Each year the U.S. Treasury Department issues over one-hundred million refunds worth billions of dollars to individual tax filers.
Almost half of all refunds are issued via a paper check, with the majority of those checks being mailed to lower-income households. This presents a scaleable opportunity to provide these households with a low-cost transaction and savings account on the tax form.
IRS data show that of the 60 million federal tax refunds that were issued via a paper check in 2005, almost half were mailed to households earning $30,000 or less. These are the very households who typically lack access to reasonably-priced financial services and who are most likely to pay a disproportionate amount of their income to conduct routine financial transactions. They are also less likely to have adequate savings to cover emergency expenses like car repairs or unexpected medical bills, which often leads to payday lenders and other expensive sources of credit.
These households do, however, receive on average about $1,700 in federal tax refunds. And when examined in the aggregate, almost $50 billion is annually refunded to households with AGIs of $30,000 or less, via paper check.
The potential of those refunds as deposits creates a powerful case for financial institutions to make a low-cost transaction and savings product available to lower-income consumers.