GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When Target 8 got a call from a West Michigan woman who said her tax accountant had ghosted her, our investigators thought the scenario sounded familiar.
A quick check of Target 8 archives showed we’d tracked down the same Grand Rapids tax accountant before.
Melvin R. McGill, 60, is the long-time owner of Gilmacs Accounting Payroll Taxes in Grand Rapids.
When we investigated McGill’s background this time around, we discovered the tax preparer has had multiple small claims judgments against him, as well as several federal tax liens against his property and two misdemeanor criminal convictions.
But Tina Mears knew none of that when she handed over her tax documents to McGill in March of this year.
It wasn’t until she checked the IRS website recently that she discovered he had not filed her return.
“So, I called on Monday, and the phone had been disconnected,” explained Mears.
“I went to the place where I’d dropped (my documents) off, and it was empty,” Mears said, referring to an office in a building on 28th Street SE.
“He was nowhere to be found. He has all my originals. He has all my W-2s,” said Mears.
That’s when she searched online and came upon the story Target 8 did in 2017.
In that case, one of McGill’s clients turned to Target 8 after she discovered the IRS had deposited her more than $4,000 tax refund into someone else’s bank account.
Just like Mears, the 2017 client said she’d tried for days to reach McGill but was unsuccessful.
When Target 8 tracked McGill down in 2017 in an office on Kalamazoo Avenue, he personally delivered the full refund check to the client the same day.
Back then, he blamed the snafu on a sudden office move and an error in the customer’s bank account information.
This time, McGill met up with Target 8 at an Alger Heights parking lot, explaining that he’d once again lost his office space.
He also acknowledged that his business phone had been turned off and that he’d failed to file Mears’ taxes.
On Friday, he returned the documents in question to her.
He also called Target 8 to let us know his business phone was up and running again because he had paid the bill.
He wanted to make sure people knew he’s still open for business.
Mears confirmed McGill did return her tax records Friday, one day after Target 8 got involved.
Still, Mears suggested taxpayers do their homework before hiring someone to file on their behalf.
“Be careful who you choose to do your taxes,” Mears said. “I wouldn’t use his services (again).”
EXPERTS: DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU HIRE
Only a handful of states require licensing of tax preparers, and Michigan is not one of them.
If you’re considering an accountant, experts advise you obtain personal references and utilize Google and the Better Business Bureau to check the records of the business and its owner.
You can also check online court records.
In Grand Rapids’ 61st District Court, you’ll find public records at grcourt.org.
You can also check Kent County Court records at accesskent.com.
McGill is not accredited by the BBB, but the consumer agency gives his business a “C” based on two complaints filed against him.
In one BBB complaint filed in May 2020, a woman who used McGill’s business reported that her $2,000 refund was deposited into a checking account that wasn’t hers.
When Target 8 asked McGill about his criminal record during our most recent interview with him, he denied having one.
“Hell no. I have no criminal record. Criminal record for what?” asked McGill.
In 2010, court records show McGill pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny by conversion after he “refused to return $2,000 owed to a client of his accounting office,” according to the arresting officer’s description of the case.
In 2019, court databases show the accountant pleaded guilty to “producing false evidence of insurance” while attempting to purchase a vehicle.
We showed McGill court documents detailing his record, but he said he did not remember the larceny charge to which he pleaded guilty.
He called the false insurance case a “mistake.”
As for the small claims judgments against him involving clients’ money, he said they were loans that he’s since paid back.
In a 2010 civil court judgment against McGill, a client reported the accountant had never delivered to the IRS an $8,622 check she gave him for payment of her 2007 federal taxes.
In another 2010 small claims case, a different client wrote “alleged theft of funds,” under “reasons for the claim.”
In a 2009 judgment against McGill, a client wrote, “my tax refund was direct deposited into Melvin R. McGill account payroll (sic) without my knowledge or consent. I made several attempts to collect my funds and he has not pay (sic) me.”
McGill said he is not a Certified Public Accountant, though he may still work to obtain that certification.
He said his expertise comes from decades of experience filing taxes on behalf of clients in Grand Rapids.
He also graduated from Davenport University in 1989 with a degree in Accounting, which the college confirmed to Target 8.