Concord couple nearly loses $5K refund after botched tax return

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An Concord couple was expecting thousands back from the IRS, but it went to a complete stranger, all because of a mistake made by their tax preparer. (KGO-TV )

Millions of taxpayers opt to get their tax refunds by direct deposit; however, be warned, it's easy to make a mistake.

An East Bay couple was expecting thousands back from the IRS, but it went to a complete stranger. A single wrong digit can send a refund to someone else's bank account. Once that happens, it's nearly impossible to get that money back.

"My husband and I have had a hard time over the last few years," said Concord resident Susan Hatch.

Susan Hatch of Concord works in the construction trade, so does her husband Richard Hatch, and for a long time jobs were scarce.

They were glad to know they'd be getting a nice big tax refund this year, $5,200. Except, they never got the refund. Instead their $5,200 went to a complete stranger and they couldn't get it back.

"Somebody got the lottery the day they got our money, but it really hurt our family," Hatch said.

It happened when Susan and Richard Hatch went to their longtime tax preparer at H&R Block. They wanted their refund deposited to their Wells Fargo bank account. When it didn't show up, Susan Hatch called the tax preparer.

It turns out the tax preparer put the wrong account number on their returns. All their money went into someone else's account at Chase Bank. The accountant insisted Susan Hatch told him to deposit the money at Chase. The couple doesn't even have an account there.

"Why would I give him an account number for our tax refund that didn't belong to us, I mean that's crazy."

Susan says they signed the tax returns electronically, so they didn't see the forms or account number. Still, taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their own returns. H&R Block said they were responsible for the loss.

The couple contacted 7 On Your Side and we contacted H&R Block. The company decided to reimburse the $5,200 after all, saying, "We take any client service issue seriously. It appears our policies and procedurs were not followed in this one instance. We worked directly with the client to resolve the issue and deposit the refund to their account."

Hatch is warning people to check their account number before signing.

"One little error that you don't catch, you might very well be out your money and you may not be able to get it back," Hatch said.

Putting the wrong account number on a tax return happens more often than you may think, especially with electronic filing. If it happens, you can petition the IRS to try to get the bank to return your funds. However, even the feds cannot force the bank to cough up the money. Click here for more information on tax refunds.
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7 On Your SiderefundbanktaxesIRSConcord
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