Being unbanked makes it difficult for low and moderate-income (LMI) households to manage finances, save, and access credit. In this study, we assessed effects of an online tax-time savings intervention on savings account openings in the 6 months following tax filing among a sample of 4,692 LMI tax filers. New research findings lend additional empirical support for financial inclusion efforts.

What we found: That lower-income tax filers who received messages encouraging them to save their refunds were more likely to open a savings account in the 6 months after they filed their taxes online, compared to a control group.

The power of suggestion: This was a surprising finding because these were tax filers who did not have a savings account when they filed their taxes. It seems we discovered an example of the power of suggestion regarding savings. Encouraging these filers to save their refunds appeared to have planted a seed about opening a savings account.

Important practical considerations:

  • For financial professionals: With savings account ownership being less common among lower-income households, financial counselors might want to consider tax season – when many of these households are receiving tax refunds — as an opportunity to encourage taking action.
  • For policy makers: Policy makers concerned about financial inclusion could consider how to use tax season as an opportunity to promote savings account opening among the underbanked. Ideally this would happen by giving low-income tax filers the chance to open free savings accounts when they file their taxes.

Guest Contributor: Mathieu Despard

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Download the research (available to AFCPE members or by request from the authors): Mathieu Despard, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Anna deRuyter, Shenyang Guo, Jane E. Oliphant, and Terri Friedline, “Effects of a Randomized Tax-Time Savings Intervention on Savings Account Ownership Among Low- and Moderate-Income Households,” JFCP, Vol 29(2)

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