by Charles A. Monagan
Feb 2, 2012
11:54 AMOn Connecticut
It's In the Cards
The Connecticut Department of Revenue Services (DRS) recently announced that this year it will be distributing "refund debit cards for most income taxpayers who do not choose direct deposit." The cards will be backed by JP Morgan Chase—you know, the big bank that was fined $2 billion to settle the WorldCom fraud suit, fined $49 million in Britain for failure to protect investors, and was also forced to pay $27 million after they admited they overcharged American military personnel on their mortgages. Those guys.
The announcment caught many off guard, including pretty much everyone in the state outside of DRS. According to the Connecticut Post, state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) suggested that the change was sudden and left too many unanswered questions. "It would be in our best interests to have an information hearing, ask (Sullivan) to come forward and hopefully he'll allay any fears out there about this change," McKinney said in the article. "It may very well be a good policy." As of the moment, there is a meeting scheduled between some of the legislative chairs, but nothing involving the full state senate.
Personally, I have direct deposit, so this doesn't effect me. But like the good curmudgeon that I've become, I still find myself questioning the actions of DRS. I obviously understand that electronic transactions are where we are headed and am good with that (you know, until SKYNET rebels and the machines take over), but given the state's propensity for error and Chase's history, I am leery. I also find the low-key way that this change has been presented to the public—via a simple press release posted on the DRS website—sort of troubling, especially given how close we are to tax-filing season. I cant' help but feel like this all is coming together quickly and is trying to be slipped fast by taxpayers.
I want to believe the state is doing it because, as they claim, it's going to save them (and us) money in the long run, and that it's beneficial to those recipients who are "unbankable" in this economy, but there's this nagging part of me that's not just square with how it's happening. I know the Department of Labor has been doing something similiar with providing some unemployment payments—I guess I just think about how surveys have shown that the companies issuing gift-type cards love them because a significant percentage go unused. Last year, an estimated $2 billion in gift cards went unclaimed, according to Time.com.
Plus, there's other perks for the state, such as being able to collect more interest while wating for the cards to be used and reaping sales tax if they are used in retail situations.
Am I (admittedly) just being too paranoid? Time will tell.It's In the Cards