Monday, June 7, 2010

How tax agencies are coping with the economy

Posted by Mark Brousseau

“We are all in the same boat,” Roger Ervin, secretary, Wisconsin Department of Revenue, told attendees at the Federation of Tax Administrators (FTA) Annual Meeting at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta this morning. “As the economy continues to falter, we need to be more diligent in collections. But citizens want more. They want us to be as efficient as possible. And they want us to do it quietly.”

Ken Lay, secretary, North Carolina Department of Revenue, agreed, noting that, “We want to be easier to do business with. We want to be professional. And we want to be firm, but fair.”

Lisa Echeverri, executive director, Florida Department of Revenue, noted that the recession has presented her department with an opportunity to take a fresh look at its operations and processes.

“You should never waste a good crisis,” Lay concurred, adding that his department is becoming much more process and metric focused. “We are redoing all of our processes. So everyone is not only busy, they are also working on creating the new North Carolina Department of Revenue.”

“We’re beginning to change the organization to fit the processes that will fit the technology,” Lay said, noting that his department has already enhanced its data warehouse capabilities. Some of the changes Lay’s department has implemented include monthly transformation meetings for staff, an updated intranet site with information on changes, deployment of a Microsoft Sharepoint site where anyone can see the state of the project, and an emphasis on deadlines and holding firm on them.

“We’re not doing this for the sake of the Department of Revenue. We’re really doing it for the citizens of North Carolina,” Lay explained. Changes like these may become necessary.

“We are in a period of market conversion in how taxpayers interact with their tax departments,” Ervin added. “Many are choosing electronic products, as their contribution to the future, while many others are continuing with paper. Many taxpayers are using the Internet with regularity, while others still call their tax department until they speak with a person. Clearly, we are in a deep and complex recession and recovery is still months or years away. In this environment, many citizens cannot or will not pay. This puts pressure on collections. Intuitively, this should be a time of investments in new technology and processes. But tight budgets have put a hold on those investments.”

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