Ohio taxpayers to get critical tax appeal decisions 245 days faster on average
IN BRIEF: The Board of Tax Appeals has a nonstop workload, receiving thousands of appeals each year. Efficiency is key, but so is thoroughness. Each appeal must be judiciously reviewed and resolved. So BTA formed a Kaizen team to analyze the current approach and identify ways to make the process simpler, faster, better, and less costly.
MAJOR STREAMLINING: The new process will consist of 45 steps compared to 170 steps with the previous approach -- a 74% reduction.
HALF THE TIME: The new process (from submission of an appeal to the decision being approved by Board members) will take an estimated 295 days on average. That cuts the processing time nearly in half.
REDUCED COSTS: Reductions in paper expense and other office costs will yield annual savings of $30,000.
When it came to generating improvement ideas, the team was prolific – coming up with 85 ideas that were then further analyzed and evaluated. The highest-impact ideas made their way into the final changes.
The Ohio Board of Tax Appeals serves as Ohio's administrative tax court. Its mission is to provide taxpayers and taxing authorities with an accessible, fair and efficient appeals process and to resolve appeals in a timely and judicious manner. BTA does this by facilitating settlements or by issuing comprehensive written decisions, which are based upon Ohio statutes, case law, and board precedent.
It's an important mission made challenging by sheer volume. In one recent 12-month period, BTA decided 7,682 cases and received 5,294 new appeals.
Staff navigate and physically manage a mountain of paperwork and complex IT systems -- as well as ever-moving hearing dates to get people to either resolve their appeals, or come in for hearings as quickly as possible. After that, staff write decisions that must be similarly routed through the office, and then back to the public.
With their work characterized by so much time-consuming complexity and excess of paperwork, BTA formed a Kaizen team to analyze and streamline the full process -- from an appellant submitting a Notice of Appeal with the Board of Tax Appeals to a decision being determined and drafted, then reviewed and approved, by Board members.
The team developed action plans for all areas whose work involves the process. The above flipchart page identifies "who" will do "what" and by "when" in the IT area.
The team's analysis of the current process found too many steps (170), too many decision points (28), too many handoffs (16), and too many delays (16). On average, the process was taking 540 days from start to finish.
Next, the team got busy reaching consensus on improvements: standardizing the appeal process, reducing the number of reviews, simplifying forms, improving communications, and identifying ways to make better use of technology.
The streamlined process has 45 steps -- a 73% reduction over the previous approach. Decision points have been reduced by 71%, loopbacks are down by 80%, and delays are down by 81%.
One change involves the docketing process. The new approach moves docketing tasks to the beginning of the process while combining similar duties.
Also, the transformed approach includes a customized fast-lane approach for appeals customers. They will be able to file a notice of appeals through an online web portal and opt in to a small claims process in order to get a quicker decision.
Yet another improvement is implementation of a self-serve case management system. This will allow all parties to access information easily and quickly, ensuring that people are well informed and up to date as the appeal decision process unfolds.
According to team estimates, the new process will average 295 days -- a 45% improvement over the previous approach. Reductions in office costs and paper expense will total $30,000 per year. Customers will save too, since there will be fewer instances where they'll need to travel to provide documents and other information.