“Pennies on the dollar” may be a great pitch on cable television, but it’s not a surefire business plan. Desperate taxpayers who have paid money up front to JK Harris to resolve their tax debts at a discount are joining the IRS as potential “pennies on the dollar” creditors now that this leader in the tax settlement industry is filing for bankruptcy protection.
This is the second major blow this year to cable TV ad revenues. Earlier this year “Tax Lady” Roni Deutch gave up her law license in the face of charges that she took fees up front to resolve tax debts and failed to follow through.
Tax nerds see the late night ads when we get home and wonder how these outfits manage to get such great deals out of the IRS when getting the Service to actually forgive tax debts is like pulling teeth from a grumpy rhino for the rest of us.
TaxMasters now stands as the biggest remaining player in the TV tax settlement business, but they have their own problems. They were de-listed last month from the OTC Bulletin Board to the pink sheets for failing to file their 10-Q due August 15. The last reported trade for Taxs.pk is at 13 cents. They have also been sued by the Minnesota Attorney General for allegedly deceptive practices. ABC News reported on the suit:
The Minnesota attorney general says many of the company's employees are skilled tele-marketers who have little knowledge of the complicated tax issues faced by people who have fallen behind in filing their returns or making tax payments. "When you call, you think you're talking to a tax professional," said Swanson. "You're really talking to just a salesperson who's trying to get you to sign up."
So maybe the secret is that the late night settlement outfits are staffed by telemarketers who just happen to be awesome at selling pennies-on-the-dollar deals to the IRS. If that’s true, though, they seem to be having a lot of trouble turning what would truly be a remarkable and valuable skill into profits.