Twenty-first century taxation

10 Jan 2003

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And if the Revenue Commissioners has anything to do with it, things are going to stay that way.

The organisation is responsible for the collection and administration of almost all government imposed taxes and duties in the country. Net tax and duty receipts these days amount to approximately €26.7bn.

In addition, the Revenue Commissioners also has the responsibility for the enforcement of import and export controls and the national administration of various EU schemes such as the exchange of Vat information between member states. It also carries out collection work for a number of other Irish government departments.

The sustained growth of recent years has been reflected in the growing number of taxpayers and rising revenues from taxation. This has led to a steadily increasing workload for the Revenue Commissioners. In this day and age, performing such a task requires having a heavy duty IT infrastructure in place.

In order to cope with such developments, the Revenue Commissioners has recently installed an integrated computerised tax system that has enabled it to process the significantly larger number of forms and payments. The platform it chose was the Advantage Ingres Enterprise Relational Database and Advantage OpenROAD Development from Computer Associates (CA). Essentially, the new system offers up-to-the-minute information on the status of each taxpayer to each of the 130 tax offices around the country. “We made a significant investment to provide an easily accessible and unified view of the taxpayer no matter what point of the organisation they choose to access our services. As a result, we have improved both compliance and customer service,” says Liam Ryan, development manager for the system at the Revenue Commissioners.

In putting together an integrated system, the Revenue Commissioners focused on four core elements. Firstly, it needed a common registration system whereby all taxpayers are registered on a single database. Secondly, it required a proactive intervention strategy that allows it to act before customers become non-compliant. It also wanted a corporate information facility that provides for statistical forecasting and budgetary projections. Finally, it desired an integrated taxation processing system that ensures a common platform for the issuing and processing of tax forms and payments as well as linking with the other three elements in the system. A new internet file and pay service complements the internal solutions.

The new registration element continues to be mainframe based, to allow it to more readily interact with older systems. The other integrated systems are based on Unix-powered enterprise platforms and feature the CA products. For example, a corporate case management and workflow system has been introduced throughout the organisation. Like every other tax administration body, the Revenue Commissioners seeks to prevent formerly compliant taxpayers from slipping into non-compliance. The case selection, critical transaction alerts and collection features of the system have been successful in reducing the number of potentially non-compliant customers and have also assisted in reducing historic levels of outstanding revenue debt. An extranet, using Advantage Ingres on Windows NT at its core, has also been provided for third-party debt collection agencies that work with the Revenue Commissioners.

The Revenue Commissioners has also introduced new management information facilities centred on a data warehouse. These facilities allow line managers to obtain statistics and business reports for their areas of responsibility and provide for continuous performance analysis across all taxes and levies. The facility also allows the Revenue Commissioners to provide the Government with various scenarios that would result from any proposed changes in taxation.

The final main component controls the issuing of tax forms, the processing of tax returns and payments and the main collection and accounting activities for all major taxes. This was where Advantage OpenROAD development came into the equation as the application development tool.

The concept of e-government has been receiving a lot of attention lately and the Revenue Commissioners has been at the forefront of the move to provide online services for citizens. The integrated applications provide the primary back office platform for the internet facility whereby companies and individuals can file and pay their tax via the Revenue On-Line Services website (

Although the main elements of the new system are now in place, according to John Shanahan (pictured), account manager of CA, the software firm’s work with the Revenue Commissioners is a long-term project and both parties are continually working together to improve the effectiveness of the system. For example, newer technologies such as XML (extensible markup language) are now being incorporated wherever they add business value, he says.