Financial Behaviors Report

Promoting Savings at Tax Time: Insights from Online and In-Person Tax Preparation Services

This report presents findings and insights from Refund to Savings: Applications for myRA, a collaborative project involving the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Washington University in St. Louis, and Intuit, Inc. The project explored methods of promoting the myRA (My Retirement Account) savings program at tax time—that is, when households file their taxes. It focused specifically on opportunities in an online tax-filing setting and in person at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. The first component of the project examined the retirement needs of low- and moderate-income (LMI) tax filers through a large, national, online survey. It also assessed the appeal of different messaging strategies with these filers. The project’s second component tested promotional messaging strategies as well as interventions grounded in behavioral economics. Both were delivered via online tax-filing software. The final component used key informant interviews with VITA site directors, staff, volunteers, and taxpayers to explore barriers to and opportunities for the promotion of myRA at VITA sites. In 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that the myRA program would be discontinued, but this report identifies several findings with applications for general tax-time savings promotion. In particular, the key findings provide useful insights around messaging and in-person savings promotion at VITA sites. The results may also inform the development of future retirement products or programs. This study clearly shows that the need for retirement savings is great among LMI households. Despite barriers, tax time continues to present an opportunity for the promotion of both retirement savings and savings in general.

Citation

Davison, G., Frank-Miller, E., Roll, S. P., & Grinstein-Weiss, M. (2018). Promoting savings at tax time: Insights from online and in-person tax preparation services (CSD Research Report 18-33). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.