April 14, 2024

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New financial wellness partnership can help your employees file their taxes

One of our more prophetic founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once noted that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” As hard as some tech CEOs are working to transfer human consciousness to the cloud and cheat the former, we’re not there yet. But there might be a way for HR pros to leverage a fintech offering to help employees with that other certainty, and just in time for the 2023 tax filing season.

Financial management platform Origin launched a partnership this month with tax-filing startup Column Tax. Column Tax e-filing services are now available on the Origin platform for its individual customers and enterprise clients. Employers that offer Origin as a financial wellness perk can now tout the additional benefit of tax preparation services in the app.

“Taxes [are] this huge thing…that’s probably one of the most complicated components of your financial life…So, if you can help [employees] nail that, and you can offer that as a benefit, it’s a really big deal for people,” said Matt Watson, founder and CEO of Origin, a series B startup with about $70 million in funding, according to Watson, from 01A and General Catalyst, among other investors, at a $400 million valuation.

Watson told HR Brew that the desire to wrap tax filing services into a “one-stop shop for an employee to track, manage, and grow their money” began almost as early as the plan to launch the platform in 2018.

This month the partnership was locked, and Origin now features a new API for tax filing from Column Tax, a series A startup with $27 million in its coffers, according Column Tax CEO and cofounder Gavin Nachbar. The platform’s last funding round was led by Bain Capital Investing, according to Forbes.

“Today, largely, tax lives separate from an individual’s financial life,” Nachbar said. “You use a third-party service; you bring all your data in; it’s kind of disconnected, and it’s one [time] once a year. With Origin, you can actually bring together that financial picture, with tax, with filing, all in one…That’s how the world should be, this all should be in one place.”

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Watson said the new tax-filing feature is an example of a new way to look at financial wellness benefits.

“The first generation of these platforms were really education and content focused,” Watson said. “It’s great to educate people, but the really hard stuff is where people actually have to do things. They need to budget; they need to invest; they need to file their taxes…We wanted to create the platform where you can actually do all of these things that you’re reading about and learning about and being told to do.”

Zoom out. Financial wellness as part of the wellness landscape is growing. US News and World Report reported that the market for financial wellness benefit providers is set to grow by 20% between 2022 and 2028, reporting that interest rates, inflation, and stagnant wages have negatively impacted Americans’ financial wellness picture.

“Finances are an employee’s number one source of stress, so…when you’re in an HR professional, a big part of your job is having a healthy workforce: How do you get people to show up regularly, work to the best of their abilities, and then stay with the company for a long period of time?” Watson said.

And it’s becoming table stakes. HR Brew reported in December that about three in four employees expect their employers to offer financial wellness benefits, according to a recent Bank of America survey.

“The cost to replace an employee who leaves or who’s absent at work is very, very expensive, and financially stressed employees are more than twice as likely to be depressed, more than twice as likely to leave a company, so if you can solve that problem, you have real dollars moving to your bottom line, because you’re just going to have a more productive and sticky workforce,” Watson said.