Tax Design Challenge: The IRS Turns to Crowdsourcing

With Tax Day looming, the organization that taxpayers love to hate is turning to crowdsourcing to improve its services, as well as its image. Between April 17th and May 10, the IRS will be accepting submissions for a crowdsourced competition to craft the next generation of revenue collection: the Tax Design Challenge. Contest-based crowdsourcing has long been used to gauge customer sentiment, conduct research on consumer preference, name products and create new brands. Now, the IRS is turning to crowdsourcing to bring federal tax collection into the modern era.


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The Tax Design Challenge

According to the Wall Street Journal, the contest is an effort to “design the taxpayer experience of the future.” The contest, which kicks off at an event in Washington D.C. three days after Tax Day, comes with a grand prize of $10,000.

The crowdsourcing contest is part of a larger push by the IRS to steer people online for tax filing — and all other tax-related services. With tighter budgets, the IRS is hoping to lure people online in an effort to reduce costs associated with their call centers and physical locations. The goal, as reported by an US Tax News, is to enlist the public’s help in imagining a system that makes it easier for average citizens to understand and manage their tax responsibilities.

According to Forbes, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said, “Crowdsourcing is a new activity for the IRS, but we believe working with citizens and the private sector will help support innovation in an important area for the nation’s tax system. The Tax Design Challenge reflects our commitment to find the best ideas and plan for a future state of tax administration that works well for taxpayers and our partners.”

What Makes a Winner?

The IRS will post the data fields that all designs must be based on when the contest launches on April 17th. Contestants will be judged on the following:

  • Overall visual appeal.
  • Real-world usefulness to taxpayers.
  • The financial capability it provides to taxpayers.
  • Visual hierarchy and ease of use.
  • Information density.
  • Accessibility among varied populations.

Mentors from inside and outside the government will be available to guide contestants and answer questions. Contestants are free to use their imagination and include concepts that aren’t in the contest description, such as considering taxes during periods of unemployment.


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Cash in on Crowdsourcing

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which also sponsors the kickoff event in the nation’s capital, is funding the contest’s lucrative cash prizes:

  • Best Overall Design, first place: $10,000
  • Best Overall Design, second place: $5,000
  • Best Taxpayer Usefulness, first place: $2,000
  • Best Taxpayer Usefulness, second place: $1,000
  • Best Financial Capability, first place: $2,000
  • Best Financial Capability, second place: $1,000

The concept of contest-based crowdsourcing is nothing new for companies seeking to improve a product or capture an audience. But the IRS is breaking new ground by turning to crowdsourcing to revamp its entire structural model. The results of the Tax Design Challenge will help the IRS prevent fraud, streamline services, improve the agency’s image and reduce cost — all for a few thousand dollars in sponsored prizes.

All awards, of course, are subject to federal income taxes.

This article is a guest post by Jonathon Ohayon. Jonathon Ohayon is the COO of and has been managing companies and motivating people since the 6th grade. As a proven business leader and gemologist, he is uniquely skilled in navigating the ever changing e-commerce landscape. When he is not answering emails into the wee hours of the night, he can be found spending time with his wife and three children.


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