We all have to deal with taxes – recent college grads, parents, elderly people, and everyone else in between – and yet it’s still one of the most overwhelming and unclear processes that we have to deal with each year.
Existing tax services like TurboTax and our accountants are great at helping us get through each tax season, telling us how much of a refund we get or how much money we owe. They’re a valuable part of the tax filing process and we don’t expect to replace these experts. But relying on someone else to do our taxes doesn’t really help us understand our tax system any better, right?
To help the IRS achieve its mission to “provide America’s taxpayers [with] top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities.”
The IRS presence on the web could be a powerful tool to educate people about their taxes, helping the average American understand how and why they pay taxes.
A Personalized Experience
No one really goes to the IRS website to find answers to their tax questions. But why? They know they won’t be able to find the answer. If the IRS is going to help people understand their taxes, it needs to be able to give people the information they need easily.
Instead of going to IRS.gov and having to shift through a plethora of information that’s not relevant to them, people could have a personalized experience. What we need is a user system, where people could log in, have a personalized experience, and find information that matters to them.
Making the Process Easier
At the moment, you’re already able to file your taxes online, but the e-filing system is not well integrated into the IRS website. It’s difficult to get to, and once you find the e-file portal, it redirects you to a different site where you need to register before you can start filling out the forms.
We could make this process simpler by integrating the e-filing system directly into the IRS website. That way, users could sign in and start filling out their forms, so they could save, edit, file, and review all of their information from one place.
A user dashboard would be a good place for an overview of all this information. There’s a Notifications section that reminds people when taxes and payments are due, and a summary of their most recent taxes so they could easily tell how much of a refund they’re getting or how much money they owe.
To streamline the process further, users should be able to invite other people, such as a tax-preparer, to access their accounts. That way the tax-preparer would be able to do their job and taxpayers could monitor the tax filing process by seeing what forms are being filed and when.
Understanding The System
Once people figure out how to file their taxes and how much they owe, it’s important to understand why they’re paying what they’re paying.
To understand their taxes better, people need to know how it’s being calculated. This information is available in the tax forms we fill out each year, but it’s hidden and difficult to find. So we extracted only the most important information and came up with an interactive and simple graph to show people how their income, deductions, and tax payments all factor into how much they need pay or how much of a refund they receive.
We also provided people with an easy way to view and interact with their tax history. That way they could see how their income and personal tax rates, as well as the country’s tax rates, change over time.
Making the Government Accountable
Even though revenue from the income tax makes up only a small fraction of the money being spent by the government each year, it’s still a big deal for people to fork over a portion of their income. And if the American people are going to fulfill their tax obligations, the government has a responsibility to keep them informed on how that money is being spent.
Knowing how the government spends its money and helping Americans gain a better understanding of the tax system is not only useful in helping people to meet their tax obligations, but it gives people power – through knowledge and education.