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LANSING, Mich. – Calling Refund Anticipation Loans “one of the most avoidable tax-season expenses,” Commissioner Linda Watters of the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services is advising consumers to “steer clear” of RALs. By refusing to take the bait offered by those pushing RAL, taxpayers across the country can avoid paying more than $1 billion in fees, Watters stated in a release. “With the advent of electronic filing – which allows for state tax refunds in as little as seven business days – the need for Refund Anticipation Loans is questionable at best. Taxpayers should think twice before they hand over a portion of their refund to a tax preparer in return for the privilege of getting their money a few days quicker,” said Watters. According to the OFIS, the National Consumer Law Center has found that the effective Annual Percentage Rates for interest on these loans can range from 70% to rates of more than 700%. Most consumers don’t need RALS since they could have their refund, in its entirety, in seven business days, if they choose to e-file, said the OFIS. Taxpayers are typically offered “Instant Refunds” or “Quick Cash” infusions from their tax preparation service “that in actuality are an advance loan on their anticipated tax refunds. RALs can cost the average taxpayer from $34.95 to $104.95 in fees, plus an additional $30-$40 in “administrative” fees for a “quick cash fix.” “The worst irony is that those who qualify for the government’s Earned Income Tax Credit – the lowest wage earners – are disproportionately RAL customers. They’re often the most cash-strapped and the most anxious to see the midwinter ` bonus’ of their tax refunds quickly, when they’re trying to pay off holiday bills,” said the OFIS.

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