Taxpayers can expect faster resolutions
IN BRIEF: The previous approach was “first in, first out,” with incoming taxpayer petitions and claims all moving at the same pace. Now, a streamlined process steers cases to the right work unit right away. Simple cases are fast-tracked while complex cases go to legal staff.
FASTER RESPONSE: The waiting time for taxpayers has been sharply reduced -- by 92% for most issues and claims. What used to 100 days now takes about 8 days.
BACKLOG REDUCTION: The backlog is down 68% just six months after the Kaizen event. That's 12,000 tax appeal cases that have moved from the files to finalization.
BIG SAVINGS: Improvements have reduced labor costs from $105 to $7 per case in some instances. The team found that this applies to about 5,400 cases, for a labor-cost equivalent of $529,200. And there are projected savings of $63,000 from reduced mail processing time, certified mail, and related expenses.
If you’re appealing a state-related tax assessment, the last thing you want is to wait…and wait…and wait. You want a resolution that’s done quickly and accurately.
That’s why a team at the Ohio Department of Taxation shook up its old way of doing things. During a Kaizen event covering five intense days in March 2011, they developed improvements that ensure faster service. A lot faster.
With the changes in place, most petitions and claims will now be processed and finalized in 45 days or less -- compared to an old processing time ranging from 18 months (for appeals on personal income tax assessments), to 23 months (sales tax appeals), to 32 months (commercial activity tax appeals).
That’s a reduction of 92% or more in the time it takes from petition to a final determination or corrected assessment. It all adds up to greater citizen satisfaction and quicker resolutions.
A Kaizen event is a great opportunity to generate and circulate improvement ideas with colleagues. Here, team members are posting their documented recommendations. The notes will be reviewed, sorted, and synthesized -- becoming the starting point for improvement plans.
Under the old approach, incoming “petitions” arrived at four entry points. From there they were filed off to various divisions. Differing policies and a duplication of functions across divisions caused confusion and rework. Old cases got older, new cases got bogged down in the processing traffic jam, and the backlog of cases grew tenfold in six years.
With improvements developed by the team, decision-making is being pushed forward to the start of the process. Petitions are received at a single entry point at Taxation’s Compliance Division, where staff use guidelines and tools to process most of the petitions on a new fast-track basis. So there are fewer steps, fewer people involved, fewer handoffs, fewer delays -- and faster outcomes for citizens.
In 2010, of nearly 13,000 newly filed petitions, some 8,720 cases were routed to the Tax Appeals Division for processing. Now, Compliance staff will be handling most of these themselves -- while forwarding the cases that call for the legal expertise that Tax Appeals brings to the table. It’s expected that Tax Appeals will now be getting about 2,000 new cases per year -- that’s 8 new cases per day compared to the deluge of 34 per day under the old system. Now, staff attorneys can focus on cases that make the most of their legal know-how, and they’ll have more time to resolve older cases. They’re on track to reduce the backlog by 95% by year’s end, if not sooner.
It adds up to a wiser use of dollars. When you look at the number of cases that had been processed previously by attorney-level staff (at $105 per case), and compare it to the increased percentage of these types of cases that will now be handled by others ($7 per case), the projected savings in labor cost is $98 per case. The team found that this switch applies to about 5,400 cases, for a total of $529,200 over a year. There’s even a projected costs savings of $63,000 due to automation improvements that reduce mail processing time, certified mail, and related expenses.
“This is powerful stuff,” said Ohio Tax Commissioner Joe Testa, speaking at the team’s concluding presentation on its fifth and final day of work. “I can’t believe how much you accomplished in a week.”