As I've pointed out on prior occasions, very few pieces of legislation, or news, can be described as "good" or "bad" objectively. So this piece of news about loans many people think are predatory isn't good or bad for consumers; it's just news.
And the news is that H&R Block may or may not be able to offer "rapid refund' taxpayer refund anticipation loans -- a move brought on by re-regulation of HSBC. Says WTOL.com:
Millions of H&R block customers will no longer be able to get short-term loans backed by their tax refunds. The program is know as Rapid Refunds. The tax preparer's banking partner, HSBC Bank, has been forced by federal regulators to stop offering the high-interest loans.Some news stories say that H&R Block can't offer the loans at all; H&R Block disputed that, in an AP story:
Block said it will continue to offer customers refund anticipation checks, which are funded through H&R Block Bank, along with direct deposit accounts through its Emerald Card program. Block also provides other programs to its tax preparation clients, such as its Emerald Advance revolving line of credit. Lines of credit have been used by more than 4 million customers, the company said. But during a conference call last month the company said they would not be used to replace RALs.
H&R Block itself is spinning this as a denial of credit, which is about right. Others, like the Illinois AG's office, point out that refund loans carry a high price tag and says that many low-income customers can take advantage of free tax-preparation services -- but access to those services may be limited. In Wisconsin, you can get free taxpayer assistance through the "Volunteer Income Tax Assistance" (VITA) program. But there were only seven places in the entire state to get that help in 2008, with two in Madison alone. (And one of those Madison sites was open only 5 hours.)
By contrast, H&R Block had 15 offices within shouting distance of my ZIP code alone. While it'll cost more, it's more accessible, as well -- so people who use the refund anticipation loans service from tax preparers not only get their money faster (at a higher price) but they get access to professional tax preparers who will file their returns online for them. That's not necessarily a bad thing, making it not necessarily a good thing that the loans are not available.