Skip to main content

UNC researchers partnering with TurboTax to help taxpayers save their refunds

Researchers at UNC (led by School of Social Work Associate Professor Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Ph.D.) and Duke University are partnering with Intuit, makers of TurboTax financial software, on a research project designed to encourage Americans to save part or all of their tax refunds.
In the 2012 tax season, they are launching an intervention, embedded within TurboTax software, which will offer participants the opportunity to direct a portion of their refund to a savings vehicle.

The project will build on 2011 survey data testing a variety of economic and non-economic incentives and motivations to encourage people to save from their refunds. Using principles of behavioral economics, the intervention uses simple prompts — such as priming participants to think about a specific savings goal before asking if they want to save part of their refund.

This research will contribute to knowledge about the most effective products and strategies to increase savings at tax time. It is expected that the project will have important implications for research, products, and public policies aimed at increasing the savings and assets of low- and moderate-income households in the U.S.

To get started, the group met on Feb. 25 at the UNC School of Social Work to bring together leaders in the field of savings and asset building from foundations, government, policy, practice, and academia to discuss the project components and potential for implications on policy and practice.
Participants include representatives from the Ford Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Intuit, the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, New America Foundation, Duke, and UNC’s Assets Building Group, among others.