COLUMN: Beware of fees with a tax refund advance

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By Theresa Howard

 Many tax preparers advertise immediate money through tax refund advance services. However, these may not be the best idea for many. A fee is usually assessed in exchange for the quick cash.

Tax refund advances are similar to a payday loan, and both are some of the most expensive ways to borrow money.

According to the Consumer Action website, annual percentages rates can range from 50 to 500 percent on tax refund advances. A tax advance refund, or rapid refund, is a loan. If for some reason your refund is less than anticipated, you could end up paying the difference between the two and possibly additional fees or interest. Perhaps a better way to get your refund quickly is to electronically file your taxes as early as possible and have it deposited directly into your checking account. By doing so, you could have your refund as soon as 10 days later.

If you owe the IRS money this year, you may want to consider changing your withholding status with your employer so more money can be taken out throughout the year, so you're not hit with a big payment next year. If you owe taxes but don't have the money to pay due to unemployment or a reduction in work in the past year, you may qualify for the IRS's Fresh Start program, which may allow you to repay your debt in installments without failure-to-pay penalties. There are income and tax limits associated with this program. For more information on it, visit http://www.irs.gov.

Estate Planning Update

The Extension Office is offering a class on estate planning and the recent changes to Kentucky laws. Learn how to safeguard your financial and legal future by organizing, communicating and preparing.

The class will be offered 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at the LaRue County Extension office, 807 Old Elizabethtown Road, Hodgenville.

Dr. Jennifer Hunter, U.K. assistant professor in family financial management will speak. The class is free, but call 358-3401 to register and indicate which session you will attend. Inclement weather could cause class to be canceled.