"For the vast majority of Americans, the annual tax return and refund is the single biggest financial transaction each year," explained John Hoffmire, director of the Center on Business and Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business and one of the report's authors. "This is true for everyone, not only lower income members and credit unions are missing an opportunity by not being a part of it."
Hoffmire and his research partner Thomas Harms, the treasurer of the nonprofit group Progress Through Business, studied a joint effort between Staples, H&R Block, Progress Through Business and an Internet firm Nets to Ladders to offer lower income Staples employees' tax preparation for a fee.
The Tax Break program drew the researchers' attention because it used the workplace as a platform for providing a financial benefit, and workplaces have not been used much for this purpose before. Researchers also noted that the effort not only served as a means for the lower income employees to obtain tax refunds, but to sign up for company and public benefits, such as retirement savings programs.
The employees benefited from the assistance, and Staples' turnover rate slowed notably for employees who had taken part in the program, the authors documented.
They made the point that had a credit union also been part of the program, it too could have benefited by gaining new members and increased participation in different products.
"Credit unions are in a unique position to work with their sponsoring organizations to reduce employee financial stress and increase workplace performance," the authors wrote. "They possess the resources and expertise to address employee financial problems, thereby reducing financial stress and increasing on-the-job performance."
"Everybody wins when employee financial problems are solved," they added. The employer maximizes the return on its human resource investment. The employee grows in terms of confidence and self-worth. The credit union builds goodwill and fosters its reputation as a value-added partner to both employer and employee, the report said.