Mass. enables corporate e-filing

Corporations in Massachusetts can now file and pay for their corporate annual reports online, making them the latest entities to benefit from the state's aggressive movement toward e-government.

The $2.5 million project is the result of a joint effort between IT consulting company Electronic Data Systems Corp. and e-government service provider EzGov Inc., which have been working together under a marketing and delivery alliance since May 19.

Previously, corporations filed paper copies of annual reports, which then had to be transferred manually to a state database. Under the new, paperless system, corporations may use the Internet (www.state.ma.us/sec/cor) to submit their annual reports. Companies may also pay their annual $85 filing fee by credit card.

The system saves time and money by drastically reducing the filing process. It also strengthens the accuracy of the reports through a component in the software that rejects data entered incorrectly. And companies can update their reports throughout the year should the need arise.

"What we're doing here is really a twofold system," said Ed Trimble, president and chief executive officer of EzGov. "This is something that not only works toward better constituent services but also to facilitate government operations."

"This announcement is really just the first in an upcoming series that we're very excited about," Trimble said. "We've got similar projects under way in Minnesota and Ohio, as well as four other states in the works that we really don't want to name yet."

The Corporate Annual Reports e-Filing System is Phase One of a larger effort to simplify businesses' relationship with government. Phase Two, expected to be implemented in July, will be a Uniformed Commercial Code Lien Filing System, allowing for secure, online filing of rights and collateral as well as lien identification for property owners.

Bob Blecker, chief technology officer for the electronic government division of EDS said that the reason for the hold on the next phase is "because nobody can use it."

"There is no law on the books that allows for the acceptance of an electronic signature when it comes to this area of Uniform Commercial Code and liens," Blecker said. "When you think about it, states weren't even putting their driver's license services online until they had some kind of an electronic signature law."

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts said that the program will offer substantial savings to taxpayers, but the primary benefits will be to the corporations who use the filing system.

"One saving they're sure to get is the cost of parking in Boston," McNiff said. "Corporations located downtown could always walk over to the filing office, or at least send a messenger, but for corporations located all around the state, this is a great savings for them in hassle cost alone. Parking in Boston is very rare and very expensive."

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