* WASHINGTON (2/22/10)--The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has released a consumer advisory, “Consumer Alternatives for Receiving Income Tax Refunds,”
and a policy statement
on tax refund related-products. The advisory provides details on alternatives that taxpayers have for receiving their income tax refunds, while the policy statement sets forth the OCC’s expectations for financial institutions that provide tax refund-related products, including refund anticipation loans (RALs). Many credit unions offer Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, which provide free tax preparation services and RALs to low-income individuals as an alternative to high-priced tax preparation services and refund loan products ... * WASHINGTON (2/22/10)--Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) Chairman Sheila Bair said Thursday the agency is creating a principal-reduction program as part of loss-sharing agreements. Bair spoke to attendees of a Sustainable Homeownership for All conference. Including a principal-forgiveness option in loans covered in the agreements can reduce defaults and enhance the performance of modified loans, Bair said (American Banker
Feb. 19). The FDIC has long supported the idea of principal reductions, although Bair said they are costly and create a moral hazard. But they maximize the loans’ value and reduce the potential of defaults, she added ... * WASHINGTON (2/22/10)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) expressed confidence that private investors would fill the void when the Federal Reserve Board finalizes plans to end its purchases of debt and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which FHFA regulates. The purchases of MBS have been credited with stabilizing the housing market, said American Banker
(Feb. 19). The Fed said it would end the purchases in March, but financial observers have said they are concerned investors would not be willing to work with Fannie or Freddie. If investors don’t work with the enterprises, mortgage rates could increase. In congressional testimony two weeks ago, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said securities sales would be gradual. The Fed will sell the MBS when the economy’s recovery has “sufficiently advanced” ... * WASHINGTON (2/22/10)--Defense credit unions are ready to participate in Military Saves Week, which begins today and ends Friday, according to a National Credit Union Administration media advisory. The program encourages active duty, National Guard, and reserve leadership to save their money by developing a savings plan, establishing an emergency fund, or enrolling in a savings deposit program. This year’s campaign aims to help service members and their families avoid common financial pitfalls, like relying too much on credit, spending beyond one’s means, and retiring without adequate finances. Military Saves Week is a part of the America Saves Campaign. (SEE RELATED: America Saves Week helps consumers build wealth in Consumer News) ...