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Report: #1498369

Complaint Review: Fortress Tax Relief - Bend Oregon

  • Submitted:
  • Updated:
  • Reported By: Lisa — East Windsor United States
  • Fortress Tax Relief 1011 SW Emkay Drive, Ste 201 Bend, Oregon United States

Fortress Tax Relief Fortress Financial Services Rip Off/ Scam Client by increasing rates trying to say Client did not honor Service Agreement that in fact they did not honor Bend Oregon

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I have worked with Fortress Tax Relief for the past several months.  I think I get their model of service now.  They lure you in with a reasonable rate (better than most of their competitors) and then they don’t honor their own Service Agreement but tell you that it was you, so if you want them to finish your case you have to actually pay more money.  They will say you have not met their terms such as deadlines, the ones they make- unreasonable ones and even if they agree to a new deadline date say for a payment or document, they don't honor the revised agreement. 

They try to say they will work with you but that they did not agree to change the terms of the Service Agreement.  So for example if you do not pay on the exact date or need an extension that the IRS would agree to, then too bad, even if they agree at the time that it won’t effect the Service Agreement, it really will.  I wanted to make sure that my work with them would not effect the Service Agreement as I wanted to keep the Flat Rate I was given so I was verbal about this as we worked together.  But even though they agreed I was fine throughout, in the end, they did not honor their word.  So once they used up the money, they actually did not honor their own Agreement, and said they would only continue if they were paid more.  So beware because in the end it will cost you much more than what you would have paid one of their competitors. 

Let me explain what happened to me….

They get you by showing you they have been on TV and give you a link to it, they show you good reviews/ratings.  Seemed believable, so I went with them.  

There big Service Agreement points are that every case is handled personally by a licensed attorney------------come to find out this means you get high hourly bill rates for just simple standard things like follow up messages so the Agreed to Rate gets gobbled up more quickly, even though they gave me a Flat Rate to complete all the work.  As soon as the Flat Rate was used up, the work stopped, even though it is supposed to be based on Performance, not hourly.  See my proofs from Service Agreement below:

Fortress agrees to provide Client with superior service and representation in relation to the objectives set forth above. Fortress agrees to take reasonable actions on behalf of Client necessary to the attainment of optimal results. These actions may include the following:

1. Advising Client of eligibility requirements …;

2. Assistance in preparing IRS Forms …………………Never Done--------I had to do it all.

3. Preparation of Payment Offer ……………………… Never Done;

4. Reasonable verbal and/or written negotiations ……Esq. did not Complete Accurate State Attorney Rep Form until 2 months later;

5. Diligently apprising Client of all significant developments …………Told I would receive copies of Correspondence in real time-----------Never Happened, I had to request it.

6. Advising Client of reasonable alternative strategies …

7. Responding to all Client inquiries ……

8. Advising Client as to reasonable avenues of Appeal (if applicable);

9. Making recommendations to Client…

10. Taking reasonable measures to protect Client and Company from enforcement……Actually put me in harm by:

A. not being able to represent me first couple months and therefore having a levy done due to    they did not file correct Attorney Representation form for my state and

B. in end brought harm by not honoring their verbal agreements causing me to want to work with a different agency and

C. when I got Covid and could not respond for 2.5 weeks, they did not respect that and just said sorry money has run out and I did not finish in time (although 2.5 weeks earlier before I got sick would have been fine), which I could not understand as they gave a flat fee and with the final paperwork I had prepared all they had left was to review it and send it with the payment proposal so what did the 2.5 weeks of me being sick effect?  So they never actually did any real work on the case.

Now the kicker here is that they tell you all this good stuff and then fall back on if a payment is ever late or a requested document is late then they can tell you that you did not meet your requirements therefore they now cannot honor the Flat Rate.  Following is the Customer Part of the Service Agreement and where they get you is at #3 and #5:

Client acknowledges and accepts that this bid is contingent upon Client’s agreement to:

1. Cooperate with, and follow instructions from, Fortress personnel;

2. Actively participate in the implementation of the strategy set forth above;

3. Pay the above fee as agreed and with good funds;-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, if you do not pay on the agreed to date but still pay in same month or if they agree to extend out 1 month, they will say even though they agreed to allow it based on your individual circumstance, they will still consider it that you have not met your Client Agreement and therefore they need to charge you more to complete your case.  In my situation they got paid as follows:

 I paid by credit card for all payments, so I have a documented record of same.  As per my payments, they were made as follows:

11/ 5/19

12/11/19---------------------note: 12/6/19 I spoke with Mike Zacka (V.P. of Fortress) and he agreed to payment protocol and that I could skip Feb payment and that he would allow payment to be extended out 1 month.

1/28/20---------------------note: Jan 21 Peter instructed no more work be done on case until more money is received.  All required docs were emailed to Karlin on 1-17-20.

3/5/20

4/5/20

5/6/20

As you can see payments were made monthly and it was agreed that Feb payment could be moved to May and that the Service Agreement would not be effected, but I did not find out until the end when I asked for the Billing Record and saw that there were notes that they actually stopped working on my case because I did not make payment on the 5th of each month.  Can you believe that?  I couldn’t.  They still accepted my monthly payments but had stopped the work without notifying me of same even after the payment plan was agreed to with the vice president of the company. 

4. Return all phone calls from Fortress personnel within a reasonable amount of

time;

5. Provide all requested documents and/or information to Fortress (and/or the

taxing authorities if applicable) by the date due;

              Ok, now if you ever went through a tax situation where you need representation, chances are you need to complete a few things so your paperwork can be submitted correctly.  The IRS will give deadlines but if you have reasonable needs, they will often extend you time, as mentioned, if reasonable.  However, even though the IRS did this when I had good reason to request it, Fortress says they do not care, they do not want to deal with extensions (they have a set timeline in mind that like I mentioned they don’t tell you is actually set in stone for them-which is around the end of your agreed to payment term) and so even if the IRS approves it, Fortress does not. 

In fact, Fortress also sets unreasonable time lines for you, like a 2 week deadline that they say “they need to do to move things along” even if they know your situation and that you need another couple weeks, they do not allow it because they don’t tell you this upfront, but because they will use it against you and say you have not met their arbitrary deadline and therefore their Service Agreement and so your Flat Fee is nullified. 

6. Refrain from negotiating with the taxing authorities and from interfering with

Fortress efforts to accomplish the objectives set forth above;

7. Comply with all tax laws following the date of execution of this Service

Agreement or within a reasonable amount of time thereafter.

Please note this part of their contract:

The fee set forth above shall be a FLAT FEE

THE BELOW RATE SCHEDULE IS NOT APPLICABLE unless work outside the flat

fee is required (see preceding paragraph). Furthermore, Client will not be required to

remit fees beyond the initial fee set forth above without Client’s prior consent.

Senior Tax Practitioner $275/hr

Tax Practitioner $225/hr

Junior Tax Practitioner $185/hr

Level III Para $105/hr

Level II Para $90/hr

Now they have a good trick they use.  Notice they say “THE BELOW RATE SCHEDULE IS NOT APPLICABLE unless work outside the flat fee is required.”  Yet this is not true as demonstrated below from their Billing Report.  When they give you the supposed “Flat Fee”, they really bill their time not on “performance” as indicated in their Service Agreement, but actually by the hourly rates indicated above.  They start their billing with Hourly.  And once that hourly rate is used up, they stop your work and say you did not meet the Service Agreement requirements and therefore need to pay more money for them to finish your case.

Here is a section of the Billing Report I received from them showing they are tricky as they are billing hourly right from the start and never really honoring a Flat Fee Agreement (but they don't provide you with a regular monthly billing report so you don't know- I had to request to receive this):

 

Fortress Financial Services, Inc

1011 SW Emkay Drive Suite 201

Bend, OR 97702

 

Invoice  July 31, 2020

Professional Services

Hrs/Rate

Amount

11/5/2019

Rev'd cl file and marketing notes. Pc to cl for initial consultation. Discussed SA terms, history and ownership of business, reasons for falling behind, contact and communication with IRS, current filing and deposit compliance, assets and equity, pending deadline, A/R, answers to cl's questions, contact info, and expectations of cl.

Conference with KH re prep of poas, and strategy for rep. Notes to file.

1.10

275.00/hr

302.50

handed new file from mktg. prelim conf w/MZ. created cl info sheet, network and physical file. Added to PB projections and mktg post dates.

TO w/cl and PB

drafted pers and biz poas, and started. emailed to cl for sigs and completion.

1.80

105.00/hr

189.00

11/6/2019

pc to cl, reminder we need POAs asap. 2848 most important efaxes from cl w/attached signed 2848 for biz and pers obtained attny sigs and faxed to CAF and RO.

drafted FA letter. Notes to file.

0.40

105.00/hr

42.00

Pc to RO. Ldm re poas sent via fax, and desire and availability to discuss case asap. Notes to file.

0.20

275.00/hr

55.00

Conference with SG and MZ re SA terms, fee bid for case, and concerns re ability to honor SA for flat fee. Email to cl re explanation of concerns re flat fee, possibility of need for additional funds, commencement of rep, and acknowledgement needed from cl. Notes to file.

0.80

275.00/hr

NO CHARGE

7 emails from cl w/answers for 9297 and 1/19-10/19 bank stmts for 2 accts.

pc to cl, clarified cl home address vs mailing address. Notes to file.

0.40

105.00/hr

42.00

Now please note the underlined section, as it is the day after the first payment was made.  I believe this is the part of the scam where after they get you signed up, they want to reinforce certain parts of the contract that they will use against you later.  Let me explain…

They told me they could do the work for a Flat Fee and I thought it was better than their competitors so I liked that.  Then they delegated an Attorney to the case and the Attorney tells me he will honor the Flat Fee given, but he thinks it is too low.  Then he sends me an email stating if I don’t follow the Service Agreement he will not be able to honor the fee. See email below:

Hi xxx,

As we discussed in our phone call yesterday, I have some reservations about Fortress’ ability to achieve the goals outlined in the Service Agreement, for the flat fee that Michael Zacha quoted you.  I explained that the lowest fee for an In-Business xxx is typically more than $xxx, and your case will require both an In-Business Offer, and separate negotiations with the IRS regarding your personal liabilities.  Those tasks are likely to take more of Fortress’ time than the flat fee of $xxx will pay for.

I discussed this concern with my supervisor, and the president of Fortress, Stephen Galgoczy, who is copied on this email.  He shares my concerns, but we also know that you need help that we are uniquely qualified to provide.  Therefore, we are going to proceed with representation.  Toward that end, I have filed power of attorney with the IRS, and contacted Revenue Officer xxx this morning regarding your case.

It is important for you to understand that the $xxx fee may not cover all of the work there is to do on your case.  I will, however, make every effort to complete the necessary work for the fee to which you have agreed.  Understand that any delay in providing requested information, or missed deadline, or lack of tax compliance will delay the accomplishment of the goals we are setting out to achieve.  If that happens, we reserve the opportunity to request additional funds, and ensure that Fortress is paid for all of the time that your case requires.  To be clear, we are not requesting any additional funds at this time.

Please respond with an acknowledgement that you understand the concerns raised in this email, and are willing to move forward with Fortress’ representation.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Stephen Galgoczy, or Michael Zacha.

Thank you,

Peter Brantley

Fortress Financial Services, Inc.

 

So they make it like they are helping you out because they care.  Note part that says “any delay in providing requested information, or missed deadline, or lack of tax compliance will delay the accomplishment of the goals we are setting out to achieve.  If that happens, we reserve the opportunity to request additional funds, and ensure that Fortress is paid for all of the time that your case requires.  To be clear, we are not requesting any additional funds at this time.”

               My tax compliance was good and I never had a delay that was not agreed to, the IRS did extended time for me as I had a reasonable request/reason. Interestingly, I practically had to beg Fortress Tax Relief to get the extension for me from the IRS.  Now I see that had I not done that they would say I did not meet my Service Agreement, which is what I believe they count on from their Clients so they can get more money.  

I only missed a 2 week deadline that Fortress arbitrarily made and that was not based on specific IRS immediate needs.  Even when I explained that it was not realistic for me based on again actual real need they did not change it in writing although I was given the impression that they did agree to my need and that it was pushed out.  So I went on completing my records so they could be presented.  Now what I did not know until I requested the Billing Report from them was that they kept taking my money but had stopped working on my case early on due to their concerns that my payments were not coming in on the 5th of each month although they also agreed to the adjusted payment terms as shown at beginning of this complaint. I specifically asked Mike Zacha if this would effect our Service Agreement and he told me it would not. So, as Vice President of the Company, he was not honest and did not honor his word when I took issue with it as I have the exact notes from my conversation with him.   

  Following is a “stop work order”-see underlined part:

1/21/2020

emailed xxx to cl for review and completion. Requested contact to reschedule FFS fee. Notes to file.

0.20

105.00/hr

21.00

Conference with KH re xxx, and payment needed from cl prior to additional work on case. Notes to file.

0.20

275.00/hr

55.00

I was not told that any work was stopped due to payment issues.  Mike Zacha had given approval to the adjusted payment protocol before this date and I had already on 1-17-20 completed the paperwork needed.  Only difference was that we pushed one payment out one month and payment might not be made on exactly the 5th of each month but would be made monthly.  This is hardly considered an issue especially when it was agreed to by both parties.  Here is Fortresses account of the money I paid them showing payment in full:

  For professional services rendered

 

11/5/2019 Payment - Thank You

12/11/2019 Payment - Thank You

1/28/2020 Payment - Thank You

3/5/2020 Payment - Thank You

4/5/2020 Payment - Thank You

5/6/2020 Payment - Thank You----------------this payment was agreed to be pushed out of Feb and added at end

Do you think this should be cause for charging Client more money?  I was told that one of the 2 reasons they had to nullify the Flat Fee is because I did not pay on the 5th every month.  The other reason was that I supposedly did not meet their “deadlines”.  Like mentioned, the IRS moved a deadline  but Fortress made an arbitrary deadline that I was under impression they agreed to change, but then at end found out they used it to say I did not follow their Service Agreement.  In fact, they were the ones that did not follow their own Service Agreement.  Also as you can see now, their fee was never based on Performance for a Flat Fee, it was based on Hourly.  When the Attorney exhausted the money, as he billed for menial general emails and follow up, hardly anything substantial or requiring the billing rate of an Attorney, then the Contract was cancelled or more money would have to be paid.

 In summary, Fortress Tax Relief markets you to get you to sign up with them, then sets you up so they can say you did not meet the Service Agreement terms, then you must pay more money if you want them to complete your case.   I bet they have done this to many of their clients.  It is dishonest. 

 Buyer Beware as they will show you marketing and tv interviews that make them look honorable, but actually, they are just smart scam/rip off artists in my view.  I spoke with Stephen Galgoczy who is the President of Fortress Tax Relief and he made the final decision and after my conversation with him I could see that he is the leader of the whole scam.  He may be good at marketing his business, but in my opinion, he is not very ethical and neither is his partner Mike Zacha who specifically told me my Service Agreement would not be effected.

 I would not pay them more money due to the principal of it, so in the end hired a different agency to complete my case.  Had I done that in the first place, I would have actually saved a lot of money. 

If it looks too good to be true, Beware…. .  If other people have experienced this too, please let me know. 

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/03/2020 02:21 PM and is a permanent record located here: https://www.ripoffreport.com/report/fortress-tax-relief/bend-oregon-financial-rip-1498369. 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. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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