Saving money can be hard, especially for people who are living paycheck to paycheck. Often, people who are struggling to make ends meet don’t have enough money to save, or a way to transfer money automatically into a savings account. That’s why once a year when consumers file their tax returns may be a time when saving is both possible and convenient for many people.
For the past five years, we’ve been working with (VITA) programs and commercial tax preparers across the country to help them better communicate with their clients about how tax time can be a unique opportunity to save. During this time, we have learned how some of these VITA programs have implemented promising practices that can help to make tax-time savings initiatives more successful.
Why tax season is a unique opportunity to save
Eighty-four percent of tax filers who make less than $50,000 per year receive a refund. Nearly receive the earned income tax credit, which can provide a significant boost to their refund. For many people, the tax refund is the single biggest check they receive all year.
On top of that, if people file their returns electronically, they can choose to have the IRS automatically put a portion of their tax refund in as many as . This means they can put some of their refund into their checking account to take care of immediate expenses, and, at the same time, they can put some into their savings account, buy , or choose several other ways to save.
Today we're releasing our paper, Building the capacity of tax preparation providers to encourage saving, to share these practices with tax assistance providers around the country.
About the paper
A few of the promising practices we have identified include:
- Making sure all tax volunteers and staff are committed to encouraging saving
- Letting tax clients know about their saving options in advance if possible, and several times while they are getting their taxes prepared
- Dedicating a staff member or volunteer to promote saving by providing incentives and celebrating success
We encourage tax assistance providers to apply to join our savings initiative, a large-scale demonstration project for the upcoming tax season to implement some of the promising practices we have identified with VITA programs.
About the savings initiative
We’re working with the Internal Revenue Service, the Prosperity Now Taxpayer Opportunity Network, and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide to engage volunteer tax assistance programs across the country that are interested in starting or expanding savings initiatives in preparation for the 2018 tax season. We’re particularly interested in working with VITA programs willing to implement several of the promising practices we have identified. These programs will share information with us at the end of the tax season about the practices’ effectiveness.
How to participate in the 2018 Tax Time Savings Initiative cohort
We plan to work with approximately 75 VITA programs across the country that want to start or expand their efforts to encourage saving at tax time. Please keep in mind that this is not an opportunity for grants, contracts, sub-contracts, or funding.
This program will provide education materials for consumers, as well as training, materials and technical assistance for staff and volunteers of the VITA programs. To see if your program might be a good fit, check out the CFPB's and respond by Sept. 8, 2017.