NEW YORK – The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has launched a series of protests against H&R Block, saying the tax preparer’s tax refund loans are too expensive and hurt low-income families. Even though H&R Block doesn’t make the refund loans directly – Household Tax Masters, a unit of Household International, makes and services the loans through H&R Block offices-ACORN said “they are the people responsible. They are selling the loans and signing them up.” According to ACORN, interest rates and fees on refund anticipation loans “are too high,” typically costing $150 or more to provide money to filers only “marginally faster” than they’d receive it from the IRS. Low-income families, often cash-strapped, end up using a large part of their refunds from earned income tax credits, in some cases as much as half, to cover the cost of the loans, said ACORN, and borrowers in many cases get their refund money only about a week sooner than if they’d waited to get it from the federal government. A 2002 study by the Brookings Institute found more than a third of families who qualified for earned income tax credits in 1999 took out tax refund loans.

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