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ConsumerWatch: Beware Hidden Tax Preparation Fees & Find Free Help

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) - As tax season cranks up it's a good idea to shop around and be sure you're getting the best deal from your tax preparer.

Bay Area taxpayer, Ray LaRance, was charged a hefty fee by California Check Cashing in Dublin to file his state and federal income taxes.

He was told the tax preparation fee was about $70. He expected a tax refund of $536, but he was shocked when he received his check and learned that it was two hundred dollars short.

"They came up with this e-filing fee. $100-200 e-filing fee that was undisclosed," LaRance said. In California, tax preparers are supposed to disclose all fees upfront, including those for preparation, e-filing and bank fees.

"If I would have known that a $200 fee was there I would have never did the income tax here," said LaRance.

California Check Cashing told KPIX 5 that employees in the Dublin office did disclose all fees. Employees said they have no control over the fees because they use a third-party tax preparer, E-Tax. E-Tax blamed a miscommunication at the California Check Cashing store for the problem and it told ConsumerWatch that LaRance should have been given a full list of fees. E-Tax agreed to refund all of the fees to LaRance.

Free Tax Preparation Help:

Free tax preparation is available to low and moderate income Bay Area families making less than $51,000 a year. Trained volunteer taxpayers staff more than 215 sites around the Bay Area. Earn it! Keep it! Save it! is a United Way sponsored program made up of a coalition of Bay Area community organizations and tax preparation provider. The group processes more than 64,000 returns every year.

The tax advisers work hard to make sure eligible taxpayers claimed the Earned Income Credit which can amount to as much as $5,800 per family. Click here for more on the program.

Find forms and tips for your filing at in's complete guide to tax season.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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