Since 2012, SPI researchers have led the Refund to Savings (R2S) Initiative, which is a partnership between Washington University, Duke University, and Intuit, Inc., the makers of TurboTax. R2S uses insights from behavioral economics to redesign the online tax filing experience to promote saving the tax refund in low- and moderate-income (LMI) households that use the TurboTax Freedom Edition software to complete their taxes. As a direct result of R2S interventions, Intuit and SPI researchers have generated over $94,000,000 in additional savings deposits for around 65,200 additional savers.
Beginning in 2018, SPI researchers have expanded the scope of R2S experiments beyond tax time savings to explore behavioral approaches to help households better manage their debt at tax time. Our current project involves delivering financial tips around debt management to households immediately after they learn what their tax refund will be or how much they will owe.
During the 2018 tax season, Prosperity Now and the Social Policy Institute partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Prosperity Now on an initiative to standardize and enhance the data collection efforts at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. These sites provide free tax filing services to low- and moderate-income tax filers, and often provide other services (such as bank account opening, financial coaching, and savings programs) in conjunction with tax filing.
In a collaborative project with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Intuit, Inc., a team of SPI researchers explored methods of promoting the myRA (My Retirement Account) savings program at tax time—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.