Why are tax assistance requests lower in 2021?

Requests for help preparing tax returns are down. From January 1st to March 30th requests to 211s for tax assistance are 12% lower than the same period in 2020. The gap is most pronounced in the first six weeks of the year (chart). We examined 426,247 tax assistance requests received by 211s in 33 states during the first three months of 2021 (blue line in chart) and 2020 (orange line). Requests were sharply lower – by as much as 48% per day – on every day of 2021, until February 17th. Since then, tax assistance requests have been similar. Connecting callers to tax help has long been a major function of 211s, providing demonstrated value to the communities they serve. Several factors may explain the decline. The Federal government and at least 35 states have pushed back the filing deadline this year; however those announcements were not made until March and therefore can’t explain gaps in January and February. Severe winter storms across much of the U.S. reduced access to and capacity of tax preparation services, and some 211s, fully engaged in responding to their communities’ COVID-19 challenges, have not been able to promote tax assistance services as they usually do. Data for this analysis came from 211 Counts a daily tracking system of social needs used in 38 states. Mouse over the chart lines to see daily counts of tax assistance requests by year.

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