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Starting next year, the pilot tax-account program will be offered to several hundred thousand Americans. Treasury will offer several different kinds of cards and study which are most effective. Eventually, the program could be expanded to reach the 9 million American households that don’t have bank accounts.

For consumers, the debit cards will be virtually identical to checking accounts, though there won’t be any checks. They will be insured like bank deposits and will shield consumers from having to pay for fraudulent purchases when cards are lost or stolen. In some cases, the cards will store other income and offer bill-paying services.

From wire dispatches and staff reports