Get your tax refund fast—without the fees
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
Tax time is here and if you’re like most families who anticipate a refund your money can’t come fast enough. We all want our money quickly, but think twice before you opt for an “instant” or “rapid” refund product from commercial tax preparers and banks.
Thanks to recent federal regulations, most banks have stopped offering short-term, high interest loans known as refund anticipation loans (RALs). But now some tax preparers and smaller banks are instead offering a refund anticipation check (RAC). This product is marketed to taxpayers who either don’t have a bank account to receive a direct deposit of their tax refund or who don’t have the money to pay for tax preparation services upfront.
A RAC acts as a temporary bank account where the IRS direct deposits a refund check. Consumers access that money through a check or prepaid card. There is typically a $30 fee to set up the account. Once the prepaid card gets loaded the tax preparer can deduct a number of fees which can quickly add up.
The good news is that you don’t need a “rapid” refund to get your money quickly. You’ll likely get your refund in less than two weeks if you file your taxes electronically and opt to receive your refund using direct deposit—without having to pay lots of fees. If you don’t have a bank account, you can still file your taxes electronically and opt to receive a paper check in the mail or have it loaded on a prepaid card you already have.
So before you pay extra for your refund, consider these free options for filing your taxes and claiming your refund:
- The IRS has partnered with Free File Alliance to provide use of their tax preparation software free for taxpayers making $57,000 or less. The program is completely free and secure, and when used with direct deposit refunds, you may get your money in as few as 10 days. For more information visit www.irs.gov/efile.
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a nationwide program that gives low and middle income consumers free help with their taxes. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887.
- In North Carolina, State Employees’ Credit Union and the Local Government Federal Credit Union both offer free tax help through the VITA program for families earning less than $51,000. Credit unions and other lenders may also offer more affordable ways to take out a loan against your refund if you really need one.
- You might be entitled to a refund even if you don’t have to pay income taxes. Call the IRS or visit www.irs.gov/eitc to learn more and to see if you qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families.
on finding tax help you can trust.