H&R Block to offer no-interest refund advances

An H&R Block tax prep office
in New York, Friday, August 25, 2006. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News.

Starting Jan. 4, consumers can apply at H&R Block offices for an interest-free refund advance loan of up to $3,000.

The loans, from Axos Bank, will be offered through Feb. 28 at participating offices and are repaid from the client’s federal or state income refunds.

The tax prep giant says that customers should be able to access the money within hours of qualifying.

Block is billing the loans as an antidote to refund delays caused by the PATH Act, which was passed to help combat tax refund fraud and requires the IRS to hold until mid-February refunds of taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Last year, some 15 million taxpayers claiming the EITC or ACTC had to wait until the week of Feb. 27 to get their federal refund from the IRS.

“We’ve listened to our clients, many of whom rely on their refunds early in the year, and will continue to offer them this no-interest refund advance loan,” chief marketing officer Vinoo Vijay said in a statement. “What’s more, we’re also offering our clients complete transparency: We don’t charge you interest or loan fees for the refund advance. This is just one way we are more upfront and transparent than ever before.”

Few companies have provided advance loans against tax refunds since 2010, when the IRS stopped issuing debt indicators that revealed whether a taxpayer owed back taxes or other debts. Without a way to determine the riskiness of giving a taxpayer a refund anticipation loan, few banks were willing to offer them. Unlike Block’s new offering, most of these older refund anticipation loans carried extremely high rates of interest.

Taxpayers can check to see if they pre-qualify for the refund advances here.

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