The Canada Learning Bond, financial capability and tax-filing: Results from an online survey of low and modest income parents

Abstract

Previous research has identified several likely causes of eligible non-participation in the Canada Learning Bond (CLB), including awareness, financial exclusion, and administrative barriers. This study expands on that research, with a particular focus on the role of tax-filing as an administrative obstacle to accessing the CLB. I present results from an online survey of low and modest income parents (n=466) conducted in 2021. We find that, even among parents reporting they have received the CLB (46%), a majority (51%) report low confidence in their familiarity with the program, and more than one in six (17%) are unaware of the need to file tax returns to maintain eligibility for annual CLB payments. Self-reported regular tax-filing is associated with a 59% increase in the probability of accessing the CLB, even when controlling for a range of parental characteristics. This study confirms previous work by Harding and colleagues (2019) that non-filing may explain some share of eligible non-participation in education savings incentives. Tax-filing services may be an important pathway to improve CLB access. Low and modest income parents show substantial diversity in their preferred filing methods and outreach efforts cannot be concentrated in only one avenue if they are to be successful. The study also tests a small ‘nudge’ to address gaps in awareness and finds that information-only approaches to outreach are likely to have limited success, even with motivated populations

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