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The Right Way to Get Your Tax Refund for 2014 Faster

As tax filing season approaches, people who are expecting a tax refund for 2014 are eager to get their hard-earned money back in their hands. But with several different ways to get your 2014 refund faster, you have to be more careful than ever to avoid costly traps for unwary taxpayers.

The wrong way: tax refund advances
For years, taxpayers frequently used refund anticipation loans to get early access to their money. Under a refund anticipation loan, your tax preparer would figure out how much the IRS owed you and then offer to give you that money immediately. Taxpayers didn't have to wait weeks, or even months in some cases, to get access to their refunds.

The problem, though, was that businesses charged substantial fees in connection with those loans. In 2006, California's attorney general sued H&R Block (NYSE: HRB  ) , alleging that its refund anticipation loan business failed to disclose the true cost of fees and interest charges associated with the loans. In 2010, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) voluntarily chose to stop offering loans, and later that year federal regulators ordered HSBC (NYSE: HSBC  ) -- which had provided loans through H&R Block -- to stop making refund anticipation loans.

Refund anticipation loans are now effectively unavailable, but they have been replaced by similar products. Refund anticipation checks and tax refund advances involve a similar fee-laden business model, with high interest rates and added fees that can escalate effective financing costs dramatically. Some lenders now offer loans that get around regulations by not being directly tied to refunds.

These products have also raised concerns. Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU  ) , for instance, entered into a proposed class-action settlement agreement in May 2013 over allegations that a refund-processing service it offered to help users pay for its TurboTax fees violated prohibitions against refund anticipation loans. Whatever they're called, in most cases, paying huge fees just to get your tax refund for 2014 a week or two earlier isn't worth it.

The right way: electronic filing plus direct deposit
By contrast, combining two well-established methods -- electronic filing and direct deposit -- can expedite your tax refund for 2014 more without incurring big fees. The IRS said it issued 90% of refunds in less than 21 days after receiving those taxpayers' returns last year. Sending returns electronically starts that clock running a lot faster.

In addition, using direct deposit to have your tax refund for 2014 put into your bank account electronically saves even more time. Having your refund delivered by snail mail and driving to the bank with your paper check add to the overall time you'll wait for your refund.

Admittedly, using the combination of direct deposit and e-filing won't get you your 2014 tax refund immediately. But it will get you every single penny you deserve -- which is a lot more than some alternative methods can say.

Be smart about your taxes
Not letting others reap the rewards of your tax refund for 2014 is just one way you can plan to cut your overall tax bill. In our brand-new special report "How You Can Fight Back Against Higher Taxes," The Motley Fool's tax experts run through what to watch out for in doing your tax planning this year. With its concrete advice on how to cut taxes for decades to come, you won't want to miss out. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.


Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (6)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2013, at 1:16 AM, Diogenes05 wrote:

    This is a good article as far as it goes. I've always said e-filing and direct deposit were the best deal in town. However, an article directed to people who want to get their tax refund back as quickly as possible should have mentioned that the IRS has already announced they won't begin processing refunds until at least January 28. No one should expect their refund before February, no matter how they file. Don't blame your tax software or preparer.

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2013, at 10:42 AM, pondee619 wrote:

    Wouldn't the "correct" way to get your refund quicker be to adjust your withholding so that you are not entitled to a refund at all? This way you have your "refund" throughout the year, to spend/save/invest as you see fit and not give the Government, which has no idea on how to spend our money, an interest free loan.

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Dan Caplinger
TMFGalagan

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on Fool.com. With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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