New Tax Refund Loans Carry Sky-High Fees and Rates
March 6, 2013
While refund anticipation loans (RALs) have all but disappeared due to regulatory tightening, tax preparers and non-bank lenders are offering products that can be just as costly, according to the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and Consumer Federation of America. Their report warns against products such as loans offered by Liberty Tax Service, with loans in at least one of the 26 states where they are carried reportedly carrying a $49.90 fee plus an undisclosed amount of interest. An interest rate of 36 percent would cost a borrower about $80 for a 15-day loan of $2,000. Jackson Hewitt, meanwhile, offers tax-time credit lines ranging from $200 to $1,000, at a 35 percent interest rate, a $6.25 monthly fee, and a fee of 3 percent or $10 every time the credit line is tapped. Some tax preparation companies pay customers a portion of the expected refund early, and take the full amount for themselves when it arrives. While this is advertised as "buying" a refund, the NCLC says that it is no different from an RAL. Although such short-term loans may seem appealing to consumers who are strapped for cash, most people already receive their tax refunds in fewer than three weeks if they file electronically.
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