Skip to content

Breakfast Roundtables with National Experts: Notes from "Tax-Time Strategies"

OCTOBER 25-26, 2012 | ST. LOUIS, MO.


Michal Grinstein-Weiss
Associate Director, Center for Social Development
Washington University in St. Louis

Nick Maynard
Director of Innovation
Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund

David Rothstein
Project Director, Policy Matters Ohio
Research Fellow, New America Foundation


The annual filing of tax returns presents an excellent opportunity to foster financial access, build savings and assets, and reduce debt for millions of unbanked and underbanked households. Savings bonds are one easy-to-use and accessible option, as are retail products. Participants discussed the challenges of creating accounts at tax-time and best approaches for engaging low-income savers.


  • A study through the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St Louis found that introducing interventions to encourage people to save at exactly the right time works: People who chose to split their tax refund between savings and checking accounts ended up saving more.
  • Research through Policy Matters Ohio/New America Foundation found that, historically, maximum EITC payments have increased, and yet we haven't set up a system for dealing with this lump sum payment issue.
  • The Doorways to Dreams Fund has found that prize-based principles encourage people to save at tax time.
  • Savings bonds, offered through VITA sites, can play an important role in increasing savings.
  • Savings bonds provide opportunities for impulse saving at tax time. They are a simple and straightforward product, and people like to gift them.
  • There is a move out of paid tax prep to "do it yourself" approaches.
  • The Treasury Department plays an important role in tax-time savings approaches; its website requires updating to be easily understood by the public.
  • There is room for growth on the retail side in offering financial products to engage low-income savers over time.


  • "Tax time can be a great time for people to save money."
  • "We are still lacking in infrastructure to create savings accounts at tax time."
  • "Savings bonds were once part of the culture of being American. How do we market them to be sold to customers as 'This makes me feel like a true, enfranchised American'?"


  • How do we do both EITC outreach and enrollment, and benefits outreach and enrollment at the same time?
  • How do we make savings fun, easy and engaging?
  • Where do we turn now in terms of the return to postal savings, or viewing savings bonds in the form of a card?
  • How do we build trust and relationships in both online marketing and face to face?

Other Breakfast Roundtable session notes:
Municipal Strategies
Financial Capability
Government Payments and Public Assistance Programs

Back to the conference materials and agenda »