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A screenshot of Tax Heaven character Iris
MSCHF_TaxHeaven3000

Swipe right for tax: The dating simulator that prepares returns

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An anime-themed dating simulation app designed to help US citizens prepare their income tax returns has hit the airwaves and while it may appear to be a cutesy curiosity, there’s more to the game than meets the eye.

29th Mar 2023
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Tax Heaven 3000 (TH3K) is a “visual novel” video game that bills itself as a “one-of-a-kind dating sim experience that really does your federal taxes”.

The game tasks participants with dating Iris, a “cheerful and easygoing girl who is oddly interested in your personal finances”. Players accompany Iris on dates to five different locations, where she teases out the relevant financial information needed to make a filing.

A screenshot of Tax Heaven 3000 character Iris
MSCHF_TaxHeaven3000

TH3K is designed to assist in tax preparation only and is not a filing tool. Iris will only agree to date US citizens, and the app only covers the US 1040 Individual Income Tax Return. Perhaps understandably for a dating game, it only caters for single filers without dependants.

Users have expressed concerns about handing over sensitive personal data, including social security numbers, but co-founder Daniel Greenberg told video games site Kotaku that the game does not connect to the internet.

“Iris doesn’t kiss and tell,” Greenberg told Kotaku. “She wants to know your personal information to prepare your tax return and nothing else.”

A screenshot of Tax Heaven 3000 character Iris
MSCHF_TaxHeaven3000

Deeper motivations at work?

While the pink colour scheme and cartoon graphics may give the game the appearance of a cutesy, anime-inspired role play, a look at its makers and manifesto potentially reveal deeper motivations at work.

The tool is the work of New York-based art collective MSCHF (pronounced mischief), who are behind rapper Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes, Eat the Rich ice creams, and a game simply called Chair Simulator

With their latest project, the collective appears to be using TH3K as a way to tweak the tails of tax software vendors and point out the regulatory flaws inherent in the US tax system. 

In the site’s manifesto section, the object of players’ affection Iris warns users that tax filing services are “predatory, parasitic bottlenecks that deliberately complicate the tax filing process in order to make it unnavigable by ordinary people”.

Singling out TurboTax, one of the most commonly used tax prep and filing tools in the US, the manifesto points out that most wealthy countries make tax filing free, whereas “TurboTax actively seeks to backdoor the regulatory structure that could otherwise seek to rein it in”.

Along with Iris [no relation to the American tax authority or the multinational accounting suite platform, apparently], the game also features a character called Turbo, “an unsavoury SaaS bro” who “seems to be up to no good”.

Tax Heaven 3000 character Turbo
MSCHF_TaxHeaven3000

Iris also has strong views on cryptocurrency, which she labels as a “pyramid scheme” in one of the game’s sections, and has already inspired fan fiction including one novella ending with the surprisingly moving last line of: “Somewhere between the serendipity of life and the inevitable cycle of taxes, I know we’ll find each other again and again.”

The game lasted less than 24 hours on PC game download platform Steam before being unceremoniously removed (sparking a number of online conspiracy theories) but is available free on rival site Itch.io. The $90 collector’s edition, complete with a boxed version of the game and a lifesize Iris body pillow sold out within days of its release.

Tax Heaven 3000 is not the first time tax and gaming have mixed. One of the most well-reviewed examples is Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion, where the eponymous hero, an “adorable yet trouble-making turnip” runs into a spot of bother for failing to pay taxes owed to Mayor Onion and embarks on a journey to tear down a corrupt vegetable government.

Replies (12)

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By JustAnotherUser
29th Mar 2023 10:12

The only reason this has been made is so MSCHF get column inches like this, no intent at actually helping people with their Taxes.
God help anyone handing over their PII to this app.

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By SteveHa
29th Mar 2023 12:19

Quote:
cheerful and easygoing girl who is oddly interested in your personal finances

In a previous life during my dating years I've encountered real life people like that, and rapidly gave them a wide berth. No doubt I would do the same with this.

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By Rgab1947
31st Mar 2023 10:20

LOL

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By Hugo Fair
29th Mar 2023 16:23

I wasn't aware that 10 year-olds had to prepare tax returns in the USA!

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
29th Mar 2023 18:27

I think that is brilliant.

Very weird, but brilliant.

Why not try and make tax filing fun. There is no reason why tax has to be such a dry techchial subject, a bit of fun goes a long way.

They also have a point about US tax filing. There is massive lobby in the US for making tax complex, such that everyone has to file. Main winners are the software companies.

We seem to be going down a similar track here with MTDfIT trying to force small businesses to use software to file low quality data ''because we say so'.

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By Mr J Andrews
30th Mar 2023 09:38

Hopefully the incumbents at 100 Parliament Street are not privvy to this app. It's been a little while since they've come up with another dumb idea before clearing up the mess from previous whims.

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By hwillia2
30th Mar 2023 11:02

But the game is given away by them using a woman to date - so online aimed at men (and gay women). Is the assumption that only men have the monetary success?

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Replying to hwillia2:
By SteveHa
30th Mar 2023 12:27

Did you miss Turbo (who looks as equally undeserving of financial information as Iris)

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By alisonis
30th Mar 2023 14:07

Isn't it a bit early for April fools?

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By Jdopus
30th Mar 2023 15:14

I prefer Hatoful Boyfriend.

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By Rgab1947
31st Mar 2023 10:19

"In the site’s manifesto section, the object of players’ affection Iris warns users that tax filing services are “predatory, parasitic bottlenecks that deliberately complicate the tax filing process in order to make it unnavigable by ordinary people”".

Remind you of any tax authority?

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Mark Lee headshot 2023
By Mark Lee
10th Apr 2023 12:22

If it spread to the UK this concept could give a whole new meaning to MTD. It would reference: Mixing Tax & Dating!

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