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Using digital services

Do you agree that specific assistance should be provided for some customers?

Do you agree Inland Revenue should provide specific assistance to enable some customers to use digital services?

Some customers cannot move to digital services

Even if high-quality digital services targeted at all kinds of customers and appropriate tax interactions are built, there will inevitably be some customers who cannot adopt them.

Reasons for this could include:

  • they do not have the skills or knowledge to use digital technology;
  • they do not have access to digital technology – they may be financially constrained or perhaps live in an area of New Zealand which does not have internet access.

For this group, the relevant principle is that tax compliance and access to entitlements are critical. Their ability to comply with their tax obligations and access their entitlements must remain even if the majority of other customers are carrying out those interactions through digital options.

Two approaches could be offered to customers who cannot move to digital services. Both approaches would be operated simultaneously, with different customers falling into each approach. They are:

  • Offer appropriate assistance (Principle: Tax compliance and access to entitlements are critical)
  • Non-digital services should be available for some customers (Principle: Tax compliance and access to entitlements are critical)

What forms do you think that assistance might take?

The first approach is to provide some specific, targeted assistance to enable those customers to use digital services. Some examples of this kind of assistance could be:

  • Recognition that online services require appropriate offline support – the New Zealand strategy for digital public services requires that it should be easy for people to get sufficient support when using digital options.
  • Kiosks – Places where people who do not have internet access could go to use an internet-connected computer (whether provided by government or otherwise). Some specific assistance or even a digital service specifically designed for people who are not experienced internet users could even be provided.
  • Assistance to develop digital capability – Inland Revenue’s officers already help customers, including small businesses, to understand their tax obligations and how to use existing digital services.
  • Subsidies – For example, to support businesses adopting accounting software which integrates tax functions.

The second approach to this customer group is to acknowledge that, whatever support and assistance Inland Revenue or wider government might be able to offer, some customers will still not be able to directly use digital services. For example, a business in a remote location with no broadband internet access will not be able to use business accounting software which integrates tax obligations online even if the cost is subsidised. These customers will still need to manage their interactions with Inland Revenue through non-digital services.

This could be done by ensuring existing non-digital services are provided. However, depending on the nature of some of Inland Revenue’s system changes, retaining existing services in their current form in the future may not be possible. In these cases, some process to convert non-digital to digital information might be required. Inland Revenue could carry out this process itself, or arrange for a third party to supply it.

How long do you think that assistance should be provided for?

 

Comments

George Spark
Computer literacy, or at least "phone literacy" will soon be mostly universal. Perhaps 10 years notice could be given, and after 10 years, those who can't file electronically would need to use an accountant, at least if they are a business. For individuals, a service could be introduced where they could manually file at say the Post Shop or a bank branch (where a paper form could be obtained, filled out, and OCR-scanned back to IRD, say - or they would use a screen that has a "paper form" on it and could have pen input, to give the idea of a paper form if people were scared of keyboards). For people with lack of broadband Internet access, perhaps a simplified service could be used in the form of a basic app on the phone or PC, at least up to a certain income/tax complexity level. Because most people do have at least phone or mobile phone, even if there is no Internet. Another option could be a stand-alone PC/Mac app that could work with a dial-up modem: people would dial up, the app would download tax data from the IRD and present in the app, the user could disconnect and complete the tax form, then dial up again and upload the data. Since only the flat data would be transmitted and not the imagery, it should be a very small file (a few MB's at most) and should be easy to do with a dial-up connection. However the viability of such a solution would depend also on how big the group of people might be that would need to use this (if it's only a few dozen nationwide, it won't be useful; if it's thousands, it is probably worth making that app).

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1 year ago
Kevin
Some people do not have a computer and wouldn't know how to use one even if it was freely available as a kiosk or otherwise. My Aunt is 75 years old and has never owned a computer - she would need support until she is no longer expected to pay tax.........that could be 20 years plus!!

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1 year ago
Glenn
For wage/salary earners with an annual filing requirement, kiosks or 3rd parties should be sufficient. For businesses, whom I expect will be communicating data with IRD on a more frequent basis than at present, an analog of the digital systems will be required. That may look similar to what we have now, but does not have to be. The taxpayers would need to be flagged as non-digital, and that is simple to do. In reality, for most interactions, businesses with tax agents are effectively digital already. I see no need for subsidies. Subsidies would end up being subsidies for the software providers, who may be foreign owned entities. Ease of use, reduced compliance costs, and suchlike should be incentive enough for those who can make the switch to digital.

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1 year ago
David Harris
Subsidies (similar to the payroll intermediary system) would be useful to encourage businesses to make use of approved software solutions. However, the use of software solutions by themselves does not guarantee good and accurate compliance. Presumably the Department's cost per DIY taxpayer is more than its cost per taxpayer managed by a tax agency/CA firm. So surely the incentives/push should be targeted to greater use of tax agency/CA firm services - except where the interaction with IRD is simple enough in nature (e.g. PTS) as to allow taxpayers to do it themselves.

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1 year ago
Niki
Computer use is a must in today's business. Sure give the digital illiterate a time frame (2yrs) to get up to speed and then make it compulsary. They will move (or pay someone to do it for them) to digital the. Otherwise you'll spend 80% of your CS time on 20% of the people. Not great for efficiency.

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1 year ago
wendy
There should always be assistance offered in tax gathering. This is not an "if " issue. No matter how one chooses to pay or organise their tax.

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1 year ago
maygray
The tax department should always provide assistance. The whole of government exists paid for by the tax payer. It is beholding on the tax department, whatever the costs, to provide assistance to people who are willing to pay their tax. Large and foreign companies take up time of the tax department too. To try to financially quantify what is the part of your service that builds trust, know and like factor, is stupidity and to get people angry and not willing to do what you want them to. Why set up a system to fail by being too aggessive? Why not set up a friendly helpful service which is prepared to be open and transparent and to have clear user fiendly controls which are accessable for people. An attitude change to this process would undoubtedly in my view get a better outcome for us the users.

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1 year ago
Sharon Nolan
Accounting software should not be a requirement. For small businesses it is not cost effective and could take more time to comply than doing it by hand or using a spreadsheet. Subsidies may not necessarily work because the cost could still outweigh the benefit to the taxpayer who has low data entry requirements and there is the ongoing costs of 'updates' to software that can't be avoided due to advances in technology etc.

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1 year ago
Dwayne
Subsidies sound suspiciously like IRD is trying to favour a few preferred commercial software vendors, which is not the role of government. The first thing IRD should be doing is making the online forms more compatible with ordinary software, including open source software. For example the current system requires entering GST income/expenses in a rather odd way. Why not just let us enter the exclusive amount and amount of GST calculated, as is printed out by my accounting summary? And how many accounting systems calculate the amount of "adjustments" for milage etc separately from the rest of the transactions? Mine just reverses the % of GST calculated as a transaction in the normal income/expense totals, and then prints anything with zero GST as a separate category. Any API used to facilitate online tax with 3rd-party software should happen alongside add-ons built for available open-source software. There should be feedback function to verify that IRD has received the data correctly and accurately, and the taxpayer should be able to view the form on IRD's website in a user-friendly format, with the option to resubmit if any mistakes are found.

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1 year ago
L Gaugau
Kiosks at local libraries or community center's or maybe even at the bank or at the post office. With the UFB initiative rolled out these areas should have a stronger focus on marketing campaigns, pointless rolling out UFB and customers are not aware of the benefits because they haven't tried it or seen what it actually can do in order for customers to make the right choice. The option not to have DIGI is unfair to those that do want to go digi, so the obvious is to roll out digi so we can say we tried it, measure it and quantify the results to confirm where to from there ... you can't knock if you haven't tried it. Paper or plastic ... prefer DIGI ... those that can't get it - give them the option because they don't have an option. Work on a strategy to give them the option that is feasible to their community and to the budget of tax payers. If we are going to pay taxes then at least put it towards a reoccurring revenue strategy to enhance access to revenue for DIGI-biz and DIGI-customers.

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1 year ago
Ed Lusty
There should always be the option of a fully manual relationship with IRD for those that do not wish to choose to go digital.

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1 year ago
Rebecca Phillips
Please always keep in mind users like the very small not-for-profits who still use manual accounting systems, who only interact with IRD to send the PAYE for their little group of employees, and who are often staffed by volunteers financial administrators who are often older and a little more tech-challenged than your average user. Assuming they have access to a computer and making adoption of technology compulsory will only increase stress in a sector that is already stretched financially and under undue stress all while trying to help others. They don't need a complicated log-in that complies with all the regulations for their group and takes an age to get "set-up". They don't need to spend hours trying to work out how to file electronically. They just need a simple, manual system to be supported by IRD on an ongoing basis.

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1 year ago
AB
I think you have to stick with non-digital services for some time yet - there will always be factions of society where its unattainable. I think the concept of kiosks should wait until these are more widely considered with other government departments e.g. Social Development - no point in creating standalone tax beasts

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1 year ago
Annie Hill
I should have thought that this is self-evident. We have no right to exclude people who either can't, won't or don't use computers and the Internet. Even if they are only a tiny minority. This is the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship of the majority. In addition, we have to consider the visually impaired, the people whose hands don't have the suppleness to use computer keys, let alone the keypads on mobile phones, the marginally literate and those people who simply freeze up when confronted with 'official forms'.

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1 year ago
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