A tax refund loan is a loan that is based on your expected federal income tax refund. The most common form of a tax refund loan is the Refund Anticipation Loan (RALs) but they come in many shapes & sizes. Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs) are another common product that allow you to avoid paying tax preparation fees up front. In general, you should avoid any instant cash options offered by tax preparers, payday lenders, and alternative financial services. Here’s why:
- High fees & interest rates-most tax refund loans come with a hefty set of fees & high interest rates. You end up wasting a sizable amount of your refund that could be spent paying down debt or saving for the future.
- You only get your refund a few days sooner-By following our tips below, you can get your tax refund quickly & keep all the money you earned. Refunds can be expected within 21 days (although many come much sooner!)
What to do instead:
- Don’t pay to file your taxes! The IRS offers free tax preparation sites run by certified volunteer tax preparers through its VITA program. If you made less than $60,000 last year, you can schedule an appointment to have your taxes done for free. Contact your public library, Community Action Center, or even the United Way at 2-1-1 and they will tell you if there is an organization in your area that is offering free tax help.
- E-file: It’s easy & often free to prepare your taxes online. Even if you have to pay for software, it’s the quickest way to file & you will get your refund sooner.
Ensure all your information is correct-errors will delay the processing of your return & consequently, your refund.
- Request direct deposit: Have your refund deposited directly into your checking or savings account. According to the IRS, “Whether you file electronically or on paper, direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than a paper check. Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that your check could be lost or stolen or returned to IRS as undeliverable.” Utilizing direct deposit, some individuals have gotten their refund as soon as 5 days after filing.
- Ensure all of your information is correct: Errors will delay the processing of your return & consequently, your refund.
- Track your refund: The IRS now offers up-to-date information on the status of your refund so that you can stop worrying & start planning. See the link below or download the IRS2Go app for smart phones. Use the time between filing & receiving your refund to develop a plan for utilizing this income.
If you don’t have a bank account, this is the perfect time to open one. Many banks & credit unions offer free checking accounts. If you need help or have had trouble opening a bank account in the past, check out your local Bank On program.
If you don’t have a bank account due to problems with your personal finances, you can get free financial counseling at Apprisen. For more information, visit Apprisen online or call: 800.355.2227.