On 18 September, Scotland voted to stay as part of the United Kingdom. That decision has major impacts on the future of the newly created Revenue Scotland which until now has had relatively limited powers but now has to transition to being the main Tax Agency for Scotland.
An impossible challenge? Probably not. Rather it gives Scotland the opportunity to create a modern Tax Agency built around the ways taxpayers will want to interact with Revenue Scotland. An almost explosive growth in the use of the internet and social media means that taxpayer requirements on the exchange of information, accessibility to the tax agency and the tax processes and the reuse of data are already fundamentally different than a decade ago. With the changing use of the rapidly expanding possibilities of the internet, the taxpayer has more and more means at their disposal to handle their affairs online. Exchange of information and services in the private life of the taxpayer has become a commodity; ranging from simple online email and social networking to online purchasing of goods and registering for and using of complex services such as banking and accounting. This changing use of social media is a trend which is here to stay. The need for person-to-person interaction is decreasing. Where a visit to an office or a phone call used to be the first option when wanting to get business done, these days a smartphone, tablet or laptop is the default point of entry for many transactional services.
So it is now about how tax agencies, making intelligent use of data from other government agencies, employers, banks etc., are able to make tailored tax ‘propositions’ to each individual citizen, saving all the traditional administrative burden of filing tax returns. The possibilities of social media also lead to a stronger demand for customer centricity. No longer does a customer believe it is normal to deliver information via all sorts of forms and call centre contacts; the modern customer expects authorities and enterprises to already have, and to reuse, the available information they already hold. In addition, there is an expectation that authorities and enterprises will be pro-active. This implies that as long as standard, routine and recurring tasks are involved, the customer expects only to be consulted or informed about the outcome. Involvement in the process is much less expected than before. In short, the customer expects authorities and enterprises to shift from a pull strategy to a push strategy.
This digital way of “doing tax” allows new Agencies, like Revenue Scotland, to consider their structures and processes, service principles and information technology needs from first principles. It also raises expectations about how taxpayers will want to deal with Revenue Scotland. It means conducting business real time, online, through chat rooms, through social media and less and less face to face.
Revenue Scotland has the opportunity to create one of the world’s first truly digital tax agencies which improves the quality of the services, both from a customer and an internal perspective, protects the Scottish revenue base, but delivers this in an efficient and modern way.