IRS launching competition to redesign taxpayer experience
The IRS announced that it will be launching a competition aimed at “civic-minded technologists, designers, and innovative thinkers” to improve taxpayers’ experience using the IRS website, which it said is one of the most visited government websites in the United States (Notice, 81 Fed. Reg. 15413 (March 22, 2016)).
The IRS notes that it makes a large amount of information available to taxpayers, but many do not know how to find it or use it; the agency acknowledges that much of the available information “can be incomprehensible to those who are not financial professionals.”
In recent years, the IRS has pursued a strategy of encouraging taxpayers to rely more on its online services. In 2013, the IRS.gov website received more than 456 million page views, according to the most recent IRS Oversight Board annual report. However, this strategy has been criticized by Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, who has warned that by expanding its online services, the IRS is putting taxpayer data at risk. (See previous coverage here.)
The IRS Oversight Board also reports that IRS.gov receives lower satisfaction scores than other federal government websites, and those scores have been trending downward. The IRS.gov satisfaction scores are also much lower than the satisfaction scores for internet retail sites and brokerage companies.
The competition—which the IRS is describing as a “crowdsourcing competition”—therefore asks participants to consider “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?”