U.S. to Offer 2010 Tax Refunds on Prepaid Debit Cards

Don't be surprised if your patients make their co-pays in the months ahead using a prepaid debit card courtesy of Uncle Sam. This year, 600,000 taxpayers will have the option of receiving a paper check or prepaid debit card for their 2010 tax refund.

Don’t be surprised if your patients reach into their wallets to make their co-pay and pull out a prepaid debit card courtesy of Uncle Sam.

In a pilot program announced Thursday, the Treasury Department will give 600,000 low-income and middle-income taxpayers the option of receiving a paper check or a MyAccountCard Visa Prepaid Debit Card for their 2010 tax refund, according to a report on CNNMoney.

The program is designed to assist the “unbanked” -- consumers who have no bank accounts and who often end up paying steep fees at check-cashing services to cash their tax-refund checks.

"This pilot program will provide low- and moderate-income Americans with a low-cost option for faster delivery of their federal tax refund," said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal Wolin said in a statement.

Once taxpayers agree to receive the prepaid debit card from the Treasury Department, they will be able to reload it with their own money and use it to make purchases without having to open a traditional bank account.

Treasury said it will issue different versions of the prepaid card during the pilot program to monitor their effectiveness before the cards are rolled out as a permanent part of the tax filing process, CNNMoney reported.

The Visa card will be issued by Utah-based Bonneville Bank, and the Treasury will work with prepaid financial services company Green Dot Corp. during the pilot.

In a separate pilot launched this week, the Treasury Department will give the nearly 2 million payroll-card users the opportunity to direct deposit their 2010 refund onto their existing payroll cards as well, CNNMoney said. The Treasury Department said that more than 1.7 million U.S. workers currently receive their wages on payroll debit cards.