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Tax, Fee Administration Debuts Next Phase of Online Filing

The agency has promoted its service expansion online, and will continue the rollout next year. The goal is to modernize tax collection and connect with business users.

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One of the state’s major tax agencies has rolled out the next stage of an ongoing service designed to modernize tax collection and connect with business users.

The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) — which collects revenue from taxes on sales and use of vehicle and jet fuel, tobacco and alcohol — went live with the second production release of its Centralized Revenue Opportunity System (CROS) on Aug. 12. It's the second stage in the department's effort to move off legacy and further migrate to a more customer-centered solution. Among the takeaways:

• Rollout 3, live now for one month, updated special tax and fee programs for alcoholic beverages, cigarettes and tobacco products and their licensing, fuel, oil spill response, prevention and administration; timber yield, and underground storage tank maintenance.

• It’s the latest stage in an ongoing contract with vendor FAST Enterprises Inc., which had a $281 million price tag in March. A CDTFA spokesperson said the agency expects to be invoiced roughly $13.8 million at the end of October for the cost of Rollout 3. The State Board of Equalization selected FAST Enterprises in August 2016. Among the company’s contracts, the state of Hawaii hired it at a cost of $59 million to build a new computer system for the Department of Taxation. That system began to deploy in 2016.

• CDTFA described tax and fee payers as “generally satisfied” with the agency’s online services, noting that during the July filing period, its Customer Service Center saw fewer calls and charted “overall improvements in the customer service experience attributable to those enhancements.” The agency did not elaborate on the overall improvements or specify how many fewer calls it received.

• In late August, CDTFA Chief Deputy Director Katie Hagen shared a LinkedIn post that the agency had created to publicize the expansion of its online services. A spokesperson said in an email that the agency believes “social media and other outreach efforts play an important role in communicating key information about CDTFA’s online services to tax and fee payers, as well as those registering new business activities.”

• CROS Rollout 4, the final such deployment, is due in November 2020. It should introduce around 10 more special tax and fee programs the agency administers to online filing. These, CDTFA said, will include new programs for lead acid batteries and cannabis “that were enacted after the CROS project implementation activities commenced.”

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.