Tax administration responses to COVID-19: Measures taken to support taxpayers

  • Encouraged appointment-making prior to physical visit to service halls: For matters that do require physical presence, besides disinfecting taxpayer service hall, tax officials shall make appointments with tax and fee payers to ensure staggered business hours.
  • Also, aiming to support enterprises and enhance the business environment, the STA has launched the 2020 Spring Breeze Project nationwide by putting forth 24 measures to improve taxpayer service:

    • Firstly, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tax and fees payment in light of the convenience and benefit of people. For instance, launching “non-contact” tax services and expanding the coverage of online services to over ninety percent;
    • Secondly, promoting institutional reform and innovation. For example, advancing the reform of the electronic VAT invoices and issuing UKEYs to start-ups for free, and simplifying and optimizing the declaration procedures and propelling the integration of property tax declarations;
    • Thirdly, boosting targeted assistance of enterprises with focus on development. For instance, deepening the “bank-tax administration cooperation”, increasing the number of engaging enterprises so as to serve the development of enterprises.

    Further, national-level online workshops have been conducted and broadcast to disseminate the policies and measures to tax and fee payers via official website.

    Several virtual classes hosted by National Tax Institute have been provided to tax staff in different levels which covering policies and measures taken to tackle COVID-19, the operational guidelines as well as the safety and health advice.

    Communication campaigns are being developed for promoting the use of technology, e.g. DIAN´s app and website, to contact DIAN and comply with tax obligations.

    The taxpayer has access to all services provided by the tax administration through emails. The service provided by the call centre was also reinforced in order to improve response capacity.

    Through the website of the Ministry of Finance, the channels of communication with its different dependencies have been enhanced, so that the user can communicate better their formalities to the Tax Administration.

    Starting 13 April, the tax administration will start virtual briefings on the COVID-19 related measures.

    Taxpayer enquiries arising from the COVID-19 crisis can be addressed to the call centre, by email or online communication. An enhanced service is provided also through the online portal (ePorezna/eTax). Enquiries relating to COVID-19 are being prioritised.

    Online services are being promoted. Regular announcements are made on measures taken and service options available.

    The tax administration provides information via a dedicated phone line and all information is published on a dedicated webpage.

    A webpage dedicated to COVID-19 issues was added to the website of the Danish Customs and Tax Administration. In addition, the Danish Tax Agency communicates through social media, press releases and directly with relevant enterprises. For example, by 18 March 2020 the agency had reached out to 140 000 self-employed individuals encouraging them to, where relevant, revisit and alter their pre-registration of estimated expected income in 2020. This mechanism is universally available online under current legislation, but given the circumstances, could have assisted taxpayers in reducing the instalment of advance personal income tax payments that would otherwise have been due on 20 March 2020.

    Further, on 17 March 2020, the Danish Tax Agency opened a dedicated hotline at the disposal of enterprises for urgent enquiries.

    All tax administration basic services are being provided by digital channels (taxpayers virtual office, emails, call centre, social networks, and other digital platforms) and access to those services is promoted to reduce face-to-face assistance at the offices.

    The tax administration has, clearly and precisely, published and established business continuity strategies. Alternate communication channels have been promoted and the information has been published on its website, social networks, newspapers and interviews, in order to reach the most vulnerable taxpayers.

    Most of the services are mainly being provided online. The tax returns and reports must be exclusively filed online, as well as the payment requests. Improvements have been made to the online services, always with the intention of reducing the presence of taxpayers in the offices. Taxpayer assistance is being provided through the call centre and by e-mails. The staff is helping from their homes. The personal or face-to-face assistance staff has reinforced the call centre.

    There is constant communication through the account channels in social media, providing information about deadlines and online services, as well as any other related information that has been updated.

    Regarding communication with the taxpayers, the Finnish tax administration’s website has information in Finnish, Swedish and English and constantly updates the news page on COVID-19 issues. Customers are encouraged to use online services, as most of the tax matters can be dealt with using the MyTax (online service for taxpayers). Information is provided via Twitter, Facebook and newsletters, and the administration actively engages with journalists to provide them accurate information on changes.

    A dedicated webpage has been created on the tax administration’s website. The webpage includes a pre-built form that can be used by taxpayers to ask for the deferral of tax payments.

    The Georgia Revenue Service (GRS) communicated to taxpayers and other stakeholders to use distant and electronic services rather than visiting service-points. The vast majority of services are available online, thus it is possible to fulfill tax obligations and get services with minimal need of physical contact with the tax authority. Phone numbers of the service-points were promoted and the number of call center staff and those responding to e-mails were increased.

    The availability of all the electronic services was announced on the GRS website and Facebook page, and the GRS closely communicated with the media. Further, the GRS analysis on a daily basis, which issues taxpayers frequently ask for so that appropriate guidelines and documents can be provided electronically.

    The tax administration’s (SAT) website and social networks have been used to provide relevant information to taxpayers and the general public. Various media channels are used to reach vulnerable taxpayers.

    The contact centre is available, operating with staff teleworking from home to provide tax and customs assistance and guidance to the taxpayer. Online training is provided from the SAT Gateway. The Virtual Assistant service (Chatbot) is provided in the SAT portal to answer tax and customs questions.

    Digital channels and exclusive hotlines of the Honduran Tax Administration have been implemented before the COVID-19 Crisis. Digital Channels, such as social media and the web chat, have extended opening hours.

    Social media presence of the Honduran Tax Administration has increased due to clear communication strategies and responses to specific consultations made by the taxpayers.

    The administration made available on its website a new section containing information to assist taxpayers in emergency situations. It also published commonly used forms in easy-to-download and printable formats (pdf). As the vast majority of tax matters can be handled electronically, all customers are invited to choose between electronic or telephone administration, avoiding personal contact. In order to inform customers, a menu item on online administration options (NAV Online) has been added to the website.

    Iceland Revenue and Customs have made special efforts to: (i) enable self-service and reduce in-person contact; and (ii) reach foreign speaking taxpayers who typically are among the groups most dependent on full in-person service. New instructions have been published in Icelandic, English and Polish, to enable taxpayers to navigate their online tax returns without visiting the tax office in person. The foreign language instructions are tailored to be in line with circumstances that are common to foreign workers. Special guidelines have moreover been developed in Icelandic, English and Polish, to facilitate that people take greater advantage of the many self-service and e-options available on Iceland Revenue and Customs website. This information/guidelines are shared on Iceland Revenue and Customs’ website and Facebook page, as well as being available in print form at all of the tax offices.

    Additional resources have been assigned to certain phone lines to deal with taxpayer queries resulting from the effects of COVID-19. The service is being kept under review and decisions will be taken based on changing circumstances if necessary.

    Further, information affecting taxpayers is constantly pushed out via the Revenue website, press releases and eBriefs to practitioners (a standard digital communication issued to tax practitioners typically to announce updates to technical tax guidance).

    The Israeli tax administration (ITA) operates a number of channels for communication with taxpayers and representatives: designated e-mail, designated service system to manage taxpayer applications as well as call centres. To address the current situation, a number of steps were taken:

    • Additional work force was directed to deal with online applications through existing channels (emphasis on applications regarding services, such as: withholding certificates, on time filing, release of refunds, reduced withholding for payments abroad etc.)
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