Use A Credit Card To Pay Taxes

Don't use a credit card to pay for your taxes

If you ever had a doubt that credit card companies only had their best interest in mind, you can see it clearly in the recent escalation of credit card offers aimed to entice you to put your taxes on your credit card. This includes such cards as Chase offering double mileage on the United Mileage Plus SignatureVisa card and American Express offering a similar promotion on its Delta and Starwood credit cards.

While in most cases there is an opportunity to use a credit card to your advantage by gaining the reward the credit card offers and then paying off the balance before the due date so as not to incur any charges, paying your taxes by credit card comes with a 2.49% surcharge to third-party companies that process the transaction. This means that even if you pay off your credit card on time, you’re going to end up with a net loss even with the extra incentives from the promotions.

So why would credit cards be promoting the use of their cards to pay taxes owed? Those that owe usually owe a significant amount that hasn’t been allocated in their budget meaning that they will not be able to pay off the entire balance right away. That’s a great incentive to the credit card companies to get you to make the payment through their card.

Credit card companies also know that consumers are no long shy about putting their taxes on their credit card. Credit cards are already taking the lead as a payment method with more people using them than have the money electronically transferred from their bank accounts. The use of credit and debit cards to pay taxes increased 54% from 2004 to 2005, according to the IRS. Their use is predicted to increase even further this year.

In the end, it makes little financial sense for most people to use your credit card to pay for your taxes even with the bonus reward offers. You should definitely consider other payment options if you have a choice.

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7 Responses to Use A Credit Card To Pay Taxes

  1. Raj says:

    Would it make sense to use a credit card if:
    – I have money saved up to pay taxes I may owe this year
    – My credit card (American Express Starwood) offers points per dollar.
    – If I pay $5000 I get 5000 points = 2 nights free @ some four points sheraton hotel!
    – I pay my tax – as soon as the IRS charges my account, I pay off the bill.

  2. pfadvice says:

    You just need to do the math. The $5000 is going to cost you $124.50 in fees to third party companies to process the charge (you can actually get the third party charged reduced a bit if you do your taxes through H&R Block) – so if the 2 nights are worth the $124.50 then it could be an option.

  3. RS says:

    I didn’t really get what you were talking about at first with the processing charge. Now I understand that I would have to pay that charge…so that makes it an easy call for me.

  4. I’m glad you wrote this post as I did a little while ago linking to this post. Sometimes it’s more than aggravating to see people fall for this type of stuff by the credit card comanies.

    I hope they take our advice and do anything they can not to go that route.

  5. mapgirl says:

    As someone who once owed the IRS about $5K in back taxes, it’s better to work out a payment plan. The rate that I got from the government in 2002 was much better than the rates out there for credit cards, plus the debt did not turn up on my credit report. The rates are also fixed, or change only once a year they way they do with student loans, so you aren’t subject to monthly variability. The Fed Open Market Committee meets every 6 weeks, so if someone did charge their taxes to a variable credit card, that’s a pretty silly idea.

    Of course if you default, you have to pay it up all at once, or they can garnish your wages.

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  7. Lori says:

    The solicitation we recieved stated that a rewards member can get virtually 1 point for every dollar of taxes paid through their service. You can even pay your 2.49% fee with your points. Each dollar of the fee equates to 200 points with AMEX. So, a $10,000 tax bill would generate 10,000 points. The fee is $249.00 x 200 points = 49,800 points. So I just paid 49,800 points for 10,000 points. Hmmmmmm.

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