California tax board taps e-gov

As the saying goes, "Death and taxes may always be with us, but death, at

least, doesn't get any worse." And for Californians, dealing with the taxman

might be getting a little easier.

The California Franchise Tax Board — which processes 14 million personal

income tax and business returns and contributes $33 billion to state coffers

— is planning to introduce several e-government applications designed to

be more responsive to customers.

In February, the agency will introduce an "e-notification" service that

enables taxpayers to get electronic reminders to file their returns, said

Denise Azimi, an agency spokeswoman. The e-notification, she said, would

provide links to Web sites for commonly used forms, e-filing information,

tips on common errors to avoid and information on what's new for the tax

season, including a preview of new tax laws. Taxpayers can sign up through

the agency's Web site ({}

A new application in March will enable taxpayers to request online that

the tax agency debits their bank accounts for the payments they owe. And

if they can't make their payments by April 15, they will be able to fill

out an application online to give a reason and request an installment plan.

Another service will enable taxpayers to review their accounts online

— using a customer service number and a personal identification number

— to check on payments or balances owed. Taxpayers currently have to call

an agency representative to have their accounts reviewed, Azimi said.

The services come at the heels of a collection and compliance system

installed last year called the Integrated Non-Filer Compliance (INC) project.

INC replaced a 25-year-old mainframe system that wasn't always efficient,

didn't use all data records to identify non-filers, and sometimes received

false information, Azimi said. As a result, it erroneously identified some

taxpayers as non-filers.

The new system, which mines a 4-terabyte data warehouse built by IBM

Corp., has helped identify an additional 100,000 non-filers using 220 million

pieces of information, about 8 million to 9 million more data records than

before, she said. The system also reduced the number of erroneous contacts

by 50,000, a 50 percent drop, she added.

The system has brought in an extra $82 million from the 1999 tax season,

and state officials estimate that it will generate another $36 million annually

in new cash to the state, said Azimi, adding it cost about $61 million to

develop the system. The agency and IBM, which was awarded the contract in

1998, also provided an eight-hour training class to all employees.

Azimi said several states had expressed interest in the system. Last

April, the Federation of Tax Administrators, a nonprofit group composed

of tax and revenue departments from the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and

New York City, gave the agency an award for the system.


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