Just in time for tax season, the U.S. Department of the Treasury is launching a pilot program to offer taxpayers a safe, convenient and low-cost financial account for the electronic delivery of their federal tax refunds. 

The new account card option provides everyday money-saving conveniences and consumer protection features for taxpayers with limited or no access to traditional banking services.

“This pilot program will provide low- and moderate-income Americans with a low-cost option for faster delivery of their federal tax refund,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin. “This innovative card can be used for everyday financial transactions, such as receiving wages by direct deposit, withdrawing cash, making purchases, paying bills and building savings safely and conveniently, giving users more control over their financial futures.”

Prepaid debit cards

As the next step in this pilot, originally announced in September, Treasury is mailing letters to 600,000 low- and moderate-income individuals nationwide.  The letters will invite these taxpayers to consider activating a MyAccountCard Visa® Prepaid Debit Card in time to have their 2010 federal tax refund direct deposited to the card. 

Compared with paper checks, direct deposit provides a safer, faster and more convenient way to receive a federal tax refund as well as other regular income.

Payroll cards

Treasury also is beginning a companion pilot to encourage tens of thousands of current and potential payroll card users to direct deposit their 2010 federal tax refund onto existing payroll cards.  Nationwide, more than 1.7 million workers use payroll cards to receive and access their wages, often because they do not have bank accounts. 

Working with ADP, a provider of payroll services, Treasury will highlight the safety, ease and convenience of direct deposit onto payroll cards through tax season communications, including materials distributed with pay statements.

Card advantages

The letters mailed to taxpayers about MyAccountCard contain information about the card’s features, including free services and the fee structure for optional services.  Many of the features, including free point-of-sale transactions, free online bill pay, free ATM cash withdrawals at more than 15,000 ATMs nationwide, and free cash back at participating retail stores, will help cardholders limit the costs of using the card. 

The information also explains how to sign up, and how to use the card to receive a federal tax refund and conduct everyday financial transactions.

As part of the pilot, Treasury will randomly offer several different variations of MyAccountCard in order to evaluate which product features, fee structures and marketing messages generate the greatest positive response from taxpayers.  The results of the pilot will help determine the benefits and feasibility of a card account as an integrated part of the tax filing and refund process.