Taxpayers who expect a return but cannot afford to pay a tax preparer upfront to process their refund may be tempted to choose a Refund Anticipation Check (RAC), which will deduct the cost of tax preparation from the refund when it is issued. With an RAC, the filer gets a temporary bank account where the IRS can issue the refund via direct deposit. The bank issues a check or debit card for the refund -- less the tax preparation charge -- and then terminates the linked bank account. Banks usually charge $30 to $35 for this service, meaning that a taxpayer who spends $30 to defer payment of a $200 tax preparation bill for three weeks ends up paying what is equivalent to an APR of 260 percent. "With a RAC you pay a fee to finance the expense of tax preparation, and we don't think that's a smart idea," says Tom Feltner of the Consumer Federation of America. "We always warn people to be wary of financial products that are sold alongside tax preparation." The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) estimates that about 18.4 million taxpayers received an RAC in 2011. Some find themselves unknowingly signed up for the product, with the preparer adding it automatically or referring to it as “direct deposit” instead of an RAC. Either way, NCLC's Chi Chi Wu says an RAC will not get a filer his or her return any faster than if they simply file electronically and have the funds deposited on an existing prepaid debit card or in an existing bank account. Moreover, many filers -- including elderly and low-income taxpayers -- qualify for free tax preparation.