Integrity Matters
April 16, 2003

Government must help the working poor

Question: (E-031)
I read in our paper that “Quick Tax Loans Cost Taxpayers almost $2 Billion”. Further, these check cashing fees add to the cost of getting tax refunds and loans. And the worst part is that these fees are targeted at the working poor. What kind of integrity is this? What is the thinking of those who prepare the taxes for the working poor as well as those who make available their financial institutions to assist in carrying out this high cost activity? Is everything about money, no matter who is taken advantage of?

Dear Concerned Citizen:
You have raised an issue that is central to the integrity of our society. We are supposed to protect those who cannot protect themselves. And, our society is judged by how we respond to those at high risk.

The working poor are an admirable segment of our society. At one time or another, most of us had immigrant ancestors who came to the United States of America as “the working poor” and found independence and success; economic and otherwise. Working poor means that these are individuals not asking for a “pass” – they have taken a job and they are contributing. They work in hopes of finding what Americans have always dreamed about, a better life through effort, sacrifice and commitment. Taking advantage of this group is awful.

Having done research about this tax-refund and loan process, where a number of tax preparation organizations, some being quite large, and certain financial institutions charge high fees and interest rates, it is difficult not to be appalled. Their leaders respond that if they did not supply these expensive services, then someone else would. Whether they are right or wrong, we should be thoughtful in hurrying to find a scapegoat. Blaming accountants and bankers is not productive. The solutions lie in the hands of those who regulate these types of actions, namely, our government officials.

Without an upward success path for the working poor of our society, they are left with little hope and motivation. If you feel, as I do, that this callous manipulation of our emerging work force is wrong, then contact the Attorney General’s office in your state. Unless free markets (in this case, the tax preparers and their collaborating financial institutions) are willing to regulate themselves, then governments must. If what is being done is legal, then find out how to change the laws. Right now, in these harsh times, we all need one another.

Preying on the working poor, reducing an already small amount of money that is rightfully theirs, by taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and sophistication, says allot about the character and integrity of those who know the ropes and utilize the loopholes.

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