H&R Block is the world’s largest tax services provider, having prepared more than 650 million tax returns since 1955. There are approximately 12,000 company-owned and franchise retail locations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, and on U.S. military bases around the world. An H&R Block branded retail office is located within five miles of most Americans.
H&R Block approached me to help them build a tax-filing app in India. It’s not everyday that you get to lead the UX efforts of a $8 Billion company. They had a tax-filing service as their flagship product in the USA, but Indian tax system was too complex for them to port the existing solution directly.
On the other hand, it’s the complexity of the tax filing procedures which makes them successful in a relatively untapped market. People usually avoid the hassles of filing their taxes themselves & use an assisted service like the one H&R Block provides. I was their first ever international contract hire.
UX, User Analytics
Fastest growing tax services provider in India.
I started with the usual preliminary study of how the tax filing industry operates. The biggest insight I found early on is that the motivation for paying taxes in the US is tax returns which is practically non-existent in India. In fact despite being home to a massive 1+ Billion people, only 1% of the Indian population pays taxes. In the United States, and in other countries where H&R Block has been massively popular, taxpayers pay taxes to get tax returns. And H&R Block specialises in maximising the returns. And since the situation is completely different in India, we had to look into other options.
I started talking to people about their experience in filing taxes. And one of the most common complaints was the complicated paperwork. Tax filing is a hassle in India because the incomes in Indian families are very unregulated. When about 90% of people I spoke to complained about the exact same thing, I knew I was on to something. And I started working on the prototypes. Personas were created.
The scale of the project was huge and the time was short (the 2 month tax-season window is the crucial period when you make or break things), I set up very advanced analytics (both page/behaviour analytics and user analytics) and monitored several metrics for hourly trends & impact. We had to fix things fast. The ‘test subject’ were actual tax filers so the stakes were pretty big. We had to seal every dropout point in almost real time.
There were 2 ways to file taxes. One, where you just upload your documents and everything was done automatically. And the other, where you were assigned a tax expert to help you file your taxes. The later was preferred by businesses and individuals with more complex income types. I built the UX for both and we hired an external agency to do the UI.
As part of marketing, we waived the fee for the first year. Over 1 lakh users filed their taxes using H&R Block in India.