, 'Well how can you charge me $500 when on the phone you told me it was $75?," said Khabaaz.

He says LBS didn't have an answer and refused to give him a receipt or copies of paperwork he signed. On top of that, he says he was he had to pick up his refund at a check cashing store instead of it being deposited into his account.

"There were around 10 forms that I had to sign," said Khabaaz. "He said we can't give you those forms those belong to us."

Another customer says "they didn't even tell" her how much they charged her to do her taxes.

The IRS won't comment. Fort Myers police would only say this is a civil matter, not criminal. They wouldn't explain why.

Fox 4 found other customers with similar complaints. On Thursday, Chrystal Mitchell told us LBS said it would cost $75 to file her 1040EZ return. Like others we've heard from, she said the company turned around and charged her $475.

"I needed it to purchase a car, I need to do a few things," she said, "with me being a single parent."

On consumer Web sites, customers describe similar problems at branches across the state. One person said he was charged more than $800 for a simple return.

We asked CPA Mary Feichthaler to take a look at Mithchell's tax forms. She believes Mitchell was "certainly got overcharged."

"For a 1040EZ I would say she should have been charged a fraction of what she was charged," said Feichthaler.

Customers like Khabaaz also feel like LBS overcharged them and closed the door on their concerns.

"Go anywhere else," said Khabaaz. "Anywhere else you want to go would be better than this place."

Code Enforcement shut LBS down for eight days for failing inspections and illegally posting hundreds of advertising signs around the city despite warnings and citations.

In order to reopen, the company had to remove the signs and pay more than $2200 in fines.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com