Three Traverse City residents are suing H&R Block for delayed tax returns.
According to documents filed in federal court, the suit claims H&R Block improperly filled out a form used to claim educational credits. This caused a delay in the trio's tax returns, and money they say they were counting on.
For struggling Northwestern Michigan College Students Jessica Scruggs, Bruce Kenney, and Ferris State University student Cindy Russell, tax refunds mean gas in their cars, money for bills and food on the table.
"I'm a single parent and depend on my taxes every year so I can take care of things my son and I need for the rest of the year," said Russell.
But this year, that money isn't coming back as quickly as they say it was promised.
"I called H&R Block and they said it was the IRS' fault," said Scruggs. "And the IRS basically said that H&R Block didn't upgrade their software."
All three, relying on H&R Block's timely guarantee, have been waiting more than six weeks for their refunds.
"They tell me, oh, it's being processed, so between 1-4 weeks," said Kenney. "Well, I waited the 1-4, which you know, never happened. And then I called them again this week, then they said well, 1-4..."
The common problem: The American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credit, also known as Form 8863. This form helps offset education costs. The trio says this form was incorrectly filled out, slowing down the process, and in return, each one of their refunds.
"I've always gotten my taxes back within three weeks, so this is mind-blowing and really stressful," said Russell.
Not only is this a problem for these three, but federal court documents show approximately 600,000 other people with the same delay. Six weeks late.
"They guarantee a certain turn around time on refunds, so people sign up for H&R Block and use their services, relying on those guarantees, and they're not getting these guarantees," said Alyson Oliver, attorney and counselor with The Oliver Law Group. "They want refunds of the funds from hiring H&R Block to do these things that they really haven't done."
Oliver says a class-action lawsuit is necessary, and warns folks to beware of that fine print.
"We would like more people to come forward," said Oliver. "The big issue is in this case is that H&R Block has an arbitration clause in their contracts, and that prevents class-action lawsuits from going forward (if the person who signed it doesn't opt of that arbitration clause)."
In response to the hundreds of thousands of people affected, H&R Block CEO Bill Cobb issued the following statement:
"This was an issue with the form transmission. This was our mistake, and I sincerely apologize. I want you to know that we hear the frustration of those impacted by this issue loud and clear, and we're working every avenue we can to get your refund to you as fast as possible."
But Scruggs, Russell, and Kenney say an apology isn't putting gas in their cars or paying their bills on time.
"This last month or two has been very stressful," said Scruggs. "It's upsetting, it's depressing."
"It was an awful lot of money to spend to not get our money on time," said Russell.