Refunds to Savings: Building Savings at Tax Time

Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Washington University in St. Louis
Dan Ariely, Duke University
Clint Key, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Krista Comer, Washington University in St. Louis

Many American households have experienced increasing economic vulnerability. One promising opportunity to help households build financial security is at tax time when they receive a windfall of one large lump sum payment. The Refund to Savings (R2S) initiative implements and tests a sustainable, scalable, tax-refund savings program. The intervention is integrated into TurboTax Freedom Edition, a free online tax preparation platform offered by Intuit, and analyzes whether a combination of the behavioral techniques impact saving behavior at tax time. The study also examines how barriers to saving affect responses to the intervention, and whether savings persist over time improving the financial health of households. Preliminary data show that the intervention increases the propensity to save the tax refund and the amount saved. These preliminary data show the promise of small changes in financial processes and behaviors for producing benefits for households.

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Presented in Session 220: Building Savings, Assets, and Wealth