Raising Awareness of Government Initiatives and Tax Time Savings Opportunities

by Peter Tufano, Timothy Flacke, Nicholas W. Maynard

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Doorways to Dreams Fund (D2D) has worked on tax-time savings initiatives since 2003 and on offering US Savings Bonds at tax-time since 2006. D2D's work contributed to the introduction of IRS Form 8888 — an addition to the tax code that allows for directing tax refunds to multiple destinations and was critical infrastructure to enable tax time savings. This work culminated in President Obama's announcement in the fall of 2009 that an option to buy US Savings Bonds would return to the tax form in 2010 and expand in 2011. With the introduction of this trusted, high-value, universally available savings option directly in the tax filing process, D2D is fully focused on helping financially vulnerable Americans understand how and why to save part of their tax refunds. In 2010, D2D launched a national social marketing campaign, Bonds Make it Easy. The campaign targeted consumers directly and consumer "gatekeepers," such as volunteer and commercial tax preparers, tax software providers, and community-based organizations. Online (web, social media) and offline (printed collateral) marketing plans were developed in tandem with media and promotional events. Creative new media tools are core part of this campaign, as younger Americans in particular are hard to reach through traditional media and messaging. Because of our prior work, D2D was uniquely positioned to create an effective financial literacy casual video game that raises awareness of and subtly promotes tax time savings opportunities, especially the Saver's Credit and the offer of US Savings Bonds. Continuing its work from Year 1 of the Financial Literacy Center, D2D tapped its development network and testing partners to rapidly develop a game ("Refund Rush") and deploy it for the first time during Tax Season 2011 (January – April 2011). The game will continue to be used in future years.

The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Financial Literacy Research Consortium and was performed by the Financial Literacy Center.

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