MARIANNA, FL 2/1/2012 --
The Better Business Bureau is warning you about some businesses that take advantage of people at tax time. The problems stem from what are called refund anticipation loans. Many come with hidden fees and extremely high interest rates.
Alford resident Rebecca Butler has car troubles and three kids to take care of. She said Tuesday she needs money now, so she chose to apply for a refund anticipation loan at Lora's Tax Service in Marianna.
"The quicker the better," said Butler.
And Butler's not alone.
"How many would you say do refund anticipation loans?," asked WCTV's Bryan Anderson.
"I actually was looking at my numbers yesterday and out of probably four to five hundred last year but only about two hundred and eighty to three hundred received them," said Lora's Tax Service Owner Lora Degagne.
So what are the fees involved? At Lora's Tax Service, you can expect to pay up to $140 just for your taxes to be prepared, then for a $1,500 anticipation loan, an automatic $29.95, and if you're approved, they tack on an additional $61.22. That's an annual percentage rate, or APR, of 142.14%.
"The reason that sounds so high is because you're only giving this loan for a very short period of time," said Degagne.
The Better Business Bureau said it's too risky because an RAL is just that, an anticipated refund. What you actually get may be lower than the loan, putting you even farther behind. But Butler and many others still take the risk, saying they can't wait.
"It helps out tremendously," said Butler.
The BBB reports some businesses can charge interest rates and fees as high as 700% of your actual return. It recommends filing electronically and choosing the direct deposit option, which takes about fourteen days.