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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thanks to a quirk of the U.S. payments processing infrastructure, some taxpayers are getting thousands of dollars in cash back on their 2020 tax payments.

How it works: If you write a check to the IRS, you're never quite sure when they will cash it. There's a similar uncertainty if you allow the agency to debit your tax payments directly from your account — you don't know when that will happen. There's a little-known third option, however, which is entirely under the taxpayers' control.

  • If you pay your taxes by debit card, the IRS will charge you a flat fee of about $2.55. That fee gives you complete control over exactly when the money leaves your account.

Driving the news: One taxpayer with an account at neobank Jiko used its Debit Cards Cashback Rewards Program to make a $4.7 million tax payment, according to Jiko CEO Stephane Lintner.

  • Jiko allows customers to create a virtual Discover debit card that's valid only for a certain merchant — in this case, the IRS. So there's no risk that some other payee might inadvertently be able to get access to such funds.
  • The bank also offers 1% cash back on all debit card purchases — which means that this transaction resulted in a $47,000 payment back to the customer.
  • "I am quite sure this is the largest consumer debit transaction ever," says Hans Morris, a former president of Visa who now runs Nyca Partners.

The IRS received the full $4.7 million, but under the Byzantine agreements governing debit transactions, the IRS's payment processor had to pay more than 1% of the transaction back to Discover and thence to Jiko. That allows Jiko to pay 1% on to the customer.

The bottom line: "This is probably not going to last," Lintner tells Axios. But the payments industry moves very slowly — so it's almost certainly going to remain at least through April 15.

Go deeper

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say. 

The U.S. coronavirus vaccines aren't all the same

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The U.S. now has three COVID-19 vaccines, and public health officials are quick — and careful — to say there’s no bad option. But their effectiveness, manufacturing and distribution vary.

Why it matters: Any of the authorized vaccines are much better than no vaccine, especially for people at high risk of severe coronavirus infections. But their differences may fuel perceptions of inequity, and raise legitimate questions about the best way to use each one.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The future of workplace benefits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The pandemic exposed how workplaces across America are inhospitable to parents. But it could also spur companies to make changes.

The big picture: Well over a million parents have left their jobs due to child care responsibilities during the pandemic. Now, companies — large and small — are attempting to reimagine workplace benefits and add flexibility to help those parents come back.