Consumer Policy Archive

Tax Time Account Direct Mail Pilot Evaluation (2012)
Report on a Treasury pilot of cost-effective methods to transition the delivery of tax refunds from paper checks to electronic payments.  The pilot offered low- and moderate-income tax filers a safe, low-cost account card for the electronic delivery of their federal tax refunds.  The study analyzed how card features and marketing messaging affected adoption and use of the accounts.
Banking on Opportunity: A Scan of the Evolving Field of Bank On Initiatives  (2011)
Background on the “Bank On” model, an approach to expand access to safe, affordable financial services and related financial education for unbanked household involving collaborations of financial institutions, financial educators, trusted community organizations, local and state government leaders, and others. The report includes summary information on program structures, partnerships, funding, successes and challenges, special considerations and gaps in the field. The report features two case studies from established projects in Savannah, Georgia, and Seattle-King County, Washington.
Characteristics of Users of Refund Anticipation Loans and Refund Anticipation Checks (2010)
Using IRS data from 2008 and earlier, this report describes characteristics of Refund Anticipation Loans (RAL) and Refund Anticipation Check (RAC) users by demographic factors, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) use, income and assets, and geography, with insights from industry stakeholders on use of RALs and RACs.  Key findings are that many factors including EITC receipt, filing as a head-of-household, having no interest income, and living in a low-income neighborhood--relate strongly to use of RAL/RACs, controlling for other characteristics, such as income. Industry stakeholders indicate that consumers demand RALs/RACs partially to pay for return preparation.

Prohibitions, Price Caps, and Disclosures:  A Look at State Policies and Alternative Financial Services Product Use (2010)  Examines the relationship between state-level policies on alternative financial services (prohibitions, price caps, disclosures) and consumer use of payday loans, auto title loans, pawn broker loans, refund anticipation loans, and rent-to-own transactions.  Looking across five these products rather than at one product in isolation allows a focus on patterns across products.  Findings suggest that more stringent state price caps and prohibitions are associated with lower product use.  A companion document, State Restrictions on Small-Dollar Loans and Financial Services, 2005–2009:  Summary, Documentation, and Appendix, provides summary information on state restrictions on loans and financial services.

Research on Financial Behaviors and Use of Small-Dollar Loans and Financial Services:  Literature Review (2010) 
Provides an overview of research on auto title loans, pawnshops, payday lending, refund anticipation loans,  refund anticipation checks, and rent-to-own.  The report highlights findings relevant for additional research.

Summary of Developing a Research Agenda on Small-Dollar Credit and Financial Empowerment (2010)​ Proceedings of a convening of experts on research questions to inform policymakers, especially at the federal level, to ensure that: consumers have access to credit, information about credit is fair and clear, and the forms of available credit are viable for credit providers.
Community Financial Access Pilot  (2008-2009)
The Community Financial Access Pilot (CFAP) was a Treasury initiative to increase access to financial services and financial education for low- and moderate income families and individuals.  Promising practices were gathered and shared with participating communities to help them build sustainable approaches to expanding access to financial services. Lessons learned from the pilot communities were compiled so others could implement programs in their communities.