Citizen learning through public services

With the current automatic system for filling out the tax return form we might lose knowledge about tax and the role of tax in society in the population as well as in individuals. 

The Norwegian tax office has a fully automated system for filling in the tax return form for most tax payers. Most of the numbers come directly from other digital systems at employers, banks, insurance companies or social security.

Tax legislation is complicated. The automatic system makes it much easier to fill out the tax return form. It is easy to trust the numbers given by other reliable organisations, and it is easy to assume that the system does the job and does it well. For many tax payers, this is a big relief and help. But is this just a good thing? We may be tempted to not check the numbers ourselves.

We risk losing our knowledge about our own economy as well as of the economic basis for our democracy. If this happens, do we not also lose some of our independence?

This research project studies the interplay between how the tax authorities organize their tasks, the technology they use, and how they communicate with the public. Our focus has been on the latter, and we have particularly looked for those who do not use the web pages or other digital systems -- both those who are not capable and those who have no possibility for using them. Many of these people call the Tax Information Call Centre, and we have studied what they ask and how they are helped.

This has given us a basis for suggesting guidelines for designing solutions that can give the tax payers better possibilities for understanding and learning the system while they hand in their tax.

This project is a part of the larger research project Autonomy and Automation in an information Society for all (A3)

The project was carried out by the research group Design of information systems, Departement of Informatics, University of Oslo. A3 was founded by the Norwegian Research Council; Verdict (2009 - 2014).