Our Research into Closing the Tax Benefits Coverage Gap

Quantitative and qualitative learnings from three years of running free, trustworthy tax filing products
an illustration of a mother on a computer and a dad with a child

For the past three years, the Code for America Tax Benefits team has been moving steadily forward towards our mission—to ensure all those who are eligible for benefits distributed through the tax system actually claim and receive them. To help people get the benefits they’ve earned, we built and operated two free tax filing products. GetCTC was a simplified filing tool, made in collaboration with the White House and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, that allowed families with low income to e-file returns to claim the pandemic-era Child Tax Credit and stimulus payments through an IRS-developed streamlined process. GetYourRefund is a virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) service that connects clients with accessible, trusted, hands-on tax assistance.

Hundreds of thousands of families have used our tools to claim over $1 billion in tax benefits over the past three years. We’ve also conducted extensive quantitative and qualitative research while running these tools, and have a wealth of findings to share with the field. We look forward to using these findings in service of helping more people and making the distribution of tax benefits more equitable.

This post will be updated periodically as we add new research findings.

GetCTC research and advocacy reports

Simplifying the filing process

  • The importance of simplified filing. Data from GetCTC in 2022 on the impact of simplifying filing processes, including results of experiments comparing filing products, and findings from our implementation of EITC functionality. Published: 24 February 2023.

Tax benefits outreach

Other reports

  • Modernized eFile—issues for low-income filers. An analysis of return rejections—including conflicting dependent claims and authentication errors—that prevented some GetCTC clients from successfully submitting returns in 2022. Proposals of how the IRS Modernized eFile (MeF) system could be improved to better accommodate low-income filers. Published: 20 April 2023.
  • Funnel and user experience findings from GetCTC in 2022. Miscellaneous data on GetCTC use in 2022, including characteristics of clients, how and when clients used the tool, points of drop-off, repeat usage by 2021 clients, and lessons about plain language and tax terminology. Published: 22 March 2023.

Reports on experimental results

The Tax Benefits team ran nearly a dozen randomized controlled trials in 2022, the results of which are cited in various reports above. Detailed technical write-ups of each experiment are available here:

Policy memos

Qualitative research on tax filing behavior

  • Discovery research on tax filing. Findings from qualitative research with new and intermittent tax filers about their reasons for not filing, and the barriers to filing a return. Conducted in 2019 prior to the launch of GetYourRefund. Published: 8 July 2021.

Do you have questions about our research? Get in touch! Contact Gabriel Zucker, the Associate Policy Director for Tax Benefits, or Maximilian Hell, a Senior Data Scientist at Code for America.

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