Magazine Article | January 1, 2002

Many Happy (Tax) Returns

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, January 2002

During the 2000 tax season, the state of North Dakota (Bismarck, ND) processed 411,000 individual tax forms and 129,000 sales tax forms. Each year, the state has difficulty drawing skilled workers from the local area, which has a population of 70,000. Additionally, the state is required to retain four years' worth of paper forms, which was quickly consuming the Capitol Building's main storage facility. The state looked into leasing off-site storage space but soon realized that was not a viable option due to the annual $63,000 cost, as well as the high volume of form retrievals. When the state of North Dakota brought new IT Director Catherine Forsch on board in the summer of 2000, she immediately had the challenge of coming up with a way to avoid extra expenses in her department. Forsch, already familiar with the benefits of automated forms processing solutions, began to check out various options for the tax department. "I was familiar with FileNET and wanted to use it for the image repository," recalls Forsch, "but, I had a difficult time finding key-from-image software to work with the repository." After talking with information management specialist Modern Information Systems (Grand Forks, ND), Forsch investigated Cardiff's (Vista, CA) TELEform software and was introduced to system integrator Binary Office (Scottsdale, AZ). With the final pieces of the puzzle almost put together, Binary Office flew to North Dakota to begin the installation. "We had six weeks to install the solution set, test it, and go live," says Forsch. Binary Office had the entire solution up and running in time for the 2001 tax season.

Forms Processing Reduces Manual Labor
Unlike the previous four-step manual process of opening, validating, verifying, and performing data entry, the new process involves a quicker three-step process, which requires minimal paper handling. With the new system, tax forms are opened and grouped by date received. Then they are packaged into batches and are sent to scan stations. Batches are scanned into Cardiff's TELEform (with the aid of Binary Office's scripting), which allows the tax commissioner to capture batch-tracking information at batch creation time. Two Kodak 3520 high-speed scanners keep the FileNET content management system and IMB CICS (customer information control system) busy. Forms that require recapture because of quality (usually carbonless copies of W2s) are then re-scanned into the system via Fujitsu 3091DC scanners. This is the final point at which these documents are handled in paper form. Next, the TELEform readers take the required data, whether hand printed or machine printed, from the form.

Automated Offers Multiple Avenues Of Savings
Upon completion of the data entry - which is now shortened by the key-from-image function - TELEform's BasicScript business rules feature is applied against the data to validate data accuracy prior to exporting to the S390 mainframe system. Any errors in the data or calculations are automatically routed to specialists who handle specific problems. Approximately 40,000 lines of script were written by Binary Office to implement the tax department's business rules, which TELEform uses for such processes as creating a matching index in FileNET. This enables FileNET to provide reviewers or auditors instant access to these documents. The Office of State Tax Commissioner has such confidence in the TELEform to FileNET process reliability that it has revised its criteria of paper retention from four years down to six months. "By not having to store so many paper documents and indexing our documents online, we've reaped many benefits," says Forsch. "We're saving $63,000 a year by not having to pay for off-site storage, and we no longer have to search through massive records rooms trying to find the equivalent of a needle in haystack." Additionally, the state is now able to process 4,000 tax forms per day versus 2,500 previously, and it is finding itself under budget by 25% for its temporary employee expenses. The state expects to receive a payback on its investment within two years and then after that... many happy returns.