Arkansas' tax filing adds jobs

Arkansas and an imaging and data conversion company have joined forces to

streamline the state tax filing process, and in so doing, are boosting the

state's economy.

The state's deal with London, Ky.-based Image Entry Inc. calls for the

company to do the work in Arkansas, employing state residents to handle

the electronic filing.

"We've had greater and greater difficulty each year coming up with the

level of quality tax return service that we feel our taxpayers deserve,"

said David Foster, income tax administrator at the Arkansas Department of

Finance and Administration's (DFA) Revenue Division.

The result is a 12,000-square-foot imaging and data conversion facility

in Brinkley, Ark., a small town in the state's delta region, an area with

a high unemployment rate.

"We figured we'd keep the jobs in Arkansas but take the work out of

Little Rock, where there is low unemployment, and bring it to an area of

high unemployment," Foster said.

The agreement with Arkansas follows a successful similar partnership

that ImageEntry had with Alabama.

Michael Smith, senior marketing representative at Image Entry, said

the Alabama contract — a five-year deal to handle state tax operations — was contingent on Image Entry conducting most of its business in the state

and in an area of high unemployment.

According to Smith, the area in question — Butler County, Ala. — has

experienced a decline in unemployment from 18.5 percent to 7.5 percent in

the two years Image Entry has been operating there.

Brinkley, a town of 4,909 people about 60 miles east of Little Rock,

hopes to see similar results.

With jobs that call for courier services, mail-opening, sorting, pre-coding,

batching, scanning preparation, image scanning, image indexing and data

entry, the partnership plans to bring 75 to 100 new jobs to the area.

Plans for the facility include state income, sales and use tax returns

and reports. Eventually, similar work for other states or companies could

be carried out there. Officials at the state DFA's (www.accessarkansas.org/dfa)

Office of Income Tax Administration say that the new system should cut in

half the amount of time needed to process error-free paper returns. Previously,

it took six to seven weeks.

Instead of being paper-based, returns are now imaged and stored on CDs

or DVDs, making information readily available and enabling DFA employees

to assist taxpayers in a matter of minutes.

The system can hold 10 years' worth of tax returns and allows paperless

correction and updating features for changes in address, for example.

Construction on the facility is set to begin soon, with completion projected

for early summer, state officials said.

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