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

  • Operation of topic specific mail boxes (for instance – representatives, real estate taxation)
  • Reinforcement of call centres.
  • Face to face services are diverted to digital channels, as much as possible.
  • Representatives and taxpayers are encouraged to work from afar.
  • A designated fax number for the elderly population that does not use digital channels was published.
  • Employees were called to be cautious regarding data security and exploitation by unidentified persons.
  • A single, country wide, service centre for all real estate taxation applications (phone and web)) was created instead of operating separate centres in numerous locations. Workforce was allocated to this single centre and accessible phone numbers published.
  • Further, tax representatives and taxpayers were informed via various media channels, and on the ITA website concerning the steps taken by the ITA, in real time. Enhanced and more accessible information is made available on the ITA website concerning the COVID-19 crisis. High level officials in the ITA and the Ministry of Finance gave interviews on relevant aspects.

    A structured communication policy was set up, based, among other things, on press releases issued in parallel to the issuing of circular notes, on the creation of a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 and on the use of social media.

    Also, the Italian Revenue Agency invited taxpayers to use the (already existing) electronic channels for requesting services. For general assistance services, the Agency also invites taxpayers to use the dedicated free toll phone number.

    The NTA announced and published its actions and measures, such as the extension of the tax filing period (see section “Extension of deadlines”), through press release, the NTA’s website, Twitter, as well as by communicating with tax accountants and other relevant organisations.

    Taxpayer support services during the tax return filing period, such as call centres to support individual taxpayers for filing and consultation service for the e-filing procedures, have also been extended in accordance with the extension of the tax filing period.

    Ongoing targeted communication campaigns have been carried out on taxpayers’ safety, tax obligations, modes of facilitation, e.g. online access to tax services, taxpayer communication with the Kenya Revenue Agency (KRA), business hours etc. KRA is improving its website landing page to incorporate information on solutions for customers seeking customs, domestic taxes, suppliers and general information. The landing page will also include information on the Presidential Directives around taxes, and the Commissioner General’s messages. Taxpayers are encouraged to access KRA tax services using existing online platforms.

    KRA has also enabled its staff to work from home by configuring their devices to gain system access remotely. This means taxpayers’ queries are handled remotely by respective Relationship and Account Managers – For customers with Relationship Managers.

    While face to face interaction with customers has been suspended, for taxpayers whose physical documents are required, communication has been issued that they may use the contact centre email address for delivery of the same. The contact centre call management system has a call back feature which enables frontline staff to call back taxpayers to support them as required. Customer support has additionally been enhanced through the call centre’s chat platform. Customers are also encouraged to self-support through KRA’s IVR feature. The contact centre non-voice teams (e.g. email, chat, social media) are now enabled to work from home (offsite). The staff are still able to provide support to customers beyond the current hours of operation.

    Communication is carried out through the tax administration’s homepage, blog, SNS and other venues, where information regarding tax support for those people who are affected by COVID-19 is continuously updated.

    Also, the administration actively advertises that tax form submissions and official certificate requests are available on-line. Further, a newly formed COVID-19 Task Force team provides guidance on taxpayer support measures.

    Communication with taxpayers is carried out electronically, via phone, the Electronic Declaration System (EDS) and social media. Information is provided on the official website of tax administration, as well as distributed through traditional media (press releases, phone interviews) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

    Customers can receive services via EDS and call a help line. The EDS system has a special button for COVID-19 related issues or asking questions. The capacity of these functions was increased.

    Excise stamps are delivered to companies by postal services.

    A Q&A section was created on the tax Administration’s website to address the COVID-19 consequences. Taxpayers subject to the aid measures (suspended debt recovery, relief from late payments, interest free tax loans) will be announced on the website.

    For the convenience of taxpayers, a separate menu item “Tax deferral” was added to the tax administration’s call centre phone line.

    In order to accelerate the provision of support to businesses facing difficulties concerning COVID-19, a one-stop-shop principle will be applied as regards requests addressed to the tax administration and the State Social Insurance Fund Board.

    IRBM has published a press release on services made available for taxpayers during the Movement Control Order period via its official portal and announcements through social media (e.g. Facebook). IRBM has also published a set of frequently asked questions.

    Measures have been put into place to continue to provide services remotely. Taxpayers are being encouraged to use more online services such as video calls with our officials.

    All communication strategies have been centralised to one Government entity (Malta Enterprise). A dedicated webpage titled “Supporting Businesses Impacted by COVID-19” has been put up on the Malta Enterprise website. Malta Enterprise is Malta’s economic development agency and is independent from the tax administration.

    To strengthen and maintain the communication process with the taxpayers, the State Tax Service (STS) has put in place a set of related actions, such as providing assistance and support through the dedicated assistance line within the Call Centre (with working program 24/7), but also placing updated information on the official STS web and Facebook page. STS has encouraged taxpayers to use the following communication channels:

    • the STS Call Centre with a dedicated line, whose working hours have been extended to 24/7;
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