Refund Anticipation Loans and Checks

Used mostly by low and moderate income consumers, tax refund anticipation loans are extremely high-cost bank loans secured by the taxpayer's expected refund -- loans that last 7-14 days until the actual IRS refund repays the loan. Even without the costly loan, most taxpayers could have their refund in two weeks or less. RALs are aggressively marketed by income-tax preparation companies. They advertise "Instant Refunds" or "Quick Cash" for their cash-strapped customers who need money in a hurry, and disguise the fact that they are selling advance loans on anticipated tax refunds.

Annual Reports

The National Consumer Law Center, along with Consumer Federation of America, issues annual reports about the RAL industry:

Archived Reports

Model Laws

Special Reports

Press Releases

  • Consumer Advisory: Avoid Tax-Time Refund Products, Jan 17, 2013
  • Press Release: Consumer Advocates Praise FDIC Settlement to End RALs from Republic Bank & Trust, Dec. 9, 2011
  • Press Release: Advocates Applaud H&R Block for Stopping RALs and Urge Republic, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty to Also Stop RALs Sept. 14, 2011
  • Press Release: Consumer Advocates: FDIC Action Shows RALs are Unsafe and Unsound $2 Million Fine Proposed Against Republic Bank, May 9, 2011
  • Press Release: Consumer Advocates Applaud FDIC Action Against Unsafe and Unsound Refund Anticipation Loans, Feb. 2011
  • Press Release: Advocates Applaud Treasury Tax Refund Prepaid Card Pilot, Jan. 2011
  • Press Release: Major Changes for Tax Refund Loans: Fewer Loans Available, but More Pricey, Jan. 2011
  • Press Release: Consumer Advocates Applaud End of IRS-Provided Service to Refund Anticipation Lenders, August 2010
  • Press Release: Consumer Advocates Decry Use of Bailout Money to Make Predatory Loans to Working Poor Families, Jan. 2009

Policy Analysis

  • Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance regarding "Protecting Taxpayers from Incompetent and Unethical Return Preparers", April 8, 2014
  • Brief for Amici Curiae in Support of Defendants-Appellants and Arguing for Reversal of the District Court, April 5, 2013; press release, April 8, 2013
  • Letter Urging OCC and FDIC to Address Refund Anticipation Loans, Oct. 2010
  • Letter to Office of Thrift Supervision re: MetaBank's Intent to Make RALs, June 2010
  • Comments and Press Release: Consumer Advocates Urge IRS to Stop Preparers from Using Confidential Tax Returns to Sell Refund Anticipation Loans
  • Letter to Congress Regarding RAL Reform Agenda
  • Objection of Consumer Groups to RAL-Lending Bank Republic Bancorp's Application to Switch Charter from FDIC to Office of Thrift Supervision

Consumer Information