The banking industry has defeated another challenge to income tax refund loans.

A group of plaintiff's lawyers had filed a class action against Beneficial National Bank and three other lenders for making short-term tax refund anticipation loans at an average 245% annual interest rate, which the lawyers claimed violated Georgia's usury law.

But a federal judge dismissed the suit last week, saying the state law does not apply to out-of-state banks-even if they use agents based in the state to offer loans. The judge dismissed similar allegations against Greenwood Trust Co. and subsidiaries of Banc One Corp. and Mellon Bank Corp. because none of them had made loans to the plaintiffs.

"This opinion makes it clear that a national bank may export its home- state interest rate come hell or high water," said Alan S. Kaplinsky, Beneficial's lawyer and a partner in the Philadelphia law firm Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll.

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