Deadline: May 04, 2018 09:00 PM
Co-development camp: May 28 - May 30, 2018
Mariehamn, Åland
1500 € + 1-3 x 20000€ pilots
Applications for this challenge have closed. See our upcoming challenges here.

VAT the Hack with Åland Government

Congratulations to the 6 teams joining us in VAT the Hack!

Åland’s unique position as an outsider to both Finnish and European VAT area is creating pains to the Åland consumers and thus slowing down the island’s participation in the present digital retail-revolution. Through Åland’s very first societal innovation challenge, the government is looking to explore possibilities to speed up digitalization and at the same time ease the hassles with online shopping for Ålanders. Online shopping is being hindered by complex taxation and customs practices. The online retailers’ unawareness of the taxation laws (and fear of breaking them) creates additional and unnecessary obstacles. This specific challenge was pinpointed and selected by the inhabitants of the Åland Islands for you to solve.

The Åland Islands are situated between Sweden and Finland. They constitute an autonomous and monolingual Swedish speaking region of Finland with its own flag. Åland has its own stamps and internet top-level domain (.ax).

Åland has more than 29,000 inhabitants and approx. 11,500 of them live in Åland’s only town, Mariehamn. The town was founded in 1861 and is today the commercial and political centre. (See the Åland islands.)


Åland’s autonomy gives the right to pass laws in areas relating to the internal affairs of the region and to exercise its own budgetary power. Åland’s legislature, its parliament, is known as Lagtinget. The Parliament appoints the regional Åland Government – Landskapsregeringen.

Åland’s autonomy is regulated by the Act on the Autonomy of Åland passed by the Parliament of Finland. An amendment of the Autonomy Act must follow the same legislative procedure as constitutional amendments but requires the consent of the Parliament of Åland. The division of power between Åland and Finland can thus only be changed on a consensual basis.

Åland has a very unique position as being a member of the EU, but an outsider to both the Finnish and the European Union’s value added tax area. This position dates back to the time when Åland (along with Finland) joined the EU. Staying outside the Tax-border secured the vital ferry traffic connecting Åland to mainland Finland, Sweden and Estonia.

The Challenge

The goal of the challenge – #VATtheHack – is to learn about and create new ways to speed up Åland’s digitalization, focusing on how to enable a thriving culture of online retail for the islanders despite of their unique position outside VAT areas.

Being a small community, the Åland consumers and their special challenges are easily forgotten by the big players. We believe new tech and design innovation can help find new, reasonable ways to help even the smallest of crowds. Can you come up with a solution to these everyday challenges the Ålanders face?

1. Improving customer experience for VAT handling

After buying products online, the Ålanders need to pay VAT to claim their deliveries from the customs even if the product carries paid VAT from Finland or EU. This needs to be done for every delivery individually, through a cumbersome process. Even though the Finnish Customs Administration is the counterpart here, Åland Post and Transmar are also acting agents for handling VAT payments on the islands. Is there something you can do to help them do it in a more consumer friendly way?

2. Promoting Ålandic import opportunities and regulations

Online retailers don’t know or understand that Åland is outside the Finnish and EU VAT-area, or that you should sell without VAT to Åland (that’s why Ålanders often pay double tax!) Traditional promotion to change this has been tried before, but is there some other, more clever way to transfer the information about an Åland customer’s special needs, obligations and rights to the retailers?

Available Resources

To help the development of proof-of-concepts during the challenge, we have reserved some key people and resources to support your work.

Mentors & Experts

Each team will be assigned with their own mentor from Åland government or other relevant party. There will also be experts from Åland Post and Tax Administration available to help the participating teams.

Recommended pre-reading

Additional links and info will be handed to the chosen teams.


  • Applications close – May 4th
  • Applicants informed about the selections – May 11th
  • Co-development Camp (mandatory for all team members) – May 28th 15:00 - May 30th 18:00 (Mariehamn, Åland)


The teams compete for pilot projects worth 20 000 euros. Each participating team will be paid a reward of 1500 eur. Rewards are paid against invoice after the team has presented their demo and the decisions on pilots have been made.

Judging criteria

Teams’ work and final presentations will be judged to choose the teams and concepts to continue to the pilot phase with. The best concept(s) should therefore meet the following criteria:

  • Concept can potentially solve the challenge and is valuable and relevant for Åland
  • Concept is attractive and possible to pilot right after the challenge
  • Team is an attractive and able partner for piloting the concept

Estimated work efforts and deliverables

The teams are expected to work full-time on the challenge during the co-development camp (3 days), and invest an estimated 1-2 day per person of their time in advance preparations.

After the Camp, the best teams chosen by the jury are expected to work on their pilot project (building and testing an MVP) with the mentor and present their learnings to a jury afterwords. This project will be defined and scheduled during and after the challenge.

Travel and accommodation

Teams arrange and cover for their own traveling to Mariehamn for the co-development camp. Åland government reserves and provides hotel accommodation for everyone, as well as catering and facilities for working.


Apply with a team of 2-3 people. All applications will be reviewed after the deadline and all applicants will be informed by May 11th. 6-8 teams will be selected to join the challenge.

Who will own my idea?

Ideas are free for everyone to use but the IPR for any software codebase or documents produced during the competition will stay with the team. The host has the first right of refusal to negotiate further collaboration with the team to purchase or continue working on the project initiated during the challenge.


Contact us through the chat below, or send an email to

Cover photo: Ingmar Eriksson / VisitÅland

Applications for this challenge have closed. See our upcoming challenges here.