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Report Highlights Treasury’s Failed Tax Refund Pilot Program

September 05, 2012

Washington, DC – Early last year, the Department of Treasury hired the Urban Institute to conduct a study of Treasury’s debit card pilot program.  The program was intended to encourage taxpayers to receive their tax refunds on pre-paid debit cards but was suspended after only 2,000 of the 808,000 taxpayers contacted elected to participate.  After repeated requests from Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany, Jr. M.D. (R-LA), Treasury released the report. The findings from the report revealed the pilot program was worse than originally expected.
Boustany stated, “Over the past two years, I have expressed concerns with this program and its effectiveness.  After multiple attempts to hide the ball, Treasury released a report detailing the debit card pilot program.  Instead of hiding program failures, Treasury needs to be up front and transparent about how they are spending Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars.”

  • Of the 808,099 taxpayers selected to participate in the pilot program, 12.5 percent of the invitations were never received because they were sent to the wrong address.  The Urban Institute estimates that only 707,000 invitations were received.
  • Only 1,933 taxpayers were issued MyAccountCards.
  • Only one-third, or roughly 644, of the recipients ever used their card.  Of these, only 238 were still using their card in the last month reviewed.
  • Less than one-tenth of one percent of those chosen to participate in the study actually used their card, at a cost of $2,100 per user, and over $4,000 per user who used the cards to receive their tax refund.
  • Nearly 75 percent of all participants were charged various fees and penalties under the program.
  • Despite the program’s failings, the Treasury Department summarizes it as a “proof of concept.”
  • The program cost $1.4 million.