In theory, doing your taxes ought to be as easy as picking up a pencil and a calculator. (Remember those?) The Internal Revenue Code gives you 2,600 pages of plain-English instructions. If you’re still not sure, Treasury regulations and revenue rulings give you 6,500 more. Throw in all the annotated case law included in the Standard Federal Tax Reporter, and you’re up to 70,000 pages. How could you possibly have any questions after plowing through all of that guidance? Yet every year, millions of Americans sign their returns, cross their fingers, and hope they somehow got it right.
Naturally, an entire industry has sprung up to automate that process. In 1984, a company called Chipsoft rolled out the first commercial tax preparation software–the basis for today’s TurboTax. Since then, competing developers have worked to make the whole painful exercise faster, easier, and cheaper. But no one ever set out to make it weird . . . until now.
Welcome to 2023 and Tax Heaven 3000, the anime dating simulation that prepares your tax return. That’s right: “do your federal taxes while romancing your waifu.” (For those not in the know, anime is a Japanese style of animation, and a “waifu” is a fictional female character and love interest.) It’s as if the producers of The Accountant (Ben Affleck plays a CPA with a very particular set of skills) and Her (Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his AI virtual assistant) collaborated on a crossover sequel.
Tax Heaven 3000 introduces us to Iris (LOL), a pink-haired pixie and “delightful girl-about-town who knows a lot about income taxes.” Her likes include fancy stationery, caffeinated drinks, reading on the job, and tortoises.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to meet that special someone . . . and file their tax return. Join me and we’ll search for deductions while we search for love.”
“But be careful! We’re not alone. Corporate tax filing services like TurboTax are (by dint of extensive lobbying) predatory, parasitic bottlenecks that deliberately complicate the tax filing process in order to make it unnavigable by ordinary people. They feed us their poison so that we buy their medicine!”
Iris goes on to confess that video games are, at the end of the day, just software—“ontologically akin to Microsoft Word.” Tax Heaven 3000 simply makes the fiction the point—“a dongle that adopts from a visual novel to the IRS.”
Tax Heaven 3000 isn’t for everyone—it only works for singles without dependents. (If you’re married filing jointly, what are you doing romancing a waifu?) Still, give it some time. There’s even fan fiction and a comments section. (One wag suggests that if you take Iris out to dinner and she orders lobster, remember that you can deduct it as a business expense.) And all these years, we’ve been worried about Skynet becoming self-aware!
There’s really only one problem with Tax Heaven 3000. You can’t get it, at least not yet. The game’s developer, Brooklyn-based art collective MSCHF (pronounced “mischief”), had planned to release it on the Steam platform, but found themself de-platformed last week. Now they’re shooting to drop it on April 4 on itch.io or as a direct download. The website also teases a collector’s edition with software box and instructions, installation disk and case, and a 5’3” Iris body pillow.
Yes, this is real. No, it’s not an April Fools’ joke. We’re just as impressed with the sheer ingenuity as you are. And we’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled as video games step further into personal finance. (What’s next, Grand Theft Auto: 401(k) Asset Allocation?) As Iris says, “Come on, let’s get started. I can already tell I’m going to like you!”