Shifting Demand for Alternative Financial Products: Instant Tax Refunds and Their Use by Military Personnel

Brief

Shifting Demand for Alternative Financial Products: Instant Tax Refunds and Their Use by Military Personnel

Abstract

Despite recent policies that greatly discourage taxpayer use of refund anticipation loans (RALs), tax data suggests that use of tax refund products will remain high. The Military Lending Act had earlier reduced RALs among military personnel by 153,000, but 114,000 of them shifted to a close, substitute, the refund anticipation check (RAC). If the goal of financial services policies is to reduce costs or guide consumers toward mainstream financial products, policymakers must adopt broad strategies that consider how consumers adjust. In the case of taxes, government should assess how much recent shifts reduced overall tax preparation costs.

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