Information on the location of the question asker (country tag) is important for answering many questions on this site. And, unfortunately, needing to continuously ask new users for their location can get annoying after a while. That having been said, there has been some troubling behavior in this regard recently. Here are some guidelines to follow when confronted with a question from a new user that has no country tag.

  1. First, ask yourself: Does this particular question need a country tag? Some questions are universal and really don't need it (e.g. debt reduction strategies). On the other hand, questions that touch on taxation, laws, or regulations often do need it.

  2. Are there location clues in the text of the question? If the question uses U.S.-specific terms such as "1099", "401K", or "IRS", you don't need to ask the OP; tag it . Similarly, for "CRA", "RRSP", or "TFSA", tag it . See "HMRC" or "ISA"? Tag it .

    And so on. Yet, remain mindful that ambiguity is possible. Tag only when confident.

    Another clue might be found in the user's profile. The user may have already provided his or her location in the user profile. Before asking the user for their location, click on the username and check the profile. If you see a location listed there, just add the tag.

  3. When you do need to ask, do so respectfully. It is unreasonable for us to expect every new user to automatically know that a country tag is expected. The fact that they didn't include it doesn't say anything about their attitude or intelligence; it only means that they are a new user. Insulting the OP and/or insulting every person of a particular nationality is clearly against the StackExchange rules and should never be tolerated. Belittling an OP does not teach them to ask better questions; it only teaches them that this community is full of jerks and that they are not welcome here.

  4. If it is not clear which country the question is about, do not edit the question with a guess (unless you have evidence for the country; see #2). You may or may not be right with your guess, but guessing wrong confuses the OP, and if the OP comes back and edits the question with the right country, any answers that have already come in will be instantly invalidated.

    Instead, if you want to write a good answer that is country-specific, make sure you specify in your answer that it is valid only for a particular country. Just be aware that if the correct country is known later, your answer might get downvotes.

  5. Alternatively, if the question cannot be answered without country information, voting to close as either "unclear what you are asking" or "too broad" is acceptable.

Any feedback you may have to improve these guidelines is welcome.

  • 1
    Great set of guidelines. Thanks for posting it. – Chris W. Rea Apr 28 '15 at 21:55
  • I've edited #4 with suggestions from Rocky and JoeTaxpayer's answers. – Ben Miller May 11 '15 at 17:17
  • Care to add "Their public profile might have location right there. Don't be critical of new visitors when you can take 10 seconds to see if we already know their location." If it's there, just add the tag. – JoeTaxpayer May 22 '15 at 16:48
  • @JoeTaxpayer Good idea. Added. – Ben Miller May 23 '15 at 2:45

I agree. If the question really needs a country tag, but it is never provided or inferred yet is still a good question, answering "In the U.S. ...", or "In Australia ..." as a qualifier seems reasonable.

There's only so many options when the question is almost always from an anglophone (non-native speakers seem to be more aware of the need to specify country).

Even if the OP isn't around to follow up, future visitors with the same question can benefit and still realize the country is important by the answers provided.

I agree, not all questions require a country tag. If a members requests one, and it's not needed we should point that out. I also agree that mention of 401(k) is enough to say "US".

I do think that guessing is wrong. It might result in an answer that's incorrect-country-centric, only to have the OP add the correct tag.

Other than this, I've remarked that new profiles should require a country designation. The issue isn't overwhelming, but it is ongoing.

  • I seem to remember some earlier meta discussion about requiring country info. I think it would make more sense to require location tags --- not necessarily on every question, but, e.g., if you include the "taxes" tag then you must include a location tag. Not sure if either solution is technically possible on the SE platform right now though. – BrenBarn Apr 28 '15 at 17:22
  • 5
    @BrenBarn for Moderator, too. By the way. – JoeTaxpayer Apr 28 '15 at 22:50

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