April 17, 2013

The April 15 Metro article “Fees could eat into tax refunds on debit cards” raised one problem with Virginia’s decision to use MasterCard debit cards for tax refunds, rather than issuing checks. There is, however, a more important problem: Not all financial institutions deal with MasterCard. This reality was lost on me until I tried to unlock my 2012 tax refund.

I filed my return through tax software, so I was unaware that, by not using the direct-deposit option for my refund, I would be saddling myself with a debit card. (Virginia does not send tax forms or instructions to those who use software to file their returns.) When I went to my credit union to deposit the four-figure refund, I was told that it handled only Visa cards — and that I was the 10th customer that day to face this problem.

I went home to research whether any of the other financial institutions with which I do business honored MasterCard. Two hours later, I discovered that only one did — in Vienna (a long drive from my Alexandria residence).

It should not take five hours and a small fortune in gasoline to get back money owed by Virginia.

Tom Slayton, Alexandria

The solution to the problem of fees associated with Virginia’s tax refund debit cards is simple for those whose taxes are withheld from their pay: Adjust your withholding so that you owe the state instead of the state owing you. I’m sure Virginia will have no problem cashing your check.

Catherine DeLano, McLean