Customer Highlight: Transforming B & O Tax Return Filings - How the City of Tumwater did it.
Laserfiche Solution Contributed by Monica Harding, Accounting & Utilities Finance Supervisor, Matt Ames, IT and Shelly Carter, Finance Manager at the City of Tumwater.
Home to one of the oldest permanent American settlements in the region and located at the southern tip of the Puget Sound, is the rapidly growing City of Tumwater, WA. Implementing a paperless process for the City’s Business and Occupation (B & O) tax return filings has been a longtime goal of the Finance Department and City Administrator. Recognizing the benefits of eliminating paper, improving accuracy in both payments and data entry, and accelerating turnaround time, all while ensuring security has been instrumental to their success. The updated process also offers improved convenience for businesses and helps the Finance Department provide even better customer service.
Initially, the B & O Tax Return filing was an exclusively paper-based process. Monica Harding, Accounting and Finance Supervisor at the City of Tumwater explains, “The tax returns came to the City either by fax or US mail, varying daily from 100-300 envelopes. Staff would open the envelopes individually and sort the contents, which was a very time-consuming process.”
The B & O tax forms were then manually entered into their ERP software for cashiering and forwarded over to business license and tax division for sorting and scanning into Laserfiche.
The paper process contributed to many issues including numerous mathematical errors due to incorrect entries and calculations. These issues resulted in procedures that required staff to create adjustments, additional billing, or possible refunds for over-payment. Taxpayers were left to their own devices to calculate taxes resulting in frequent errors.
Several years of searching for the right solution led city staff to Cities Digital and Laserfiche Forms. The new Laserfiche B & O Tax Return filing e-form allows taxpayers to go online to the City’s website and select the B & O Tax Return, then complete the form and pay their B & O Taxes.
The form includes a database lookup, complex calculations, dynamic fields based on form selections, and payment option. “The City, with the help of the Consultants at Cities Digital, were able to develop a solution that has exceeded their expectations,” according to Shelly Carter, Finance Manager.
The form begins with fields for the Taxpayer’s license and activity number. Once entered, a database lookup is performed. The filer will enter their information into the form, where a database verifies the data is correct. This step verifies that the person is paying on an active license and paying on a quarter that requires payment. After the information is validated, the rest of the form loads, populating the business name and filing period.
Once the form data is populated and the filer has indicated that they have receipts for the filing period, the form loads to help them calculate the taxes due. These complex calculations used to be done by the filer by hand. The new form allows the filer to add the numbers to the form, which is configured to perform the calculations automatically.
Additionally, if the box is checked for service income apportionment, a separate worksheet will load.
Once the form has been filled out in its entirety, filers can submit payments conveniently online.
Once the tax form is submitted a Workflow initiates, depending on the amount and status, it will follow a variety of paths from successful payment notifications and storage in Laserfiche, to further action or payment required.
The City has already experienced success after implementing this form, and filers are taking to the new process quickly. The Finance Department Staff is benefiting by saving time, since eliminating many of the following tasks:
Opening mail - since the forms are digital the number of envelopes decreased.
Entering Payments – the forms are automatically filed, and data is available immediately.
Making Corrections - limited manual data entry and automatic calculations makes for fewer errors to fix.
Processing Adjustments – refunds and over-payments are becoming less frequent.
Processing Refunds – calculations are contributing to greater payment accuracy.
Sorting and Scanning Documents – digital forms are automatically filed, sorting and scanning are becoming a way of the past.
Form Legibility – forms are clean, clear, and precise since filers are typing data.
In the end, The City has taken their process to the next level with automation. They are improving the experience for their business tax filers and continuing to be innovative in the transformation of their processes.
If your city is interested in learning how Laserfiche workflow and forms can help automate your office, contact the experts at Cities Digital today.