IRS Initiates Tax Design Competition

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The Internal Revenue Service is offering up to $10,000 to the winner of a new competition to make its online tax information more understandable to taxpayers.

The IRS issued a notice Tuesday outlining the requirements and procedures for the Tax Design Challenge, a crowdsourcing competition with cash prizes that the IRS is hosting to begin reimagining the taxpayer experience of the future.

The goal, according to the IRS, is to develop new concepts for designing, organizing and presenting tax information in a way that makes it easier for taxpayers to understand their responsibilities and effectively use their own tax data.

The IRS noted that tax information is available to taxpayers across multiple IRS channels and contains a wealth of information. Many taxpayers, however, might not know where to find the information or how to use it, since the information often reads like a receipt and can be incomprehensible to those who are not financial professionals.

“The Challenge asks: How might we design, organize, and present tax information in a way that makes it easier for taxpayers to manage their taxpayer responsibilities, and to use their own taxpayer data to make informed and effective decisions about their personal finances? This is an incredible opportunity for civic-minded technologists, designers, and innovative thinkers to improve and shape the user experience of one of the most visited government Web sites in the U.S.,” said the IRS.

The new designs should improve the visual layout and style of IRS information for the taxpayer, make it easier for taxpayers to manage their tax responsibilities, and enable taxpayers to make informed and effective decisions about their personal finances.

The IRS is encouraging entrants to consider end users in developing their designs. “Our tax system includes people from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, with different needs and responsibilities,” said the notice. “The Challenge is an opportunity for talented individuals to touch the lives of Americans across the country through design. The most innovative designs will be showcased in an online gallery. Winning submissions will receive monetary prizes. The IRS enthusiastically supports crowdsourcing competitions, as they have proven to be cost-efficient vehicle for catalyzing innovation in government.”

The first prize for Overall Design is $10,000 and second prize is $5,000. First prize for Best Taxpayer Usefulness is $2,000 and second prize if $1,000. For Best Financial Capability, first prize is $2,000, and second prize is $1,000.

However, the IRS cautioned the awards may be subject to federal income taxes and the IRS will comply with all tax withholding and reporting requirements, where applicable. The prizes will be funded by a co-sponsor, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and paid by the IRS.

For an entry to be eligible to win the Challenge, it must be an image or browser viewable file. Acceptable image formats include .PNG, .JPG, .GIF, .TIFF, and .PDF. The acceptable browser viewable format is .HTML.

The IRS is only requiring that the design of the taxpayer experience be submitted, but said it is not the responsibility of the entrant to build or code a working version of the design. However, the IRS noted the design must be ultimately implementable using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The design must be built off the data fields found in a Tax Data Document that the IRS will post on

The challenge submission period begins on April 17 and runs until May 10, 2016, 11:59 a.m. ET.

The kickoff meeting for the Tax Design Challenge will take place at 1776, 1133 15th Street NW., Washington, DC 20005 on April 17, 2016, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Challenge submissions must be submitted electronically at Participants must register for the event. It is s open to the public but space is limited. Attendance is not required for participation in the Tax Design Challenge.

Participants can register at At this event, participants will have the opportunity to learn about the IRS’s first crowdsourcing challenge from leaders at the IRS and the Treasury Department. They will also be able to engage with policy experts about financial capability challenges that could be addressed with an improved taxpayer experience. They can network in-person with some of the mentors from the challenge. They can also meet and team-up with other civic-minded technologists, designers, and innovative thinkers. The IRS noted that free beverages and snacks provided by the co-sponsor.

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