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

  • the official e-mail;
  • Facebook page;
  • the generalized basis of fiscal practice, available on the official web page;
  • electronic fiscal services.
  • Information has been released on Inland Revenue’s (IR’s) website to assist affected taxpayers to make decisions regarding the nature and timing of tax relief available. IR has been shifting customers to digital channels (self-services via the online portal, myIR, or email) to avoid creating additional pressure on existing telephone resources. IR has been receiving a high level of customer contacts (calls and web messages) through all channels in relation to COVID-19.

    Further, the law has been changed to allow greater information-sharing by IR with a wider group of government agencies to assist the efficient and effective delivery of the total COVID-19 response package of measures. Procedures have been put in place to assist other agencies with the provision of information required.

    IR is working closely with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to deal with the applications received following the Government announcements (e.g. on 24 March 2020, IR took over 11 000 calls from MSD). Ensuring New Zealanders get their entitlements including new wage and leave subsidy payments is high priority. Some 1 300 IR employees have been designated as “essential workers” operating from IR offices on a rolling basis to staff contact centres and other essential services (with as many as possible frontline employees working from home).

    The Public Revenue Office (PRO) is adjusting to the new conditions and is open to the taxpayers in order to fulfil their obligations to the competent institutions in the country. This applies primarily to all those taxpayers that are most affected by the crisis and that will apply for the benefits offered by the state. For this purpose, the Regional Directorates’ Offices are open every business day from 8AM to 2PM. The call centre is operational and the taxpayers have the opportunity to submit their questions by email to the PRO.

    The PRO is constantly updating the website where all the decrees adopted by the government are posted.

    All activities and information about the work of the PRO in the time of emergency and in order to prevent the occurrence and spread of COVID-19 are published on its website, submitted to the media (printed / electronic) and shared on social networks (Facebook / Instagram).

    The PRO also constantly appeals to citizens and taxpayers about the possibility of using the electronic services.

    Tax offices are currently closed for physical meetings and guidance. Web pages, chat functions and telephone services have been enhanced. A dedicated COVID-19 webpage has been launched.

    The tax administration constantly informs taxpayers through its official communication channels. In addition, newspapers and TV channels have constantly informed taxpayers of the new tax measures due to the COVID-19.

    Enhanced taxpayer services have been put in place and taxpayers have been provided with the necessary tools enabling them to carry out online a large number of the procedures that they regularly carry out on site. Further, the administration has been using members of different teams, such as lawyers from the legal department, to help answer questions received via hotlines. On-site assistance has been reduced to encourage the use of online channels instead of coming to the administrations’ offices.

    Electronic contacts have been promoted, including communication via e-mail, trusted profiles and the hotline. On media and social media there are also information that taxes can be settled online.

    Improved tax services have been introduced, such as increasing the use of digital channels, dedicated hotlines and longer opening times of call centres.

    The possibility of submitting a voluntary disclosure electronically has been introduced, in addition to existing submission options in writing or verbally for the record.

    Taxpayer communication regarding changes in tax policies and to the services provided is carried out via official press releases, as well as through the official websites of NAFA and the Ministry of Public Finance. Taxpayers are requested to make greater use of electronic means of interaction by filing tax returns online through the Public Virtual Space Web Platform, by making payments through internet banking or through the online platform, as well as making information requests through the call centre, electronically (via e-mail) or by checking the information which is periodically updated on the NAFA website.

    In order to increase voluntary compliance, NAFA specialists contacted large taxpayers (in respect of the amount of tax revenue declared) to ask what fiscal problems they are facing during this period. For example, those companies that account for 70% of the revenues collected by the General Directorate of the Large Taxpayers were contacted directly. Similar campaigns have been and will continue to be carried out throughout the country

    There is a permanent dialogue between NAFA representatives and the largest taxpayers in Romania (about 150 large taxpayers), as well as with the representative employers’ organisations in those economic sectors that are strongly affected by the current environment. The dialogue aims at collecting in real time all the information needed to assess the financial impact on their activity, but also to develop appropriate economic and administrative measures to overcome the crisis situation.

    The Federal Tax Service (FTS) focuses on informing taxpayers about the advantages of using existing contactless solutions. The dedicated COVID-19 webpage on the FTS official web portal provides information and links to online solutions. Also, call centres are providing a 24/7 response. In non-working hours, this is supported by an automatic voice response system.

    New e-mails addresses have been introduced for taxpayers to submit any kind of request they want rather than come to the premises of the tax administration. Only 4 desk offices can accept written requests of taxpayers, face to face. The contact centre has been supplemented by new employees and many new telephone lines are now open.

    IRAS has proactively promoted digital service channels and updated the IRAS website with an advisory to encourage taxpayers to use the digital service channels instead of visiting us during this critical period

    Officers are able to provide assistance to taxpayers via remote-home access through digital service channels, such as Live Chats. Taxpayers are encouraged to engage via Live Chats, through the use of helpline announcements and by sending SMS messages to their mobile phones, with links to Live Chats. IRAS is also exploring and piloting video-conferencing facilities as means to serve taxpayers who require face-to-face assistance.

    Taxpayers requiring face-to-face tax filing assistance and other taxpayer counter services must make an appointment two (2) working days in advance before visiting the e-Filing Service Centre (EFSC) and the Taxpayer and Business Service Centre (TBSC) located in the IRAS Building. For taxpayers who have made appointments, temperature screening is conducted at the entrance and social distancing implemented by serving taxpayers at alternate counter booths and self-help kiosks.

    IRAS has provided an automatic extension of deadlines for tax filing for individuals and businesses to prevent crowding at the Taxpayer Service Centre. Taxpayers also have the option to go to an alternate site at the Integrated Public Service Centre (Our Tampines Hub – located in the East of Singapore) for e-filing assistance. Apart from providing added convenience to taxpayers, it minimises crowding at the IRAS Service Centre during the peak filing period.

    For Goods and Services Tax (GST), most GST services are already digitalised including applications and filing of returns, with alternative modes for taxpayers to seek clarifications from IRAS e.g., email or livechat with IRAS officers.

    IRAS has added timely information on the above measures to the IRAS website, with a banner prominently placed at the top of the IRAS home page to capture taxpayers’ attention so that they do not have difficulty in locating information on the supporting measures. Periodic media releases providing updated information on new taxpayer supporting measures and/or legislative changes are also added to the IRAS website. IRAS has also leveraged on social media to publicise the various support measures for taxpayers via its twitter feed.

    Information on the taxpayer support measures is also posted on the Government Portal, which is the official online communication platform and repository of the Singapore Government, providing the latest policy announcements, information and news on Singapore from a holistic and integrated Whole-of-Government perspective.

    For purposes of improving communication with taxpayers, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has created a dedicated website to provide real-time updates. SARS has also sent letters to taxpayers and issued media statements in South Africa’s official languages to inform taxpayers of the safety measures being implemented by SARS as well as the following services:

    • The SARS eFiling website and mobi app remain the recommended option for the filing of returns. The SARS eFiling website includes a “Help-You-eFile” functionality, which allows a taxpayer to ask a SARS agent to share his/her view of the eFiling screen on the taxpayer’s personal computer. This service enables a SARS agent to view the same screen as the taxpayer in order to assist in identifying the problems the taxpayer is experiencing and to help solve any problems.
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