Tax Time as a Teachable Moment

This paper provides an overview of income tax preparation as an opportunity for consumer financial education using illustrative data collected from programs located in New York City, Philadelphia, and Detroit during the 2009 tax filing season.   The tax preparation process may represent a useful ‘teachable moment,’ based on examples from three community-based tax preparation programs.  One program illustrates a one-on-one screening and counseling model, with a focus on education needs of very low-income clients.  Another uses a model of education integrated into the tax preparation process. This approach may be useful for encouraging saving of tax refunds. A third program shows that clients at tax sites have a wide array of financial education needs, illustrating that focused education services may attract the participation of only a small share of clients.  While overall it does appear tax time can be developed into an important teachable moment, tax programs will need to carefully define the content and form of education with the needs of clients.

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