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marnanel (6034)

marnanel
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Journal of marnanel (6034)

Wednesday April 26, 2006
08:22 PM

"I did my taxes for free. Click here to do yours."

[ #29456 ]
I think the staff meeting this afternoon was the most exciting event since I started working at Solutions for Progress, and that's saying quite a lot. The basic point was this: our mod_perl program which tells people what benefits they're eligible for, and files their taxes for free, is pretty wonderful, but there aren't as many people using it as there should be. Until now, we've always worked with partner organisations, churches and so on, who actually provide counsellors to sit with people and talk them through the process. And so there have been people who've said, "I want to file my taxes and find out what I'm eligible to receive", and we've had to find a partner organisation in their city, if there even was one.

Well, the idea is to make the whole system self-service. Come next year, if we can get everything working, anyone in the US making $45,000 a year or less will be able to visit our website, file their taxes for free, and apply at the same time for a whole bunch of benefits they might be eligible for, all with one easy website, with phone support if they need it. They can go and visit a partner organisation if they want someone to sit with them through it, but they won't need to. They can do the whole thing in one evening from their living room-- or the computer lab at their university, or the public library. What Food Not Bombs do for food, we can do for tax filing: abolish the myth of scarcity. It's all there as much as you need it, and it's free.

The opportunities for memetics are enormous. We can give people HTML to put in their blogs saying "I filed my taxes for free. Click here to do yours." We can have people spread the meme by word of mouth. We can build a movement, we can create communities on LJ and myspace, we can send the message where the people are who need to hear it. We can mobilise people-- when people are done with the system, we can say "You're eligible for X in tax refunds, Y in food stamps, and Z in heating assistance-- if you'd like to volunteer to do more to fight poverty, here are some people local to you to get in touch with." We can get millions of dollars of tax refunds and benefits into the pockets of people who need it most.

I'll let you know how we get on between now and tax season next year. And if you feel you'd like to help out by using the program yourself, or spreading the word, or both, let me know. For now, feel free to link to this entry.

I am so excited about this.

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