Separation of Charge and State

I have a real problem with Oklahoma’s new policy for income tax refunds.

Oklahoma's Way2Go CardBeginning in 2012 if you do not provide direct deposit info (those funky looking numbers along the bottom of a check) any refund will be sent to you as a debit card. This bright idea is the product of a new law requiring all transactions from the State to be electronic.

I had never heard of this- and apparently my accountant hadn’t either. When it arrived in the mail we thought it was a scam (albeit a very professional-looking scam) and nearly tossed it in the shredder. Many years ago credit card companies would send people pre-approved cards in the mail hoping they would activate them and become a customer. Of course scammers had a field day as they intercepted the cards from mailboxes all over town. I digress…

In a press release dated January 25, 2012 the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) claims “the Oklahoma Tax Refund Debit Card will make it easy for taxpayers to receive their tax refund.” Seems like they could have let people know about this a bit sooner than the end of January. But it’s easy. So let’s see how easy it is by depositing my 89 year-old father’s refund.

I referred to the OTC website and found their frequently asked questions about this program. I wanted to know if I could deposit the funds into a checking or savings account. They said yes…

For a fee of 75 cents you can go on-line to http://www.goprogram.com to transfer the card balance to your checking or savings account. It saves a trip to your bank or credit union. It’s more convenient than depositing a check and saves gas.

Whoa.

First off why should Dad’s income tax refund require him to pay anything? There’s a word for deals where someone claims you’re getting money, but have to send in a small fee first. The word is scam.

Second, it is not “easy” for my 89 year-old father to go on-line (still using the hyphen? really?) for anything. Let alone to pay someone a fee for getting his own money.

Turns out the card can be cashed in at a bank after it has been activated. But of course that requires a trip to the bank. Oh, and if you let it sit around for two months they start charging you a fee! So if you haven’t sent in your return and you have a refund coming be sure to include your direct deposit info.

My biggest problem with this whole idea is your money is tied up in a private system specified by the government. Even if Dad decided to just go out and buy stuff with his debit card the merchants are getting popped upwards of 2% for each transaction. If this refund had been issued as a check those fees would not have existed. So to my eye the State of Oklahoma is helping out the credit card companies at the expense of Oklahoma taxpayers.

The claim is this will save taxpayers $500,000. But I’m willing to bet it costs us way more than that in penalties, transaction fees, bandwidth and gas. How many other people have opened their mail and trashed it thinking this was scam?

But then again, maybe they were right.

For more information here’s a link to an FAQ from the OTC.

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7 thoughts on “Separation of Charge and State”

  1. “My biggest problem with this whole idea is your money is tied up in a private system specified by the government.”
    Of course, that’s true of the money system in America in total – the federal reserve is a private corporation wholly owned and controlled by the 5, ‘ahem’ , major banking families – but this pogrom, oops, I mean program, is ridiculous. I don’t remember voting on any of this…
    Need to check and see which state senators are driving new Mercedes, flying new Beechcrafts and recently moved into new houses with the purchase price listed on their Mastercard bill…

  2. it’s bullshit I can’t even get my address changed on it because it seems like no “real customer service people exist” it’s only the automated lady fuck them for taking 75 cents off my shit. WE ALL WORKED HARD FOR OUR money AND YOU WANNA TAKE A LITTLE EVERY TIME I SPEND MY MONEY?? makes no damn since effff the government… I am done.. I want my hard earned money even if it is a little bit they take every time that shit really adds up!!

  3. I am looking for an attorney to see if I can sue Mastercard and the State of Olklahoma. I too received a “Debit card from the state this year. It is two weeks, 7 phone calls, three trips to the bank and I still cannot get my $259 refund out this wonderful system.
    You need to point out that if you go to an institution that does not handle Mastecard they cannot give you cash. Worse if the teller initiates a transaction for the full amount and then voids the transaction Mastercard still zero’s out your card until you bank sends them a fax that states that “the full amount will not be transferred”. If it does not say exactly that Mastercard will not but your full balance back on. keeping in mind that when you call to dispurt the system charges your card $.35 each call. You see when you call the 888-929-2460 phone number it automatically gives you your balance before your can select the “dispute a transaction” phone key.
    I had $2.10 of charges on my card just trying to get Mastercard to put my refund back on my card so that I could figure out how to cash it!!!!!
    This is not even the whole story of a taxpayer that JUST WANTS TO DEPOSIT HIS REFUND INTO HIS BANK WITHOUT A THIRD PARTY TAKING MONEY FROM ME IN THE PROCESS!!!!!

  4. This note is a protest against the use of the Way2Go Card as a method of refunding taxpayers’ excessive income tax payments. The decision, whether made by the Tax Commission or the legislature, was a very bad one! The terms under-which the program operates penalyzes taxpayers from several angles including: excessive charges by the card company after the first usage, inadaquacy of the card company to fulfill its obligations in a timely manner, inadequacy of the companies’ Customer Service Division to respond in a courteous and timely manner, inadequate instructions to the recipients on how to redeem their refunds and the charges made by Mastercard against the balance on withdrawals subsequent to the first, not recognizing the obstacles to be overcome by the handicapped, the marginally illiterate, the unbanked, and those who do not use computers.

    My personal problem with the card began when I tried to deposit my tax refund into my credit union savings account. This was on April 26. The teller tried to make the balance transfer but got no notice that the transfer had occurred. She, in turn, got her supervisor and, after further attempts, brought the card back and I called the card’s customer service and a recording stated my “previous balance of…” and “a current balance of $0.00”. The bank supervisor stated they and their branch offices had other problems with the cards including one in which a customer’s savings had a deduction made. She thought the paper work would probably come through in a couple of days.

    I called the card company the next day and, after a long time manuevering through their automatic response system and waiting on hold for fourty minutes, I reached a person! I explained the problem and was told that, because it was a transfer request, it would probably be four days before the transaction cleared.

    I called again today, May 8, again after a long time on hold I reached a real person. This time I was told that not enough time had passed and I should have my money in ten business days! I asked to speak to her supervisor. She said she was a supervisor and that no one else was available to talk to me! I told the card representative that I would be contacting members of the Corporation Commission, State Government, and Tulsa media concerning the poor performance and lack of concern for the taxpayers.

    I pay my bills electronically and the funds are transferred the same day. Transfers between banks and credit unions occur almost immediately! I believe the card company is using my refund and those of other Oklahoma taxpayers to make excessive profits rather than perform the services for which they are being compensated. I also believe the State of Oklahoma has acted in an ill-conceived fashion that is against the interests of Oklahoma citizens. My refund is not a large one, I strive to break even at the end of the year, but the millions of Oklahoma dollars involved, and the cavalier attitude of the company’s responses concern me.

    I contacted the offices of Speaker of the House, my reps.and senators, and each of the members of the state tax commission today. I doubt I will hear back from them.

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