Imagine receiving a sum of money greater than your normal paycheck. What would you do with the money? Your first impulse might be to spend it. A gourmet dinner or a new television sounds nice. But, you may have bills that need to be paid first. There’s also the option to save some of the money – perhaps to get you closer to a financial goal, such as paying for college or going on a vacation, or to help you gain peace of mind for a rainy day.
At tax time, many consumers face this realistic choice, especially low to moderate income consumers who qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC), which provides many of them with a tax refund.
Today, we’re announcing that as part of Project Catalyst, we’ll be working with H&R Block to evaluate practices to promote consumer saving behavior during tax time.
Saving for goals and stability
We want to promote saving behavior both because it can help people achieve greater peace of mind when it comes to taking care of unexpected expenses and because it can help people reach their short-term and long-term financial goals. For many people, a tax refund is the largest lump sum payment they will receive in a year. So we believe that tax time is a good time to tell people about the importance of building savings.
We’re already working with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites through our Ready? Set, Save! campaign to provide consumers with information regarding savings options and to encourage consumers to save a portion of their tax refunds. This project with H&R Block will build on the work we have done with VITA sites. H&R Block is one of the largest tax preparers in the country, preparing over 20 million tax returns annually, and many of its customers have low to moderate incomes. H&R Block will be able to test certain strategies at scale, and the insights shared with us will help us better understand which practices are effective in encouraging consumers to save.
Our collaboration with H&R Block will span three tax seasons. We have two main research goals for this project. The first is to find out which strategies are effective at encouraging consumers to save a portion of their tax refunds. The second is to demonstrate the impact and potential benefits of saving on financial health over the short term and long term. H&R Block will begin incorporating information about saving and the options available to consumers in informational materials and marketing campaigns, encouraging saving through their tax preparers in H&R Block stores, and “gamifying” saving to make saving more fun. Through this collaboration, we hope to gain insight from H&R Block’s initiatives to find effective strategies that not only increase overall consumer savings but also help encourage consumers to make saving a habit.
We’ll update you on our progress before we proceed with the second year of the study.