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Tag: tax

Expand the ability of your small business to collect tips using the incredible secrets of UI / UX design plus human psychology!

Background:

In the United States, certain classes of business receive a substantial amount of their total revenue in the form of tips. Restaurants are probably the most common example.

However, now that a huge fraction of transactions are done by credit card or phone, it has become feasible for additional businesses to get in on the tip-collecting process (tip-collecting tablet example in Figure 1).

1-tablet-tip.png

Fig. 1: A lunch truck or takeout restaurant might have a tablet like this one. If designed properly, the user interface should subtly persuade the customer to click one of the tip buttons.

For example, previously, a lunch truck might have had an anemic tip jar—obviously a repurposed peanut butter jar—with 87 cents in it. But now, that same truck can just put a button labeled “TIP: 15%” on their electronic checkout screen, and a substantial fraction of patrons will select that option.

As a thought experiment, consider how many people would tip two dollars on a $10 burrito cash transaction (very few), then compare that to the number of people who would click the “20%” button on an electronic checkout (many more).

(Please appreciate the high-quality market research that went into the preceding sentence.)

The issue:

While the best part of this system is that it allows a normally non-tip-based or non-service business to get tips, there are still stubborn holdout customers who will not include (for example) a 25% gratuity for an oil change, or when buying tomatoes at a grocery store, or when paying a traffic ticket.

But there is still a way to persuade these individuals!

Proposal:

In order to incentivize people to click the tip button (instead of just the “checkout: NO TIP” button), we can simply have a secondary screen that shows the tip amount.

People might object to this brazen attempt to shame them for not including a tip, so we will disguise it a bit by calling it an “Order Confirmation” screen, and using it to provide a customer transaction number (i.e., it is a supplement to the normal “your order is number 326, your burrito will be ready when that number is called” process).

 

2-order-display.png

Fig. 2: Here, we see a checkout counter with the tablet from Figure 1 at the bottom, and a helpful order confirmation screen at the top, showing off a customer’s generosity to other patrons along with a reminder of their order number.

Conclusion:

People might object to having the full dollar value of their transaction visible on the “confirmation screen,” so we could potentially show only the tip percentage rather than the full value.

PROS: Increases previously-untapped revenue streams for low-margin businesses.

CONS: None!

One trick of common courtesy that would give you a new sense of satisfaction from paying your taxes!

Background:

It’s always polite to write a thank-you note when you get a gift. Especially if it’s a large sum of money!

For example, a thank-you note from a child might look like this: “Dear Grandma, thanks for the money for my birthday. I used it to buy a bicycle. Here’s a picture… (etc).”

Proposal:

The various benefits of a stable government are generally abstract and far-removed from the taxpayer.

But the pain of paying a huge chunk of money is obvious and immediate!

Governments across the world might benefit from sending a “thank you” note to each taxpayer, indicating what the money was used for!

(Some charities already do this, sending personalized thank-you notes in return for donations.)

Here is a mockup of what it would look like for the U.S. Government:

traffic-cone

Fig 1: A taxpayer who didn’t make a lot of money during the year might get a letter that looked like this.

Fig 2: A taxpayer who made a larger sum of money might get a more interesting thank-you note. The wizard hat was probably grossly overpriced, however.

octo

Fig 3: Sometimes, your tax dollars wouldn’t actually be enough to pay for the entirety of a specific purchase. In this case, the fraction purchased would be indicated, and the picture would be partially grayed-out to match. For example, this person’s tax revenue was used to partially buy an octopus, but their contribution alone was only sufficient to pay for five of the octopus’s eight legs. What strange and secret purpose did the government need an octopus, anyway? Well, the answer is  ████ ████ ██, ████ ██ █████ ██ ██████████ and also  ████ ██ ████ ███ ████ ██████ ████ ██ ████ ███ ██ ██ █ ██ ██████████ .

Conclusion:

This is a great idea! The many readers of this post who work at the IRS should lobby to have it implemented immediately.

PROS: Increases both accountability to the taxpayer of tax revenue and the personal connection of citizens to their representative government.

CONS: ████████ █ █████ ██ ███ █ █████ ! ████

blank

Supplementary Figure A: A blank “taxpayer thank-you note.”

unknown-tax

Supplementary Figure B: Original “taxpayer thank-you note” mockup.

Is the U.S. Tax Code more complicated than Magic: The Gathering? The answer may surprise you!

Background:

Some games are notorious for having extremely complex rulesets. For example, the card game Magic: The Gathering has pages and pages of additional rules, commentary, and clarification.

An actual example: 8/1/2005 Goblin King now has the Goblin creature type and its ability has been reworded to affect *other* Goblins. This means that if two Goblin Kings are on the battlefield, each gives the other a bonus.”

Is this errata more complicated than the U.S. Tax Code? Probably not. But it might be close!

tax-haven

Fig 1: An example card from a hypothetical U.S.-tax-code-based version of Magic: The Gathering. Card designs were generated using the site http://www.mtgcardmaker.com/ .

Proposal:

It might be possible to create a solitaire-style card game out of the tax code—causing a player to be tricked into doing their own taxes while playing the game!

At various points in the game, the player would need to input certain pieces of tax information (e.g. W2 forms, any 1099s, stock purchase and sale receipts) to a web site. These numbers would then be used to affect the game somehow, for example:

  • W2: Input box #2 into this form. Now add that many Molten Lava Swamp Fiend tokens to your deck.
  • 1099-INT: Input box #4 into this form. Add that many Barrier of Woeful Rueing cards to your Fiefdom pile.
  • Clean air car deduction: If you purchased a qualified electric vehicle this year, place a Slithering Chariot card face-down on the Coastal Fortification board. This token is unaffected by HOV lane restrictions.

Fig 2: Here are a few more representative cards. With strategic play, you can have fun AND reduce your tax liability at the same time!

PROS: Makes taxes fun an accessible, which reduces procrastination. May increase your chance of getting a huge refund!

CONS: If you file your taxes this way, you will definitely go to prison.