• Report: #9327

Complaint Review: Farm Business Consultants Inc

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  • Submitted: Sat, December 15, 2001
  • Updated: Mon, May 12, 2014

  • Reported By:
Farm Business Consultants Inc
Nationwide Canada

FBC Farm Business Consultants Inc

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Consolidating some information

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Rebutting my own report!

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: FBC stays narrowly inside the line of legal

*General Comment: FBC is no longer such a great company :(

*REBUTTAL Owner of company: Membership with FBC (Farm Business Consultants) offers added value

*UPDATE Employee: Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

*UPDATE Employee: Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

*UPDATE Employee: Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

*UPDATE Employee: Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

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There is a tax consulting service company operating in Canada called Farm Business Consultants Inc (FBC). They have regional offices in Ontario ( London was head office until recently), Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta ( head office Calgary ), and British Columbia.

They package their service as a " membership; " per taxation year that includes review of past returns, planning, consultation, preparation of tax returns mostly for farmers and some small businesses. This " membership" commences on the day that they pay their so-called annual fee and expires on the day that the FBC data collector shows up at the " member's " location.

The fee paid, for example, by an average farmer on a $250,000 gross operation would be $3,274, plus taxes.

The sales brochures and sales presentation materials promote these services well enough, but make no mention that the so-called membership expires, along with all benefits and services, at the time that the FBC data collector visits supposedly to collect data for the current year's tax return.

However, before the data collector collects any data he is required to collect the " membership" fees for the next tax year. He is paid on commission. The data collectors have used tactics such as refusing to collect the data; creating an impression that the tax work will not be completed, or that the "member" will risk audit if he refuses to pay. In other words, whatever it takes to get the pre-payment for the following year's services. This means, using the fee example given above, that the average farmer would pay over $7,000 to get his tax return completed for the current year.

This happens at a time of year when the "member" has limited time to explore other options. If the annual fee was paid on January 3, 2001, as an example, it would be due again on February 3, 2001, if that was the day of the FBC data collect visit. Responses to this vary from grudging compliance to angry refusal to pay in spite of the loss of the fees already paid for the work, yet uncompleted.

There are a number of contacts available to you on this story should you wish to proceed.
Also, Consumer Protection Branch Saskatchewan Justice, Government of Saskatchewan are reviewing this matter.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 12/15/2001 12:00 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Farm-Business-Consultants-Inc/nationwide/FBC-Farm-Business-Consultants-Inc-9327. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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REBUTTALS & REPLIES:
0Author 8Consumer 1Employee/Owner
Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Consolidating some information

AUTHOR: Consumer Protector - ()

As this report is the main one that pops up when people google FBC, I want let them know that this isn't the only thread on here. You can search FBC in the ripoffreport search bar, or search the individual reports: 1120497, 1060531, 994134, and 599396. You would be wise to take what are written on these forums seriously, as much of it rings true to the practices of FBC. You have the oppourtunity to not renew, or even better, not get sucked into their mess in the first place.

If you are a prospective client who hasn't been scared away (or been given the line: "Do you like your (phone/truck)? Don't you think there are bad things written about your(iphnoe/Dodge) on the internet?") ASK for three references from clients in your area and say you want to phone them. I am willing to bet that they are unable to come up with 3 members happy enought to be willing to lend their names to the FBC brand.

For the most part, fbc employees are well intentioned, yet overworked and undertrained. Due to the culture of high turnover, I think the longer an individual is employed by FBC, the more apathy shows up in their work. Working 80+ hours a week during peak season while driving 50,000-100,000km per year is draining physically and mentally. The higher up in management an individual is, the more out of touch he is with what is actually happening at the customer service level. I have read the rebuttals from Bruce, Steve and Don, and think that they don't understand what is actually happening. They are getting their information second or third hand from regional managers who are keen on keeping their jobs. The managers are under incredible pressure to increase the membership base in their individual regions. Between deaths and disgruntled clients, it's remarkable they are able to have 90% retention. This is achieved in part, as stated many place on this site, but letting the client believe that audits are going to being gloom and doom, and in extreme cases by the rep using emotional extortion to get the member continue. The fbc sales pitch is wonderfully refined, and if the company was able to live up to the hype, would be a wonderful way to get your taxes done. If the sales people(again, high turnover) knew what the members were actually getting vs what they were promising them, the ones with morals would immediately find other employment.

The management rebuttals on here have correctly stated that there is extensive training within FBC, but what they don't highlight is that not all of the employees have it. Reps are hired every year for the Jan-April tax season. These reps come from all walks of life, the common element being they have a vehicle and a pulse. They also have only a 5 day crash course on basic T1's, but mostly on how to input data into the confusing program. A corporate level rep is supposed to have worked for FBC for three years before being released to work on corporate files. Due to high turn over, this is not always the case. In some offices the reps are allowed to work on corporate files in as little as 7 months.

Due to the membership fee being based on gross transactions, it leads to the biggest part of the rip off. If you do your own bookkeeping on a computer, and it is done well, FBC will likely spend about an hour total working on your file, yet you pay the same fee as someone with the same gross transactions with whom the rep may beed to spend 6 hours. The second biggest rip off is the preparation of Agristability applications. $545 for a regular farmer, $880 for a corporate client. The exact same amount of work is done for each, but the corporate client pays $300 more. The other rip off element of this is that they are rarely done correctly. The numbers are 'adjusted' to make things work.

 

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#2 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Rebutting my own report!

AUTHOR: guy smiley - (Canada)

Sorry, I just re-read my report and wanted to clarify my H&R Block comment. H&R Block/Liberty Tax etc are companies that are really built for basic tax returns. If your company grosses under $250K and you can't afford a CA/CGA I'd suggest you find local representation with a good reputation. If you can afford FBC, do yourself and your business a favour - hire a good CA/CGA. Even if they're a mediocre CA they will be far superior to the average FBC rep you will see.

I know several FBC reps who are brilliant. But they are few and far between. I know a few terrible CAs, but they are few and far between. 

Good luck!

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#3 UPDATE EX-employee responds

FBC stays narrowly inside the line of legal

AUTHOR: guy smiley - (Canada)

I worked there in the 90's and again in the mid 2000's. Unlike most FBC reps I have also worked at CA firms, have formal accounting education and can offer a unique perspective. 

The first post seems to have it quite right. No FBC rep is happy when a member says they don't want to renew. FBC reps spend a day of training learning how to rebut efforts to discontinue memberships. FBC reps are also paid about half as much for the call if they don't get a renewal. The half they get does not make it very worthwhile to drive to a call and spend 4 hours doing data entry. As a consequence, many many unethical things have been said and done by reps to renew memberships. This is not condoned by management, but they do not go far enough to weed out unscrupulous individuals who actually collect money. It's the bad side of capitalism - if the cheques keep rolling in why question the means? If they know a rep is saying unethical things they will deal with it appropriately if the reps numbers are poor. If the reps numbers are good that rep can do no wrong.

Steve from Regina clearly hasn't been on the road in a long time or doesn't speak to members. 90% of FBC members do not "eagerly" renew. My guess between the two offices I worked at would be more like 40% renew eagerly, 30% do so with a sigh, 20% need to be talked into it and 5-10% do not renew. And then 2-3% die each year.

The rip off with the renewal is that since the member is always paying for membership at the start of their term they are sometimes paying for business services after they are out of business. A rep shows up with a renewal in hand based on the prior year gross income. Year by year it averages out well but if the person went out of business the year before the rep will generally not offer to recalculate the current year fee to reflect the fact that the member is no longer in business. If the member kicks up a fuss they will recalculate the fee to a non-business basic T1 rate (about $400). Whether it makes sense to continue to pay them $400/year to fill out a T1 that can be done at home for $40 is up to the consumer, but when the member raises that concern a typical tactic of FBC comes out - fear mongering. "Oh you better watch out because the government will audit you 3 years after you close your business". That's a common one. The consumer should be aware that in 11 years of doing taxes I've never noticed that to be true at all. The unfortunate thing is if you are not a member and you get audited for a period completed by FBC it is very difficult to get your General Ledger from FBC to give to the auditor. They take the attitude that since you're no longer a member they have no obligation to provide internal documents...even though it's a document you already paid for.

Another rip off that is slowly dying out are "preferred members". Back in the early days of FBC Ibbotson Sr needed infrastructure money so he offered people to pay for 3 years in advance! As with the problem above they can be paying for 3 years of business services when they are just basic tax filers. Not many people know they will be out of business 3 years ahead of time. The original idea was that some rare cases it can take up to three years to settle an estate. The rip off is that executors are often not informed of that and estates are wound up with three year's accounting fees still in FBCs pocket. They generally do not get paid out to the estate, unless the member knows enough to ask for it. Members who are still living and just want to bring their membership current to only pay for the typical 1 year in advance are also subjected to fear mongering.

Steve Ibbotson's post is also full of inaccuracies. Any CA or CGA will gladly visit their client's home for the fees FBC charges.

Again, any CA firm will represent their clients in tax court for the fees FBC charges. Don't be mislead, they are not a humanitarian pro-bono organization. Further, tax court applies to 1 or 2 people out of 50,000. The cost is easily absorbed.

Most firms will offer a fixed fee rate or an hourly rate. Unlike FBC most CA firms work on an hourly rate (with a base rate attached). Again, for the rates FBC charges most CA firms would gladly go with a fixed fee and not charge for telephone calls etc.

I'm not sure about grant applications either. I worked there for 5 years. I never heard of anyone filling out a grant application. Unless he's talking about Agristability. In which case, they get paid handsomely for that application.

Any CA worth his salt will run a diagnostic of his client base any time a big change is done to be sure s/he is applying the change properly.

I love how he ends his message with a bit of a veiled threat.

Concerned Spouse - FBC was never a "great" company. It's just that you found out more and more as time went on. In the 90s and 2000's 60-70 hour weeks were the norm including unpaid Saturday morning check ins and phone calling members from home on Sundays to set up appointments. The support your husband was told he has was not actually there. The first couple of years he towed the company line but then as time went on the feedback he got from members was quite different wasn't it? I know, that's exactly what I went through too.

The management style of nearly every FBC manager I worked under was similar to a school yard bully. That was the one constant. I suspect corporate culture like that comes directly from the top.

What consumers need to be aware of is that FBC reps are often not the Tax Specialists they pro port to be. I was hired at the age of 19, straight out of high school with zero accounting education and given a two week intensive training class (less one day of "addressing member concern" training). In my first training class I don't think there was anyone there with any formal education. The guy beside me was an ex-bouncer, the guy beside him used to sell exercise equipment. When I became involved in their manager in training program I found out why. They deliberately hire people with no accounting education because they don't understand the "FBC way"....which pretty much means FBC does accounting one way and the rest of the world does it another. That is not a good thing despite what they will lead you to believe. If your business grosses under $750,000/year you will likely have one of these people doing your taxes. The reason you see a different rep each year is because there is a high turnover rate. I have reviewed hundreds of other accountant's work and I can confidently say that I have never seen errors that come close to the errors I have seen at FBC. 

Things will never change at FBC until they change how they view a successful rep. One rep who we'll call Jeff in Northern Ontario routinely got members so upset they would often become extremely hostile with the company. But Jeff was always lauded as a "top rep" because he brought in a lot of new business. They finally fired him. But then they turned around a few years later and rehired him because their numbers were low. I remember once trying to hand deliver a tax return that was deplorably late to a client and I was instructed very specifically to leave it in the mail box. If I approached the house they would call the police. This type of thing happened a lot with Jeff. But Jeff was also normally the top salesman in Ontario. 

Once of my current clients told me about a FBC salesperson who would not stop coming to her business. Again, fear mongering tactics like "Oh the CRA hired 2000 new auditors this year." "Oh my, you don't have an estate plan? Did you know the gov't can take away all your estate if you don't have one?" (incidentally, FBC doesn't know the first thing about an estate plan) I told this sweet, nice person that unfortunately politely saying no thank you does not compute with these people. Generally you have to get quite rude to get them to stop calling.  

What attracts people to FBC is that reps are generally chosen because of their ability to relate to people. This is different from CAs who generally choose themselves based on high levels of introversion. Does that mean every extroverted FBC rep is a bad tax guy? No. Does it mean every introverted CA is amazing? No. If you gave your books to 100 different accountants you will get 100 different results. But I would be safe to bet most CA firms are significantly better at preparing legal tax returns than FBC is. If FBC points to errors in your CA's work I would first question the CA. Most FBC reps do not know enough of tax law beyond 31(1) to adequately critique a CAs work. But also beware, not every CA is a tax expert. Be careful, ask questions about formal education. The basic CA education is also inadequate to be a tax expert. However, after receiving their designation some CAs go on to do specific studies in advanced techniques. Can't afford a CA and your company makes less than $250,000? Try H&R Block. The average rep there has far more training than the average FBC rep.
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#4 General Comment

FBC is no longer such a great company :(

AUTHOR: Concerned Spouse - (United States of America)

I am a spouse of a long time FBC employee. Let me begin by saying that I believe in the services and products provided by FBC, as does my spouse. We have always supported the companys efforts to provide better service to the companys members and staff through innovative products and programs. It was once a positive and productive workplace that fostered not only excellent workplace, but also personal, relationships. In recent years, however, there has been a marked change in the environment at FBC that seems to start from the very upper levels of management. MSRs and office staff were always motivated and co-operative and often exceeded their own personal and office targets. They had regular check-ins, facilitated by willing and able managers. That is no longer the case. While I appreciate that every business has its challenges and every GM may approach business with their own management style, I can say with the utmost confidence that, under the current "leadership" the morale has been on a steady decline, and is now adversely affecting the personal relationships and quality of work of those employed there. 

Employees are expected to work long hours (my spouse regularly works 16 hour days), are often away for long periods of time, driving through dangerous road conditions for long hours, at great personal riskall to meet the needs of FBCs membership. It is a sacrifice that my spouse was happy to make, provided that he received support and adequate compensation from his employer.  
Over the past few years, my spouse, and others employed in the office, have shared with me some of their concerns regarding the actions and leadership of FBC and their unrealistic expectations of work hours and productivity. There is little training, and what is provided is inadequate. Managers are unable to assist road reps because of their own lack of knowledge/training. Repeated requests for training go unanswered by Head Office. Employees are rewarded for their personal sacrifices and hard work by having managers arbitrarily impose policies that penalize employees earning potential when it is direct violation of Schedule A that is used to correctly calculate an MSRs pay. Repeated commitments to bonus and incentive packages are made that never materialize.  

The tolerance of workplace harassment is absurd. For a period of over a year several employees, including a manager, repeatedly made victims of their staff and co-workers, in clear violation of labour law and the Human Rights Code and NO ONE did anything about the numerous complaints from several staff members.

Annual (supposedly anonymous) "engagement surveys" are used to allow employees to evaluate their managers/supervisors performance and their feelings about the company and their jobs but the results are largely ignored. A manager recently received terrible reviews from his staff that, in most businesses would have resulted in his firing, instead FBC sent him on a Hawaiian vacation! Concerns of fraud and financial mismanagement are swept under the rug and the shortfall comes out of employees payacheques!

FBC has a great core business model, but they have lost sight of how (or the desire to) maintain it! My spouse, and many others, are seeking employment elsewhere. FBC seems unwilling to do what is required to weed out the bad apples and maintain a strong, effective, and LOYAL workforce to serve their membership. As the company stands right now, I would not recommend pursuing their services or employment with them.
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#5 REBUTTAL Owner of company

Membership with FBC (Farm Business Consultants) offers added value

AUTHOR: Steven - (Canada)

June 18, 2003

Dear Sirs,
An associate directed me to your site and, in particular, the reference to FBC (Farm Business Consultants). As the General Manager of FBC, I will tell you that you have been misinformed.

FBC does offer a Membership-based service. The fees for this service apply to a calendar tax year. If a Member joined us in January 2003 to prepare his/her taxes for the 2003 tax year, our obligation to that Member is not completed until we have filed the 2003 tax return or until 2004. Only one fee for the year applies.

If a Member joined us in January 2003 to prepare and file his/her tax return for the 2002 tax year, our obligation to that Member is not met until we have completed and filed the tax return for that year regardless of whether the Member has renewed with us for the 2003 tax year. We will ask the Member if he/she wishes to renew for the 2003 tax year but the Member is under no obligation to do so at that time. If the Member has not renewed by August, we assume he/she does not wish to continue Membership with us.

We charge a Membership fee because we offer year-round service. Here is a sampling of services we our offer:

We visit our Members place of business to collect the data we need to prepare his/her filing. Im not certain what it is like in the US, but in Canada virtually none of the accounting firms are willing to make business/house calls.

FBC also offers audit protection for our Members. We will appear at and defend our Members interests in any audit called by the tax department. We have also funded legal fees and defended our Members all the way up to the Federal Appeals Court of Canada. We do not know of any other accounting firm that will do this.

Our tax specialists are available to assist our Members year-round on the phone or at our Members location, all at no additional cost. Unlike our competition, we do not charge our clients for every minute we spend with them on the phone.

Many of our Members take advantage of an early tax call that allows the Member to assess his/her tax position before year-end. This permits the Member to advance or delay certain financial or operational decisions in order to minimize his/her tax exposure.

We keep our Members informed of tax changes, court decisions and any advancements in government assistance programming through regular e-mail and bulletins.

We also help our Members apply for any grants or support offered by various levels of government.

This past year, after the federal government adjusted one support program, we unilaterally scanned our Member base to test the implications of this change. We discovered that over a thousand Members now qualified for benefits they had not previously earned.

Without further cost to our Members, we contacted each of them allowing them to acquire the financial support they deserved. All of them gained sufficient government support to mostly or completely offset their FBC Membership fees for the year.

FBC has been offering this comprehensive, year-round Membership service for more than 50 years now. We would not have lasted this long if our service was found wanting.

We think your website also provides a productive and valuable service. However, in this case the information posted is misleading and therefore compromises the people you wish to serve.

I would appreciate it if you posted my complete letter in rebuttal for a three-to-six-month period; after which, I would ask that you to delete the entire FBC reference.

Thank you

Yours truly

Steven J. Ibbotson
General Manager
FBC
2748 37th Avenue NE
Calgary, AB
T1Y 5L3

Phone: 403 735-6105
e-mail: sibbotson@fbc.ca
Web: www.fbc.ca
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#6 UPDATE Employee

Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

AUTHOR: Steve - (Canada)

FBC is a family owned business that has been operating in Canada since 1952. We enjoy relationships with over 25,000 farm families across the country. On an annual basis over 90% of these families eagerly renew their memberships with us and rely on us to handle their tax and other financial affairs.

We regularly conduct satisfaction surveys of both our members and our staff and these surveys continually suggest that our membership is happy with the way we do business, the services we provide to our members and the rates that we charge for these services.

The person making the allegations above has substantially overstated the fees that we charge and we absolutely would not tolerate employees treating our members in the way he describes.

Although the complainant does not offer his name, position or reason for complaining, the terminology in his note indicates that he is likely a disgruntled ex-employee. Perhaps his use of the above techniques is what earned him the title of EX-employee.

We at FBC are proud of our committment to service and value for our members and look forward to continuing our success as Canada's premiere agricultural and rural small business tax preparer.
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#7 UPDATE Employee

Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

AUTHOR: Steve - (Canada)

FBC is a family owned business that has been operating in Canada since 1952. We enjoy relationships with over 25,000 farm families across the country. On an annual basis over 90% of these families eagerly renew their memberships with us and rely on us to handle their tax and other financial affairs.

We regularly conduct satisfaction surveys of both our members and our staff and these surveys continually suggest that our membership is happy with the way we do business, the services we provide to our members and the rates that we charge for these services.

The person making the allegations above has substantially overstated the fees that we charge and we absolutely would not tolerate employees treating our members in the way he describes.

Although the complainant does not offer his name, position or reason for complaining, the terminology in his note indicates that he is likely a disgruntled ex-employee. Perhaps his use of the above techniques is what earned him the title of EX-employee.

We at FBC are proud of our committment to service and value for our members and look forward to continuing our success as Canada's premiere agricultural and rural small business tax preparer.
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#8 UPDATE Employee

Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

AUTHOR: Steve - (Canada)

FBC is a family owned business that has been operating in Canada since 1952. We enjoy relationships with over 25,000 farm families across the country. On an annual basis over 90% of these families eagerly renew their memberships with us and rely on us to handle their tax and other financial affairs.

We regularly conduct satisfaction surveys of both our members and our staff and these surveys continually suggest that our membership is happy with the way we do business, the services we provide to our members and the rates that we charge for these services.

The person making the allegations above has substantially overstated the fees that we charge and we absolutely would not tolerate employees treating our members in the way he describes.

Although the complainant does not offer his name, position or reason for complaining, the terminology in his note indicates that he is likely a disgruntled ex-employee. Perhaps his use of the above techniques is what earned him the title of EX-employee.

We at FBC are proud of our committment to service and value for our members and look forward to continuing our success as Canada's premiere agricultural and rural small business tax preparer.
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#9 UPDATE Employee

Fabrication ..As a member of the management team for FBC I would like to respond to these allegations.

AUTHOR: Steve - (Canada)

FBC is a family owned business that has been operating in Canada since 1952. We enjoy relationships with over 25,000 farm families across the country. On an annual basis over 90% of these families eagerly renew their memberships with us and rely on us to handle their tax and other financial affairs.

We regularly conduct satisfaction surveys of both our members and our staff and these surveys continually suggest that our membership is happy with the way we do business, the services we provide to our members and the rates that we charge for these services.

The person making the allegations above has substantially overstated the fees that we charge and we absolutely would not tolerate employees treating our members in the way he describes.

Although the complainant does not offer his name, position or reason for complaining, the terminology in his note indicates that he is likely a disgruntled ex-employee. Perhaps his use of the above techniques is what earned him the title of EX-employee.

We at FBC are proud of our committment to service and value for our members and look forward to continuing our success as Canada's premiere agricultural and rural small business tax preparer.
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