Japanese taxpayers want Nintendo to gamify tax returns

It’s that time of the year again to file a tax return. In Japan, those who are self-employed or work for a company but have side jobs would have had to bring themselves to file a final tax return by March 15 to meet the deadline. There are many factors that make it a hassle, like the cumbersome UI of the online submission page, preparing receipts and paperwork, and understanding the rule changes. Since it’s a once-a-year process, it’s easy to forget how to do it. And it seems like many people feel the same way, as a number of taxpayers in Japan are saying they wish Nintendo gamified the process to make it less painful.

Twitter user @sanmomo_shi_tog tweeted out saying, “If Nintendo made a ‘final tax return for beginners’ software supervised by the National Tax Agency, we wouldn’t hear so many voices of suffering at the end of each fiscal year.” This tweet has been retweeted 12,000 times as of this writing. Since the submission deadline had just ended, many taxpayers probably sympathized with the sentiment, as most of the responses were pretty affirmative. Indeed, if the procedure can be learned in a fun and gamified way, filing a tax return would likely become less stressful.

Some users expressed strong interest in the idea, saying things like “it’ll sell like hotcakes to adults at the end of each fiscal year” and “speedruns would be a lot of fun.” Others pointed out that the National Tax Agency wouldn’t supervise the software since raising awareness reduces tax revenues. One user suggested that a government entity’s supervision is not preferable since they might omit information regarding tax-saving measures, recommending an accounting software company instead. Few are skeptical about Nintendo’s capability to make practical software in the first place.

There are all sorts of reactions, but why is Nintendo mentioned as the company suitable for developing software like this? It probably has to do with the company’s track record of producing educational games and gamification projects. Nintendo has been pushing forward with its initiative to expand the boundaries of entertainment and trying to provide new ways to enjoy non-gaming activities such as education and exercise for quite some time.

There were many educational games released during the Nintendo DS era, and in the field of health and fitness, the company made Wii Fit for the Wii and Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch to provide incentives for exercising. Most recently, Nintendo released a programming game called Game Builder Garage in 2021. Nintendo’s expertise in making non-gaming products and their tendency to make games with user-friendly designs are probably the main reasons why Nintendo’s name came up in the conversation.

That said, the process of filing a tax return varies depending on the country. And even if such a piece of software were to be made solely for Japanese taxpayers, the demand would be limited since not everyone needs to file it themselves. The rules are revised every year, so yearly updates are required to keep the software up to date. It probably wouldn’t be realistic for a company like Nintendo to make software just for tax returns. It may be a chore, but at this point, we have no choice but to prepare diligently and push ourselves to file the documents on time.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see that Nintendo’s endeavors in the field of non-gaming products are giving rise to such conversations among Japanese users.

*Incidentally, Japanese game developer @aonimaru_games has announced that they are now making an RPG about tax returns.