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:

2015 Report and Press Release
2014 Report and Press Release

2013 Report and Press Release

2012 Report and Press Release

2011 Report and Press Release

2010 Report and Press Release

2009 Report and Press Release and Appendix (RALs, Tax Fraud, and Fringe Preparers)

2008 Report and Press Release

Archived Reports

Model Laws

Model Tax Preparer Regulation Act

Revised Model Refund Anticipation Loan Act with Commentary

Special Reports

Report and Press Release: Tax Time 2011: Mystery Shopper Testing in New York and North Carolina Finds Continuing Problems With Tax Preparers

Report and Press Release: Tax Preparers Out of Compliance: Mystery Shopper Testing Exposes Violations of Refund Anticipation Loan Laws

Report and Press Release: Tax Preparers Take a Bite out of Refunds: Mystery Shopper Test Exposes Refund Anticipation Loan Abuses in Durham and Philadelphia

Report and Press Release: Pay Stub and Holiday RALs: Faster, Costlier, Riskier in the Race to the Bottom

Report and Press Release: Debt Indicator - Corporate Welfare for the RAL Industry

Press Releases

Press Release: Tax Prep Services: Buyer Beware, Jan. 20, 2015
Press Release
: Tax-Time Problems for Consumers, Jan. 2014

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

Don't Pay to Borrow Your Own Money: The risks and costs of Tax Refund Anticipation Loans