As it approaches the end of its first full year in operation, the Revenue On-Line Service (ROS) has seen a massive increase in the number of taxpayers using its services.
The facility, hosted at www.ros.ie, allows companies and individuals to file tax returns and make enquiries about their tax liabilities. Last year it collected a total of €4.8bn online, while at the time of going to print in November close to €2.1bn had been collected.
“While we had the site up last year, it was barely in time for the filing date, so this is the first real year for filing income tax online,” says Margaret Whelan of ROS.
The ROS facility has been operational since September 2000, with PAYE services for employers and Vat returns available for most of 2001. However, this is the first full calendar year that the site has been accepting income tax returns.
To submit returns, users need to be issued with a digital certificate, authenticating their identity, and to date approximately 12,500 certificates have been issued.
However, around 50pc of Ireland’s accountants, or 1,800 accounting firms, are included within that figure and these digital certificate holders can make multiple returns for their clients.
“As a result there is a potential customer base of 290,000 businesses and individuals, which means roughly 60pc of potential users have theoretical access to the service,” says Whelan.
For ROS, a significant part of promoting the online services is getting the remaining 50pc of accountants online, but also important is encouraging those already online to actually make full use of the service. Currently the information services on the site are most widely used and only some accountants are using the system for filing and paying.
“The difficulty has been largely with the lack of ROS-compatible accounting software packages. A couple of them are available, but they didn’t appear until close to the deadline, so realistically it will be next year before people make widest use of them,” explains Whelan.
The current range of services available online include payroll for employers, Vat returns, corporation tax return, financial and withholding tax, environmental levy and the recently announced live vehicle registration tax. “That went live on 6 November and within two days we had 500 transactions on it, which shows the level of demand for these services,” says Whelan.
The next major development for the site will be the introduction of further income tax services in January for 2003, as well as capital tax and gift and inheritance tax services. Interestingly, from next July there will also be an EU Vat on e-commerce transactions on the site.
The next stage in the development of the ROS service will be a usability test designed to fine-tune its appearance and operation. “We are very happy with the number of people using the service, so it is clearly a success. Already, we have 13,000 income tax returns and we are expecting 15,000 to 20,000 returns by the deadline of the end of November,” Whelan says. “In addition, 22,000 people used the site last week and that’s 22,000 less phone enquiries and a lot of paperwork from accountants and the public. That isn’t bad for the first year of operation.”