April 18, 2017

On Tax Day, Senators Ask Government Watchdog to Review Tax-Time Products

Text of the letter is available here (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), today asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a review of the tax-time financial products most commonly used by taxpayers, as well as the transparency of and fees charged for these financial products.

"An overwhelming majority of Americans rely on paid tax preparers, or use third-party tax preparation software, to file their taxes each year," wrote the senators. "Last year, for example, over 78 million Americans filed taxes electronically through paid preparers, and over 53 million used third-party tax software products to prepare and electronically file their own returns."

The senators asked the government watchdog to examine the scope and impact of tax-time financial products, including which tax-time products are most commonly used, how they are accessed, and whether the fees for these products are reasonable and transparent. The senators also requested that the GAO consider how tax-time products affect taxpayers who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

In their letter, the senators raised concerns about the growing use of Refund Anticipation Checks (RACs), which have replaced Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs) in recent years after increased federal regulation. Both RACs and RALs, along with other refund related products lack sufficient transparency and may expose taxpayers to excessive fees.

Senators Warren, Duckworth and Franken are all co-sponsors of the Tax Filing Simplification Act of 2017 to simplify and decrease the costs of the tax filing process for millions of American taxpayers.