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Monday, April 17, 2017

Gamified Tax Filings? GameStop's Re-Fun Your Refund

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - ...Don't spend your tax return on GameStop. They suck at math.

For some years now, major gaming retailer GameStop has been talking up a “Re-Fun Your Refund” campaign, introducing sales during this season on the idea that most of its customers get money back from the Internal Revenue Service before or on Tax Day, so they should spend their money on GameStop games and game accessories.

A year ago or so, GameStop conducted a survey about taxes and made a press release about it. The headline is that “Nearly 70 Percent Would Enjoy Doing Taxes If Filing Could Be More Like a Video Game”, but when you look at the survey data they released, you can tell that you shouldn't trust GameStop to run a survey. The leading questions and awful methodology are Republican National Committee fundraising survey-levels of bad, and those are embarrassing to any statistician, believe me.

GameStop Tax Refund Survey Pikachu bling gold chain dollars sunglasses gangster
Speaking of embarrassing...

GameStop surveyed a whopping 400 people over the Internet (that “whopping” is sarcasm, in case you don't know statistics) and apparently defined its target demographic as 18 to 44 year old men and women that play any kind of game at least one hour a week. There's no mention of any random sampling techniques, or anything as to how these 400 people were chosen (so they could all just be GameStop employees). The marketing material refers to the sample as “respondents” as opposed to gamers, so I guess the one-hour requirement is testing to see if people know what a game even is.

Some of the outrageous-sounding results exist because respondents had to pick their top five of the nine + “other” preset answers for “What are the types of activities you do to put off paying taxes?” or the top three of the six + “other” preset answers for “How would you rather spend your time instead of doing your taxes?” In the news release, they said the former were the “top 10 activities”, but it was a multiple choice with 10 already-created activities as unappealing as “Going to the DMV.”

GameStop also clearly does not know how to do math. Remember, they surveyed 400 people. In their public news release, they said that, among other percentages, 18.5% of respondents would use the money to pay household expenses. However, their attached detailed data set (the thing people are less likely to look at than the press release) says 217 respondents chose that option, which would be 54.3% of respondents. They cut all of the percentages by 1/3 or 1/5 for the “check top three” or “check top five” questions because each respondent submitted three or five answers. That means they used 1,200 or 2,000 (assuming all respondents followed directions) as their denominator rather than 400. None of their published numbers could go above 33.33% or 20%.

Aside from confirming that GameStop doesn't know how to do math (be careful when they have to count your change if you pay them in cash — which you should), GameStop raises the idea that 30.8% of respondents would prefer for their tax return to be directly deposited into GameStop credit as opposed to cash/direct deposit into their bank account (so approximately 123 people are complete morons). Perhaps this is why they fudge the numbers in the paragraph above — if only 24.3% of gamers can agree that they'd rather be playing games than file their taxes, getting 30.8% of them to say they'd prefer GameStop credit over cash seems like a huge accomplishment! Typical statistics RIGGING!

GameStop filing taxes video game survey result yes gamification
No, you wouldn't. Don't lie.

As for the other yes/no question, “Would you enjoy doing your taxes if filing could be more like a video game?” This was the headliner result, with 69.8% of people saying Yes. I'm baffled by it. Assuming that it was asked exactly as presented above, then GameStop managed to find a sample of people who said they would enjoy doing their taxes under any kind of circumstance.

Here's the thing: Tax preparation software is already gamified. It's also “the biggest threat to the US tax system”, according to some dude named Shaun Barry who says he's a “global leader” in fraud & integrity. He doesn't actually explain his point as to WHY it's a bad thing, but the point is that it already is gamified. People still don't enjoy doing their taxes, especially if they have complicated things and itemise deductions.

The only thing you can do to gamify taxes even more is to interact with your tax preparation software all year (so it guides you to making tax-advantageous decisions throughout the year), and have it basically be a personal companion/financial adviser. Otherwise, you go from gamification to an outright videogame with its own plot, characters, gameplay, whatever. And there's no way that can be enjoyable to the average person. Normal people want to get their taxes done as soon as possible, and adding more elements to the process makes things take longer. After all, videogames are THE medium to use if you want to add filler content to make the experience last longer. That's fundamentally at odds with what taxpayers want to do.

The best way to make taxes more enjoyable is to replace the tax code with the FairTax, a national consumption tax paid at the retailer. That would mean there is no longer a Tax Day, and there would no longer be any payment withholdings, either. No income tax, and no telling the government all of that personal information about yourself that they really don't need to know. The pirates at the Internal Revenue Service would be out of a job, because the IRS would be abolished. You wouldn't have to think about taxation ever again (unless you live in a state with state income taxes).

Taxation is Theft meme Pikachu Wario Super Smash Bros. For Wii U Final Smash coin mode Pirate Ship Pokémon Nintendo
The REAL Pikachu isn't one enjoying a tax return, but using FORCE to pirate money from hard-working capitalists!

Ludwig believes that the bottom image of Pikachu more accurately represents reality than GameStop's top image of Pikachu. You can see clean renders of those Pikachu pictures, and more scary-looking Pikachu pictures than that, on Ludwig's newest Miiverse post. (You should also Follow him at NNID PrinceOfKoopas.) Ludwig shopped at GameStop competitor Best Buy today, but there wasn't much inventory present, so he didn't do any major purchases. He did, however, buy $10 eShop cards, so the KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program can remain solvent! Also, if YOU (as opposed to GameStop's mystery people) would like to take fun-worded surveys, then please take a look at KoopaTV's Feedback Forms!

For 2014's Tax Day article about the possibility of KoopaTV's staffers living off the welfare state, click here.
For 2015's Tax Day article about Ludwig partnering with the Pokémon Mewtwo to escape an IRS audit by Lois Lerner, click here.
For 2016's Tax Day article about how the Internal Revenue Service should be abolished (and that should've had the Taxation Is Theft meme instead of this article), click here.
GameStop should play the same Remedial Algebra game that Ludwig suggested to Congress.
For 2018's Tax Day that goes into detail about the FAIRtax (the only way to abolish income tax), click here.
By 2023, Ludwig was writing about a tax preparation software dating sim videogame.


  1. Would the 16th amendment have to be repealed in order for the Fair Tax to be implemented?

    1. The FairTax suggests the repeal of the 16th Amendment, but its repeal does not have to happen first.


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