A solution that's worse than the problem
Citizens hope lawmakers’ votes are cast to set good policy, but lawmakers often simply respond to those complaining the loudest. That would be the case if legislators decide to mandate paper checks for tax refunds.
In a legislative study, state Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, decried the idea that banks can charge a fee for the use of debit cards — even though citizens can easily avoid fees. Ending paper checks for refunds saves the Oklahoma Tax Commission $500,000 annually. Citizens can choose direct deposit or a debit card. Faster service appeals to most Oklahomans, so 71 percent chose direct deposit this year.
Inman objects that 10 percent of Oklahomans don’t have bank accounts. But cardholders get a free transaction at any MasterCard member bank or credit union, and the cards can also be used in the MoneyPass network. A debit card recipient with no bank account can simply cash the refund in one transaction free of charge.
Yet Inman still wants the Tax Commission to offer citizens paper checks. Those without bank accounts get charged a fee for cashing a paper check as well, so it’s not clear how Inman’s solution does anything but increase taxpayer expense. Debit cards have been used for food stamps in Oklahoma for nearly two decades now without problem. What works for welfare recipients can work for tax refund recipients.
There’s no reason to increase taxpayer expenses $500,000 or more so that a fraction of people without bank accounts can evade an already avoidable fee.
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