IRS wants to crowdsource the future of paying taxes

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If anyone out there can help the IRS improve its website, it could make them $10,000 richer.

The agency responsible for tax collection announced a crowdsourcing challenge Tuesday — asking the public to develop a user-friendly way of making sense of the 200 data fields the agency collects related to people’s personal finances.

“Taxpayers have the right to be informed, which includes access to their personal taxpayer data,” reads the announcement published on challenge.gov. “Many taxpayers, however, might not know where to find this information or how to use it, as much of this information reads like a receipt and can be hard to understand for those who are not finance professionals.”

The challenge will launch April 17 with an event at 1776, a Washington D.C. startup incubator. The grand prize is underwritten by the Mortgage Bankers Association, with the group’s CEO telling the Wall Street Journal that he “wants a faster system for potential borrowers.”

The IRS has been saddled with tech-related problems in the past couple of years, mainly related to criminals filing fraudulent tax returns through its “Get Transcript” system. Earlier this year, some of the agency’s online tax filing options were knocked offline due to a computer hardware failure.

Prior to the challenge’s launch, contestants can meet with designers and project managers who work both inside and outside IRS to discuss ideas. The outside “mentors” consist of Presidential Innovation Fellows, members of the administration’s 18F digital tiger team and experts from Betterment, Google and HelloWallet.

Aside from the grand prize, prizes will be given out for best overall design, best taxpayer usefulness and best financial capability.

You can sign up for the kickoff event on challenge.gov.

Contact the reporter on this story via email at greg.otto@fedscoop.com, or follow him on Twitter at @gregotto. His OTR and PGP info can be found hereSubscribe to the Daily Scoop for stories like this in your inbox every morning by signing up here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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18F, Challenge.gov, challenges, Departments, Google, Government IT News, Innovation, Internal Revenue Service, Treasury Department
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