August 5, 2010
Earlier this week I presented at the Federation of Tax Administrations Technology Conference in Atlanta. This event looks at how technology can be used to improve and streamline state tax collection and administration. While many of the sessions dealt with some tax specific issues, these agencies shared many the same challenges other government agencies deal with when interacting with their constituents. One question that came up on a couple different occasions centered on the right way to optimize the experience offered through self-service channels so that work can be shifted away from high-cost channels (like paper processing or call centers). In particular the question was: will people adopt self-service channels more with guided online interactions or an electronic form that resembles a paper form?
April 16, 2010
In a flurry of last minute filing, the tax season drew to a close yesterday. The filing process is one where you, the tax filer, and tax agencies hope that the filing goes smoothly. For you, errors in your tax return could mean delays in getting refunds and wasted time. For tax agencies, incomplete filings or errors mean slower and more costly processing. To help avoid issues and make it easier for taxpayers, innovative agencies like the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) are turning to social media to help educate and communicate.
March 18, 2010
The IRS gets top marks for the speed of their website in recently released benchmarks (see coverage here). The IRS website minimizes image use and makes large documents available as PDF downloads rather than publishing the information as web pages. The ranking of sites was released by performance monitoring service, Gomez, as part of their annual benchmarking of major website responsiveness (see the full report). The results are summarized in their chart below:
February 23, 2010
In the State of the Union address a few weeks ago, President Obama issued a challenge to the US government. With families and small businesses across the nation tightening their belts and making tough decisions, the federal government should do the same. It’s certainly a challenging time for government to look for efficiencies. Along with the citizens and businesses they service, government jurisdictions at all levels are strained in this economic climate. Federal as well as state and local governments are looking for ways to tighten their belts and still deliver critical services for citizens and small businesses.
While all government organizations are challenged to tighten their belts, tax and revenue agencies face a special challenge. How can you be more efficient, make it easier for taxpayers to interact with you, but still be as effective as possible collecting tax revenue? In the case of tax agencies, one area that can be a win-win for taxpayers and tax agencies is electronic filing. The City and County of San Francisco’s Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector is a recent example of a tax agency that added online options that make the agency more efficient while also improving tax filing interactions with citizens and businesses.
February 6, 2010
It’s Saturday so let’s start off with a relatively obvious place where we have seen tremendous innovation in user interactions, media players. Across static photos, music and videos, there have been great strides in creating intuitive experiences that engage users to search, play and comment.
Take for example this BBC iPlayer. The BBC looked to this iPlayer to help them transform the world-wide on-demand TV space. It took BBC about 10 weeks to build the iPlayer and in its first 3 weeks of launch, there were 3.5m downloads. Currently, it accounts for 5 million views a day which is aobut 5% of the UK internet traffic.
These great participation rates are because from the start, the BBC considered the user central to how the rest of the system worked to deliver content to users. The iPlayer can be used by anyone across platforms and even if they are disconnected from the internet.
Okay, I probably haven’t told you anything you didn’t know already, except perhaps the tremendous adoption rate of the iPlayer. I was pretty impressed with when I heard the figures.
Any government agency would kill for these sorts of participation rates.
January 25, 2009
With the world-wide economic downturn, government is caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the issue of helping businesses and citizens with tax cuts.
No one disagrees that the public could benefit from tax cuts in these challenging times. Shrinking tax revenues from decreased property values, sales and incomes on one end, and rising demand on social services and benefits at the other end, make tax cuts difficult to conjure up. Some regions, such as California, are even talking about tax hikes in order to control deficits and debt.
However, there are other ways to help which would achieve the same impact as tax cuts; that of lessening the burden of government on citizens and businesses. Where government cannot lend a hand by extending a dollar, it can by lessening time burden of dealing with government.