Technology Risk Consulting : Andersen releases findings of an international study on the use of information and communication technologies by tax authorities - Singapore's IRAS tops in best practices for communication with customers
Andersen has released the findings of an "International Comparative Study of the Use of ICT by Tax Authorities", a survey that examined the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) by tax authorities in 13 countries. Singapore's Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) emerged tops in areas of best practices in Communication with Customers and Facilitating ICT Processes.
Andersen (Business Consulting and Technology Risk Consulting) conducted the study on tax authorities in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, U.S. and Singapore. The study was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs to test the international position of The Netherlands when compared with its counterparts in terms of the introduction and use of innovative ICT.
It examined four main areas: Communication with customers (i.e. taxpayers); communication with partners; the internal primary processes of the tax authority and the facilitating of ICT processes.
Under each of these areas, the survey produced some key findings and identified best practices as follows: Communication with customers All countries fared quite well in this area, with Sweden being the most advanced by using fully operational personal email, by setting up an interactive means for processing tax returns, and by offering WAP with regard to the application of tax specific forms. Singapore and Denmark, already gaining several years experience using pre-filled electronic tax forms with customer data were highlighted as 'best practice', as well as Australia where 98 percent of tax returns are submitted and received in a standard digital format via tax agents. Communication with partners Tax authorities are currently giving insufficient priority to the technical compatibility of involved systems serving to enhance communication with partners. The best practice is that of the Finnish tax authority and its real-time system, enabling partners to submit their data immediately. Internal primary processes With its application of intelligent knowledge systems and the development of information systems the Dutch tax authority proved to be the best performer in this area. Best practices were identified in the USA where customers as well as partners and tax employees can perform their work from any remote location. Facilitating of ICT processes With the introduction of new systems to cater for electronic services, there are significant implications for both the back and front office. Some experiences have indicated that some legacy systems are not compatible with the newest technology and development of uniform systems becomes problematic. Best practices were identified in Singapore & Canada in regards to tele-working for employees and uniform architecture in the design of new systems. "This study is one of the few in the world that reveals the depth and innovation of ICT by international tax authorities," said Mildred Tan, Andersen's Asia Pacific Partner for its government services practice. "We hope that the findings will help tax authorities significantly understand how their ICT practices compare with others, and become challenged to further advance their e-government initiatives."
On what would be the key success factors for an e-government, Mr Reuben Khoo, IT Infrastructure Director for Business Consulting at Andersen said, "A disciplined management approach, adequate network capacity, secure computing environment, effective document management and the nurture of IT personnel. In Singapore, the IRAS stands out as one of the key government agencies leading e-government initiatives, for example, through their use of ICT."
Mildred Tan added, "We are delighted to know that IRAS has achieved a significant position amongst the top countries in the world with their high level use of technology. Most of IRAS' innovative CRM channels are operational and they have scored a notch in communicating with their customers, the taxpayers."
In the study, IRAS emerged: Overall above average amongst the countries surveyed in all four areas examined. Highest score in the ICT trend, Integration and Standardisation. Top, together with Denmark, Australia and the Netherlands in Best Practices for Communication with Customers. Top, together with Canada, in the area of Best Practices for Facilitating ICT Processes. "From this study, we are able to better understand our strengths and weaknesses and the areas to improve upon. It also benchmarks IRAS with some of the world's best tax authorities, giving us a chance to learn from others," said Mr Goh Khee Kuan, Deputy Commissioner, Corporate and Investigation, IRAS.
He added, "In the area of customer communication, we have many feedback channels including a Taxpayer Feedback Panel that meet regularly to give us their valuable contributions and feedback. Indeed, we are pleased that this study recognises our efforts in working with our customers - the taxpayers, in making sure that they receive excellent customer service."
Based on the survey's findings, Andersen provided the following recommendations for tax authorities: Use of compatible legacy systems that can adapt to new technology; Guarantee and assure the privacy of electronic data; Avoid small-scale use of security services and technology that may slow down the utilisation of innovative security services; Pay close attention to maintaining a good public image and the risks associated with any technology failure. About Andersen Andersen is a global leader in professional services. It provides integrated solutions that draw on diverse and deep competencies in consulting, assurance, tax, corporate finance, and in some countries, legal services. Andersen employs 85,000 people in 84 countries. Andersen is frequently rated among the best places to work by leading publications around the world. It is also consistently ranked first in client satisfaction in independent surveys. Andersen has enjoyed uninterrupted growth since its founding in 1913. Its 2001 revenues totaled US$9.3 billion. Andersen refers to the brand identity adopted by member firms of the Andersen global client service network.
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