Optima Tax Relief Review
Optima Tax Relief is a Delaware company, with operations based in Santa Ana, California and Chandler, AZ. Delaware shows they incorporated in 2010 and California shows they registered 2011.
Optima offers a large range of tax relates services, including tax relief, ID theft protection, tax return preparation,.
Optima Tax Relief advertised for years on television with celebrity spokesman Alan Thicke, who recently passed away. Many of us have fond memories of Alan and will miss him. It is worth exploring some of the advertising content delivered by Mr. Thicke and by Optima’s other TV and radio spokesman, however.
In one commercial Optima Tax Relief’s spokesman pitches the “IRS Fresh Start Initiative.” First, the real name is the IRS Fresh Start program. Second, this is ironic marketing because the IRS Fresh Start Program essentially makes it easier for the taxpayer to deal directly with the IRS and bypass a middleman. Optima Tax Relief spokesman goes on to say the IRS is adding “an army of agents” to collect taxes.
On their website they say they have resolved a billion dollars in tax debt. You read that right, billion with a B. Our back of the napkin math finds this a rather astonishing number and difficult to comprehend let alone verify in any way.
Advertising Fact Check!
This “army of agents” statement is odd because at the time of this commercial the IRS was dealing with decreasing budgets and decreasing levels of collections (*it’s a fact – see the below table of actual IRS data, from the irs.gov). Everybody in the tax relief business knows this, including Optima, so we find this statement in advertising misleading to the consumer. The IRS had sustained continued budget cuts that have resulted in reduced collections. The below numbers have gotten only worse since 2013. Liens filed are down 32% from 2013-2018 and levies issued are down a whopping 55% over this time frame.
We already commented on their marketing being misleading and at odds with actual facts. That being said, they do not mislead customers into believing they can provide over-the-top savings in their advertising jargon or on their website. In fact, Optima Tax Relief has reasonable explanations about tax relief options. What may be said to you on the phone by a sales rep may be a different story. Be wary of overly optimistic statements about tax savings when speaking any tax relief company over the phone. Make them put everything in writing.
They have a large and qualified staff of both attorneys and Enrolled Agents, and list management staff. We like this.
In addition, their BBB page lists two additional companies that they own or do business as, Tax Relief Partners and Optima Tax Express.
Enrolled agents, like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs), have unlimited practice rights. This means they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before.
How Much does Optima Tax Relief Charge?
Optima has a somewhat unique approach to billing. One of their approaches is to charge an upfront discovery fee, say a few hundred to a $1000, to find out how much you owe. With that information, they will then present a proposal for work, which could range a lot depending upon the nature of the situation. We don’t just love this approach because it doesn’t take $1000 of work to ask the IRS for your transcripts. It’s a phone call essentially, IRS Form 8821 specifically. You can do it yourself.
Optima Tax Relief is a BBB accredited company with an A rating, which is astonishing considering the number of complaints they have. As of September 2020, Optima Tax Relief complaints at the BBB tallied an astonishing 490 in the last three years. This is the most we’ve seen in the tax relief field by a large margin. Yes, they are a large firm and do high volume, but this is a lot of unhappy people. Something is wrong with this many complaints.
In all honesty, this “A Rating” calls into question the credibility of the Southern California Better Business Bureau. When you look at the above screenshot from Optima Tax Relief’s BBB page, you can see that the have a shocking amount of negative customer feedback. They have 265 complaints as uf February 2019. How can the BBB give them an “A”?
Each local BBB branch is run independently, as a franchise. It’s obvious there is A LOT of discretion on the rating system. When we see some companies with zero or just a few complaints compared to a track record like this, but they both have an A rating, we are disappointed with the BBB. That being said, the BBB is still a better resource than sites like Ripoff Report. If you read a bad Optima Tax relief complaint on Ripoff Report, please ignore it and use a better Internet resource.
They were established/registered with the Delaware Secretary of State in 2011. That is only part of the story, as they were in business prior to this as an unsecured liability relief company. That industry got regulated out of existence, for the most part, so Optima transformed the business into a tax relief services company.
The founder of Optima, JESSE E STOCKWELL, also owns a review website called supermoney.com, on which reviews various financial companies and Optima Tax Relief sits at or near the top of the tax relief companies list! Supermoney appears to be a pretty good website on its own, so it strikes us as an unnecessary conflict of interests and of dubious ethics. Optima even has Supermoney as a resource on their own website. Supermoney, in addition to their loose marketing jargon, raises some flags.
Optima appears to have a great staff and many satisfied customers, but their questionable ethics, misleading marketing strategies, and BBB complaints raise too many red flags for us to be comfortable. We found more damning information that we chose not to disclose. If you want all the dirt, check the Internet but as always take what you find with a grain of salt. If the salt piles up, then it may be worthy of further scrutiny.
- Large Staff
- Conflicts of Interest
- Numerous Complaints
- Large staff
- Advertise aggressively on TV and radio
- Some Notoriety
- Above average complaints
How to Contact Optima Tax Relief
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