As the April 15 deadline to file tax returns approaches, taxpayers flock to the Web for help according to Simone Berkower and Turker Keskinpala of Microsoft's Bing Relevance Team.
"When we looked at the spiking searches related to taxes, we realized that the vast majority of people were looking for one type of thing: tax forms. This makes sense given almost two-thirds of U.S. citizens file their own taxes," they wrote in a Bing Blogs post.
Noticing this, the Bing team set off to add features that bring up tax-related resources when users of the company's search engine go looking for information on filing their 1040 forms. "When you search for tax forms or IRS forms (the most common tax-related searches), you'll see an optimized user experience providing you with instant access to tax forms and related documents," stated Berkower and Keskinpala.
A new panel shows up on the right hand side of a results page, in the area typically reserved for the company's quick reference Snapshot feature and social-enabled Sidebar. Taking a cue from Snapshot, a search for "1040" will return a Wikipedia summary and links to PDF downloads, e-filing instructions, related forms and the IRS Website.
"We've also upped our game on the Web relevance side, providing you with authoritative and relevant Web results on filing your taxes," added Berkower and Keskinpala.
These capabilities help power its new resource site, Bing.com/taxes. Essentially a jumping off point for advanced search queries, the site also serves to help users avoid tax fraud. The Web page echoes some of the themes behind the company's anti-Google "Scroogled" campaign. "Security is a priority for Bing. We're always looking for ways to help make sure you don't get junk or malware in search results and ads," states the Web page.
The site also links to a Bing Search on this year's "Dirty Dozen" tax scams. Comprised of a mix of low- and high-tech schemes, the list includes identity theft, fake charities and phishing. In combatting the latter, it helps that the IRS is somewhat stuck in the past.
"It is important to keep in mind the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels," according the IRS.
"If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org," advised the agency.
Bing.com/taxes continues Microsoft's tradition of launching mini-sites for major events, recalling the result pages generated by Google Doodles. The company launched similar mini-sites for this year's Olympic Winter Games and the upcoming Academy Awards.