Keep deals square at tax refund time

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

Add the start of tax season to those holiday milestones that seem to get earlier every year, like Christmas decorations right after Halloween.

It’s still December, and I have already read a couple of online articles on tax refund season, aimed at buy-here, pay-here dealerships. The idea is that tax refund time is the best time all year for the hardest-up customers to make a down payment on a car -- maybe the only time they can afford it.

This isn’t limited to buy-here, pay-here dealers. Mainstream subprime auto lenders also report that tax refund time is their busy season.

Tax time is earlier than you may think. Most of us associate April 15 with taxes, but according to H&R Block, taxpayers who can’t wait can start filing electronic tax returns as early as Jan. 22. (That sounds early, but it’s actually about a week later than in 2012, H&R Block said.)

Here’s hoping that the vast majority of dealers and lenders continue to show some restraint with the poorest customers. Square dealing can head off tougher regulations, and besides, it’s good business in the long run.

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