Resolve to keep ALL your tax refund in 2017! – National Consumers League

breyault.jpgThe new year is right around the corner. Along with champagne, the Times Square ball drop and midnight kisses, a new year also means resolutions for many of us. Unfortunately, those resolutions will too often be broken before the first few weeks of January are out. Fortunately for millions of of consumers, there’s one resolution you can make and actually keep this year: file your taxes early to get the federal tax refund you are entitled to!

Why is this resolution so easy to keep, you ask? Millions of consumers qualify not just for valuable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), but also for free tax preparation help—both online and in person. By taking advantage of these programs, consumers can get thousands of dollars in tax credits, save money on tax preparation services, and file taxes safely and securely.

Unfortunately, despite the availability of these programs, too many consumers fail to get all the money to which they’re entitled. Often, it’s because they simply don’t apply for the EITC even when they qualify. Other times, they may pay for expensive professional tax preparation services when free IRS-approved tax preparation options are available on the Internet and in local communities. And in some cases, it may be because unscrupulous tax preparers offer high-interest loans under the guise of giving consumers “early” refunds or, even worse, tax identity thieves steal refunds.

This tax year, in partnership with the Corporation for Enterprise Development and the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation, NCL is resolving to help consumers learn more about these important tools. First, we want qualifying consumers (i.e., those with a maximum annual income of $53,930 or less, depending on tax filing status and number of children claimed) to know that they may be entitled to as much as $6,318 in tax credits thanks to the EITC. Unfortunately, the IRS estimates that 20 percent of consumers who may qualify don’t claim the EITC. The message to consumers is that even if you work, but don’t have an income high enough to be subject to federal taxes, filing a return in order to claim the EITC can potentially put thousands of dollars in your pocket. One wrinkle to keep in mind this year is that thanks to a new law aimed at reducing tax identity fraud, consumers who claim the EITC or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) will not receive their refunds until after February 15. While this may be an inconvenience for some, it gives the IRS important time to detect and prevent tax identity fraud, which unfortunately impacts hundreds of thousands of consumers every year.

Second, we want low and moderate-income consumers to know that they may be eligible for free tax preparation help from trained volunteers community thanks to the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. At local VITA sites across the country, IRS-certified volunteers can help consumers who make less than $54,000 per year, persons with disabilities, and limited English speaking taxpayers prepare and file their taxes safely, securely, and completely free of charge. For taxpayers who qualify, using a VITA can save hundreds of dollars versus going to a for-profit tax preparer. For more information, visit or download the “IRS2GO” mobile app on your smartphone or tablet.

For those that prefer to file their taxes online, we urge consumers to take advantage of the IRS’s Free File program. The Free File program, which is available to anyone making $64,000 or less in annual income, gives consumers access to more than a dozen brand-name online tax preparation services at no cost. Free state tax preparation may also be available through Free File-participating tax preparation services, depending on which state a taxpayer lives in. For more information on IRS Free File, click here.

Thanks to programs like the EITC, VITAs, and IRS Free File, it’s never been easier for qualifying consumers to keep that resolution to collect ALL of the refund that they’re entitled to. This new year, make taking advantage of these programs a resolution you CAN keep!


National Consumers League statement on one billion record Yahoo! data breach – National Consumers League

December 16, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC – The National Consumers League (NCL) today condemned Yahoo! Inc. for putting its profits ahead of the security its users’ data. The latest data breach of one billion users’ accounts — quite possibly the largest on record — comes on the heels of an earlier breach that affected a reported 500 million users, itself a record at the time it was disclosed. The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, National Consumers League Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud:

“We have reached a tipping point in our long national debate about data security. For too long, policymakers have stood on the sidelines while data breaches have grown bigger and more damaging for consumers. While details are still emerging about who exactly was behind this latest breach, it is clear that Yahoo gave short shrift to the security of consumers’ personal data in their quest for profits. In the near term, the Federal Trade Commission should immediately begin an investigation of Yahoo’s lax data security practices. In the next Congress, lawmakers must recognize the incredible harm these breaches have wrought on consumers’ data security and the need for comprehensive data security legislation.”

Consumers affected by the Yahoo! Breach should visit NCL’s feature on Yahoo! in the “Latest Breaches” section of to get additional information about the incident and tips on how to reduce their risk of breach-related fraud.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

D.C. airport workers deserve living wage amidst strike – National Consumers League

December 15, 2016

The National Consumers League (NCL) supports the airport workers who are striking for better wages and benefits at Reagan National and Dulles Airports. Many airport employees who work for contractors are excluded from the airport’s living wage laws and earn as little as $3.77 an hour, plus tips. “It’s outrageous that workers in the United States can be paid these poverty wages,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director. “The contractor that hires many of these striking workers, Huntleigh Corporation, shouldn’t be able to skirt the law.”

NCL applauds Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring for supporting the workers and the other activists who are fighting to ensure that contractors pay their workers $15 an hour. Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority unfortunately did not act in time to ensure these workers would get a living wage for the holidays. “Many of the companies that operate inside and outside airports charge very high prices for their products and services. The profits made from the privilege of getting to operate at U.S. airports must be shared with the workers. The current system, including allowing contractors to pay poverty wages, is unacceptable,” said Greenberg.

Buy union-made gifts this holiday season – National Consumers League

holiday_scams.jpgIt’s that time of year again! Holiday season is upon us, and that means more trips to the mall and online retailers for many of us. Gift buying and giving can be stressful, fun, exhilarating, and all of the above. But how many of us have stopped to consider where these products come from, and under what conditions they are being made?We here at the National Consumers League encourage buying American- and union-made goods. Consider this about the companies you are buying from: do they treat their employees fairly? Are the employees paid a living wage? Are they using child labor in the production of their goods?

We recently blogged about avoiding gifts produced by child labor this holiday season in the Huffington Post. The Department of Labor has created the Sweat and Toil smartphone app to help consumers research which products are made from child labor and forced labor.

Our friends and fellow labor advocates at Labor 411 recently released a shopping guide to help consumers shop ethically this holiday season. The guide features gift makers that support good jobs, such as Hasbro, Russell Stover, Ghiradelli Chocolates, See’s Candies, Harley Davidson, Craftsman, and Jack Daniel’s. Check out Labor 411’s website for more information on American-made gifts and familiar union-made brands that are domestically produced.

It’s important to be kind and give back during this joyous season, but it’s equally important to be ethical in our shopping choices! Thinking twice about where that present under the tree comes from could help support workers and sustain our economy.

NCL calls on Congress to pass miner pension bill – National Consumers League

December 9, 2016

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League, the nation’s pioneering consumers’ and workers’ rights advocacy organization, today urged the Senate to pass the Miners Protection Act, a bipartisan bill backed by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Shelley Capito (R-WV), and Joe Manchin (D-WV), that would transfer excess money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund—a coal mine clean-up program—to the 1974 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Pension Plan.

The UMWA plan has a special guarantee from the federal government—secured in 1946 with then-President Harry Truman’s administration, which helps negotiate a contract with mine workers. But this bill will close a gap in benefits that was caused by a number of factors, including the recession of 2008.

The following quote can be attributed to NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg:

“Coal miners under this federal agreement risk their health and safety, because the nation needs energy. In exchange, they were promised health insurance and pension benefits. The U.S. must not renege on that promise and should pass this bill. The Senate majority leader must give the green light. So far he has been unwilling to do so. We hope this changes because these patriotic coal miners worked hard for their country and have earned these benefits.“

“The plan has too few assets, too few employers, and too few union workers now paying in. If Congress fails to act, thousands of retired miners would lose their health care this year and the entire plan could fail as early as next year. Supporters of the bill did secure a promise that the miners’ legislation would get a vote in the Senate Finance Committee. We urge all members of that Committee and the full Senate to support the Miners Protection Act.”


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

The people have spoken: Let’s rebuild our nation’s consumer friendly infrastructure – National Consumers League

byoung-92.jpgWhile many people are questioning what the election results mean for our country, one thing is certain: Americans are demanding more public transportation funding. Thirty-three out of 48 public transit ballot measures were approved, meaning voters voluntarily agreed to pay more taxes or authorized their state and local municipalities to borrow money to improve their infrastructure. The bottom line is that voters who had the opportunity to vote for increased public transit options overwhelmingly chose to do so.

To transportation policy wonks, this does not come as a shock. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases a report card that assess the condition of everything from our bridges and roads, to our rail and transit systems. The most recent report card gave the U.S. a D+ average, in large part due to the chronic underinvestment in infrastructure which is hurting the pocket books of consumers. The ASCE estimates that consumers will need to fork out an extra $3,400 per year, or $9 per day, in needless auto repairs due to pothole damage and the increased delivery costs carriers are forced to pass onto consumers due to added vehicle maintenance costs, and traffic congestion.

Additionally, Americans are also having their valuable time wasted as they spend countless hours in traffic or grappling with a crumbling public transportation system. The 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard estimates that consumers wasted an average of 42 hours sitting in traffic, with many urban locations like Washington, DC, wasting nearly double that commuting in outdated and inefficient infrastructure. Experts predict that the waiting game commuters are forced to confront each day will only worsen if our leaders continue to neglect making the necessary investments. Some analysts believe that by 2020, the amount of time Americans waste stuck in traffic will grow from 42 hours to 47 hours.

Unfortunately, the effects of chronic underinvestment in transportation infrastructure do not stop there. The lives of consumers are also being put at risk. In 2014, 4,884 pedestrians died and 65,000 were injured in traffic accidents. Many of these accidents could have been prevented with proper pedestrian infrastructure. In that same year, 726 bicyclists died and an additional 50,000 were injured; as with the pedestrians, many of these bicyclists could have had their lives saved had proper bike-friendly infrastructure been in place.   

With all of the financial, safety, and time benefits associated with improving our transportation infrastructure, it is not surprising that 70 percent of Americans want more funding to go to public infrastructure. Additionally, the Rockefeller Foundation found that 47 percent of millennials would happily give up their cars if their city had an efficient public transportation system. In spite of these encouraging trends in public opinion, local, state, and federal governments remain hesitant to provide the critical funding to maintain our infrastructure or increase public transportation options.

Investing in infrastructure will create jobs and in turn, save consumers time and money. If we fail to take action however, the infrastructure crisis will only continue to worsen. Fortunately, in the last election cycle, not only did voters choose to support public transportation funding but, both parties—including President-Elect Trump—promised a big investment in public infrastructure. It is now time for Washington to get to work and deliver on these promises. Consumers need smart investments to be made in maintaining our current roads and bridges, as well as a heavy expansion in public transportation and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

The dark side of 2016 holiday gift-giving – National Consumers League

This blog post was originally published in the Huffington Post.

Holiday shopping season is already well underway. In fact, if you haven’t started putting your credit cards to use and checking gifts for loved ones off your lists, you might feel behind already. This year, Christmas-gift-purchasing Americans said they expected to spend an average of $831, according to Gallup—no small expense for most of us. And nearly one in three of us expects to spend $1,000 or more on Christmas gifts this year. But there’s a dark side to the enthusiastic holiday gift-buying…


… and giving that a majority of us doesn’t realize: many of the gifts we purchase to wear, eat, or use on a daily basis are made by the tiny hands of exploited child laborers aged anywhere from four to 17.

On six continents, in more than 70 countries, child labor contributes to the production of more than 130 categories of products—many of which will sit wrapped in foil and ribbon under American Christmas trees later this month.

Popular products that are gifted during the holidays such as diamonds, electronics, gold, and leather are produced by child labor in dozens of countries under some of the harshest conditions. Around the world more than a million children are toiling in dangerous mines producing metals like gold and tin and lesser known minerals like cobalt and tantalum that end up in our cell phones and other electronic gear. Children also work with caustic chemicals in leather tanneries—another dangerous job.

In addition to those expensive gifts, food products such as coffee, hazelnuts, and sugar cane are items that end up in classic American holiday treats like the gingerbread cookies and flavored lattes that we treasure with friends and family this time of year.

Today, an estimated 168 million children around the world are trapped in child labor, with about half working in hazardous conditions, performing back-breaking work, in dangerous heat, with insufficient protections, inadequate breaks, and lacking the physical abilities to meet the demands of work that is truly meant for adults.

Recently, the Child Labor Coalition developed the “ABC’s of Child Labor,” a short film narrated by children that explores how alarmingly widespread child labor is globally. In the brief film, four American elementary school kids go through the products—from A to Z—that are still today touched by child labor. You would be shocked to learn that, in this day and age, so many industries are still dependent on the ugliest forms of labor, that which preys on children who shouldn’t be considered eligible to perform it.

Unlike the four young narrators of the film, millions of children around the world will never have access to the education needed to become successful, prosperous, healthy adults. Instead, they spend their childhood stuck mining diamonds for tennis bracelets or harvesting cocoa for our Christmas Eve hot chocolates, robbed of that opportunity. We urge you to watch the film and to help us educate the public about the prevalence of child labor by sharing it with your friends.

America’s holiday traditions are often our most extravagant, excessive celebrations—which we look forward to, revel in, and remember fondly. But against the backdrop of the plight of young, exploited workers toiling in production of the overpriced bobbles and gadgets we lavish on each other this time of year, these gifts carry a very dark side.

We must not turn our backs from this reality, as hard as it is to face in light of the consumerism many of us embrace this time of year. If the fact that children are involved in the production of the goods you buy—in 2016—bothers you, you can do something about it. You can support the groups, like the Child Labor Coalition or its members, who fight every day to eradicate child labor in the U.S. and abroad. You can also download the Sweat and Toil smartphone app from the Department of Labor, and use it to research which products are made from child labor and forced labor.

Don’t let the opportunity this holiday season to take a stand for working children pass you by. This year, be informed about the products you purchase so you can give them with a clean conscience.

NCL joins groups supporting Justice for Victims of Fraud Act of 2016 – National Consumers League

December 7, 2016

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League has announced it support for legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs – and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman – a member of the House Financial Services Committee to prevent Wells Fargo bank from hiding behind its own forced arbitration clauses to duck responsibility for its fraudulent conduct.

Wells Fargo has been embroiled in a scandal since revelations surfaced that its employees had secretly opened roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and issued 565,000 credit cards without customers’ consent. According to the legislation, Wells Fargo is now using the forced arbitration clauses it tucked away in the fine print of contracts customers signed when they opened legitimate accounts to block them from suing over the fraudulent accounts.

“Wells Fargo’s tactics give new meaning to the word ‘chutzpah,’” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “The bank commits massive fraud and then refuses to take responsibility for it, claiming consumers signed away their rights through forced arbitration. If ever the ‘doctrine of unclean hands’ applies, it is here. Regulators and the courts must not allow the bank to engage in this scandalous behavior. Consumers must be protected and NCL fully supports the to ensure victims are afforded their rights under the law and not subject to a dubious forced arbitration clause.”

Warner’s bill, Justice for Victims of Fraud Act of 2016, would allow victims of Wells Fargo’s fraud to seek their day in court even if they signed contracts that included arbitration for their legitimate accounts in the past.

NCL is joined by endorsements by: The American Association for Justice, Consumers Union, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low income clients), Americans for Financial Reform, the Center for Responsible Lending, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Media Voices for Children, Allied Progress, the Woodstock Institute, the Franciscan Action Network, the Economic Policy Institute Center, California Reinvestment Coalition, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, and Public Justice.

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Robert Casey (D-PA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

As federal and state tax fraud prevention efforts ramp up, National Consumers League launches toolkit to help promote free IRS tax preparation services, educate on refund delays new for 2017

December 7, 2016

Toolkit designed to help Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs raise awareness among EITC/ACTC recipients about new refund delays, promote free in-person and online tax preparation IRS resources 

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s pioneer consumer and worker advocacy organization, announced today the launch of its IRS Refund Delay Toolkit. The free toolkit will provide the more than 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs across the country a comprehensive set of resources to help inform consumers about new changes in tax law, which require the IRS to delay issuing refunds for taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15.

The updated law, which has no exceptions, is designed to give the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud. Tax identity fraud is one of the fastest-growing types of fraud—it accounted for almost half of the 491,000 ID theft complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission last year. NCL is making this toolkit available for free to the more than 12,000 VITA programs operating nationwide to help them protect consumers from identity theft and other tax-related frauds by using free tax preparation services.

The IRS relies on local VITA programs, along with the brand-name online tax preparation software offered through its Free File program, to help qualifying individuals file their federal taxes each year, free of charge. NCL’s IRS Refund Delay Toolkit will provide VITAs with strategies, practical tips, tools, and educational messages that they can use to encourage consumers to rely on these options, thus helping them to avoid schemes which claim to offer quicker refunds, but actually result in high-interest payday loans or costly short-term refund advances, both of which are detrimental to consumers in the long run.

“It has never been more important for consumers to prepare accurate income tax returns,” said John Breyault, NCL’s Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “Our goal is to help consumers reduce their risk of falling victim to tax identity fraud, connect with services that will help them navigate this year’s delay and keep 100 percent of their federal refunds without worrying about hidden fees or unexpected charges.”

The effort is intended to build on the IRS’ success in reducing tax identity fraud rates, which decreased by nearly 50 percent in last year’s filing season. In 2015, 1.2 million confirmed identity theft returns were filed and stopped, totaling $7.2 billion in potential losses to taxpayers. In that same period in 2016, only 787,000 confirmed identity theft returns, totaling $4 billion in fraudulent refunds, made it into the IRS’ system: a decrease of almost 500,000 fraudulent returns stopped before processing.  By guiding consumers to free IRS tax preparation services, NCL believes that the numbers of confirmed tax identity fraud cases in 2017 can continue to decline.

With the support of an unrestricted educational grant from the Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation, NCL has partnered with the CFED Taxpayer Opportunity Network to help distribute the toolkit to its network of VITA programs and volunteer tax preparers. “Helping VITA programs prepare for the potential impact the refund delay may have on EITC filers and VITA volunteers is critical,” said Rebecca Thompson, CFED’s Project Director of the Taxpayer Opportunity Network. “We are excited to work with NCL on a toolkit that helps VITAs communicate with taxpayers, volunteers and community partners about the refund delay.”

Learn more about free tax preparation services like VITAs or Free File and access the toolkit by visiting


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

National Consumers League calls on United Airlines to halt introduction of “Basic Economy” fare – National Consumers League

December 7, 2016

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang,, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC — The National Consumers League, the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today called on United Airlines to heed the concerns of passenger advocates and policymakers and halt its plans to introduce its “Basic Economy” fare class. Rules for the new fare class, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017, will prevent customers from bringing carry-on baggage on flights, requiring more flyers to pay onerous baggage fees. In addition, “Basic Economy” tickets will come with no guarantee that families will be able to sit together nor allow passengers to know ahead of their flights where their seats are located on an aircraft.

The following statement if attributable to John Breyault, National Consumers League vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud: 

In a competitive marketplace, airlines would be falling over themselves to offer consumers the most perks at the lowest price. Instead, we have the major U.S. airlines engaging in a race to the bottom to see who can offer the worst service at the highest profit margin. This is the textbook definition of market failure. United’s draconian “Basic Economy” fare cannot be seen as anything other than the beginning of a slippery slope that will pressure the other legacy airlines — who control 80% of domestic flights and are enjoying record profits — to follow suit. Flyers and policymakers should make no mistake that today’s “Basic Economy” fare will almost certainly be service level that many, if not most of us may soon be forced to endure, whether we’re United customers or not. United should heed the concerns of a diverse coalition of flyers rights advocates and senior members of Congress and halt the introduction of its “Basic Economy” fare class.

Earlier this year, NCL joined with a broad coalition of public interest and business travel groups in calling on Congress to pass the FAIR Fees Act; consumer protection legislation that would prohibit airlines from charging cancellation, baggage or other ancillary fees that are “unreasonable or disproportional” to the costs incurred by the air carrier. Given United’s actions, the need for such common-sense rules — which received bipartisan support — appears greater than ever.


About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit