Putting tax refunds on prepaid cards could benefit government

Woman holding credit card.

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: Well, from corporate taxes to personal income taxes. There's a change coming this year from the IRS. For those earning less than thirty-six thousand dollars, it'll now be possible to get tax refunds on a prepaid debit card.

Marketplace's David Gura has that story.


David Gura: The pilot program was designed for taxpayers who don't have checking accounts. It'll also help the government. Ron Shevlin is a banking technology analyst with the Aite Group.

Ron Shevlin: This is clearly about their own benefit.

It costs $1 to mail a check, but just 10 cents to send out a prepaid card.

Richard Gregg: When we can convert everybody on the tax-refund side from checks to electronic, we can save about $40 million a year.

That's Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard Gregg. The Treasury Department hopes low-income taxpayers will keep using the cards -- for bills and purchases.

Gregg: It's also an effort to try to provide a banking service to individuals who may not have a bank account.

If that works, that'll be good news for the Treasury Department's partners: The Green Dot Corporation and Bonneville Bank. They'll get to pocket fees for withdrawing money from out-of-network ATMs. Richard Gregg says the government's been upfront about that.

Gregg: We made sure that there won't be any surprises for the individual receiving the card.

In Washington, I'm David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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