Your W-2 form should hit the mailbox any day now, and prompt taxpayers will be figuring their income-tax returns before long. But some who are impatient to get their refund may be targeted by unscrupulous lenders. State Attorney-General’s spokesman Bob Brammer says refund loans are no favor. He explains when you go to a tax-preparer who’ll file your return electronically, they may ask if you want a tax loan and you walk out with money that totals PART of the refund you have coming — and they will collect the full tax refund. It’s all perfectly legal, but like paycheck loan and check-cashing operations, Brammer says they will take a big fee for the favor. He says for a very short-term loan you may pay a typical fee of 75-dollars on a 19-hundred dollar refund, which amounts to an “astronomical” annual interest rate of 144-percent. Brammer says you wouldn’t pay that much for any other type of loan. Brammer says people have to remember these are loans, and usually an expensive one. Even people who make so little they don’t have to file a tax return may be targeted by the people who reap profits from those refund loans. Low-income people may get a federal government payment called an Earned Income Tax Credit but if they pay it in fees for tax preparation, electronic filing and those refund-anticipation loans. Brammer says instead, low-income taxpayers should look for volunteers who help them file taxes. You can begin by phoning 800-829-1040 and ask for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or programs that offer tax counseling for the elderly.
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