With Tax Day less than a month away, plenty of Americans are likely dreading their annual interaction with the IRS. But, the federal tax collection agency is well aware of that negative association and it's willing to pay taxpayers to think of improvements.
This week, the Internal Revenue Service issued its first "crowdsourcing challenge" to generate ideas from taxpayers on how to improve the process of filing a federal income tax return. The IRS is offering cash prizes, including a $10,000 grand prize to the person who submits the best ideas to "design the taxpayer experience of the future." The agency is looking for design ideas to better present tax information to make it easier for Americans to perform their taxpaying duties while managing their personal finances.
The IRS will begin accepting ideas for the design challenge starting April 17 (just a couple of days after Tax Day) and the challenge will run through May 10, 2016 with judging taking place through June 3. The $10,000 grand prize will go to the best overall submission, but the IRS will issue smaller cash prizes in categories such as "Best Taxpayer Usefulness" and "Best Financial Capability."
The IRS is running the challenge in partnership with the Mortgage Bankers Association, which is providing the prize money.
The agency's announcement notes that judges will review submissions with an eye toward overall visual appeal as well as how easy it is to digest tax information presented. Entrants can submit their ideas online, but any aspiring "taxpayer experience" designers in the Washington, D.C. area can also register to attend a kickoff event for the challenge in the nation's capital on April 17, where agency representatives and policy experts will offer more information on the challenge.
As the Wall Street Journal noted on Tuesday, the IRS has been working to migrate more of the taxpaying process online in order to make the process less daunting for taxpayers, but the agency has struggled moving its operations online, in part, due to the challenge of confirming taxpayers' identities. Just last month, hackers attacked the IRS' computer systems in an attempt to file fake tax refunds.