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Visualize how your taxes are spent and win $5,000 (yes, it's taxable income)

We're in the heart of tax-filing -- and tax-paying -- season. This is the time of year more than any other (save for maybe election days) that we want to know where our tax money goes.


To help answer that question, the Data Viz Challenge  is giving graphically creative taxpayers a chance to come up with a data visualization that makes it easier for U.S. citizens to understand how the government spends our tax money.

More to the point, the contest will give the winning designer $5,000. Remember, prize money, like gambling proceeds, is taxable income.

Here's the deal.

The Data Viz Challenge was created by Eyebeam and Google.

The data used by the challenge contestants is provided by What We Pay For, a website created to break down how individual tax payments are spent.

The whole process is overseen by the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, a Manhattan-based digital-arts collective.

A total of $10,000 in prizes will be handed out, including special distinction awards and mentions on the Data Viz Challenge website, the Official Google Blog, Eyebeam.org and Fast Company's design blog, Co.Design.

The grand prize of $5,000 will go to the entrant who can best "visualize how your individual federal income taxes are spent."

The entries will judged on the basis of five criteria: storytelling, clarity, relevance, utility and aesthetics. Acceptable media are interactive web apps, graphic images or video.

If you want to submit an entry, do so by by midnight (I'm presuming Eastern time since the contest headquarters is in New York City) of March 27.

Finalists will be announced the week of April 11.

And winners will be announced on, when else, Tax Day 2011: April 18.

While the five grand is certainly nice, the entrants also will get the chance to strut their digital design stuff before potential employers.

As CNET News writer Caroline McCarthy notes, Google may well find that it has new talent-for-hire on its radar, and winners of the contest might find that a guaranteed feature on the Official Google Blog proves more lucrative than the prize money.

I can't wait to see the entries and winner. So get to visualizing and good luck!

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