CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Paul Cavaleri is a mechanic and his fiancée, Tammy Oates, is a hair stylist.
"It’s tough. We are paycheck to paycheck," Cavaleri told Action 9's Jason Stoogenke. "We are blue-collar and it’s tough."
"Penny-pinching every chance we get," Oates added.
The couple did what many do -- they used a tax prep service. In their case, it was Jackson Hewitt.
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Jackson Hewitt gave them part of their refunds up front, which is common. The company works with a bank that pays that tab. Then, the IRS sent their real refunds to the bank.
Here’s the problem: Cavaleri and Oates are afraid the IRS associates their returns with that bank, not theirs, and will send their stimulus money there instead.
"Somebody has to care about the people, us, the ones you need the most. We are blue-collar and don’t earn a lot of money and -- where do you go? Who do you ask for help?" Cavalieri asked Action 9.
Letisha Smalls works for a much smaller company, Tax Doc Financial. But her customers are in the same situation.
She said her bank sent her a message, saying it's actually happening -- the IRS is sending it people's stimulus money.
The bank said it’s sending the money back to the IRS to sort out.
"Some people need milk, pampers, have no money or have no job. And now the stimulus is going to take longer because by the time they send it back to the IRS, how long is it going to take for the IRS to update and mail it? And do they have the right address? Do you have the right phone numbers?" Smalls asked. "I need the people to understand: We do not have your money. Tax preparers are not stealing taxpayers’ money. They’re going to the bank and we’re trying to figure it out. We know just as much as they do."
Action 9 is asking the big tax prep services like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt if their banks get people’s stimulus money, whether they’re passing it along to the taxpayers or sending it back to the IRS to sort out.
Rich Buschel had two jobs. The pandemic cost him both.
On Tuesday, he told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke how much he was relying on that stimulus money.
“I am down to the nitty-gritty this week if that money doesn’t come in,” he said.
On Wednesday, he got the money.
“It was a relief. I didn’t expect to get it that fast,” Buschel said.
Shari Lyn Bishop also went from two jobs to unemployed.
"When you’re sitting there and you’re wondering how you’re going to pay your car payment, how are you going to pay your electric bill, $1,200, that’s a good chunk of money to help,” she said.
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But many people aren’t celebrating. Some said they got money, but it didn’t include the $500 for each dependent child.
Others said they tried to use the new IRS website tool to track their money and got a message saying: “Please wait ... due to high demand ...”
The most common concern was that people used companies to prepare their taxes and the IRS sent their money to banks the tax preparers use instead of their bank.
“My phone lines are blinking as we speak like 1,000 miles a minute,” owner of Centra Tax Service Kevin Burton told Stoogenke. “We are getting inundated with these calls about Treasury Department things that really doesn’t have anything to do with me or my business.”
He said people should get their money. It’ll just take longer.
Individuals can get up to $1,200, couples can get up to $2,400 and people with children get $500 per dependent child.
If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019 -- or get Social Security -- you don’t have to do anything. The payment is all automatic. If not, you may have to give the IRS more information.
If you get tax refunds through direct deposit, you’ll get your stimulus money that way too. If you are waiting on a paper check, that could take weeks. Officials said most will go out by April 24.
Remember, you don’t have to pay this back and you don’t have to pay taxes on it.
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