Thursday, October 14, 2010

Refund Anticipation Loan Alternatives

A few weeks ago I posted a blog entry regarding the IRS’s announcement that they would suspend the availability of the debt indicator next tax season. This indicator was used to identify whether an individual taxpayer would need to have a portion of their refund withheld because of unpaid taxes or other debts, such as unpaid child support or delinquent federally funded student loans.

However, the indicator also enabled tax companies to issue refund anticipation loans (RALs). These refund advances have come under fire over the past few years, because of excessive fees, and some unethical tax preparation offices that target low income taxpayers. Without the debt indicator, tax preparers will not be able to offer RALs.

Since RALs will no longer be available to taxpayers I decided to put together the following list of alternatives. By planning ahead you can prevent yourself from getting into a situation next April where you need extra money in a rush.

File Early

You can file your tax return as soon as tax season begins mid January. If you need your refunds quickly, then you should try to file as early as possible – while making sure you have all the proper documentation. As you get closer to the deadline IRS offices become swamped and it will take longer for them to process your return, and issue a refund. If you need your return quickly, then you should file as early as possible.

E-File your Return

Stop wasting time with paper returns, if you do not already e-file your tax return, then I highly recommend doing so this upcoming tax season. You will get your refund almost as fast as you would with a RAL, but without paying a penny in interest. According to the IRS, paper filers can expect to wait eight to ten weeks for a refund. E-filers, on the other hand, will receive their refunds in only a couple of weeks. Additionally, the likelihood of an error is significantly reduced when you e-file.

Direct Deposit

It is also a good idea to have your refund deposited directly into your bank account. Even if you do not e-file your return, you should still consider opting for direct deposit. When the IRS issues a check, it can take weeks to reach your mailbox. However, when you have the refund direct deposited it will show up in your bank account in as few as ten days.

Visit a Free Tax Preparation Office

If you are worried you might not be able to pay to have your tax return prepared without a RAL, you should consider visiting one of the IRS’s free tax return preparation sites offered by the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program. In order to be eligible for the free service, you will need to meet certain income requirements. For more information visit this page on

Payday Loans

Just in case you do find yourself in a situation where you have no other option, you can always consider a payday advance loan. In order to qualify for an advance you will usually only need a steady job, and proof of income. However, you should always use extreme caution with payday loans, as they are notorious for very high fees and interest rates.

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