On October 2, 2014, the CFPB announced a research pilot to explore ways to encourage saving among consumers at tax time, with particular focus on tax-time saving practices among low-income consumers. The pilot is part of the CFPB’s “Project Catalyst,” which is designed to encourage consumer-friendly developments in markets for consumer financial products and services. See our prior blog posts about Project Catalyst here, here, here and here.
The pilot is the latest of several initiatives launched by the CFPB over the past three years to encourage consumers to save their tax refunds or a portion thereof. These initiatives are pursuant to the CFPB’s mandate to improve the financial literacy of American consumers, and in particular, its charge to provide consumers – especially low to moderate income consumers – with wealth-building strategies and access to financial services during the tax preparation process to claim certain credits and federal benefits. The CFPB has expressed its view that tax time presents an opportunity to many consumers to improve long-term financial health and economic stability by saving their tax refunds.
As part of the pilot, H&R Block, Inc. has agreed to share insights with the CFPB from H&R Block’s own tax time savings project. In its own project, H&R Block is testing the effectiveness of certain strategies to promote tax-time saving behavior, such as providing consumers with informational materials to encourage saving of tax refunds, and having tax preparers introduce to consumers the idea of saving once the consumer learns that he or she will receive a refund.