Inland Revenue plays a critical role in contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of New Zealanders collecting 80 per cent of the Crown’s revenue as well as administering social support programmes. It is one of the largest government departments, with over 5,500 employees in 26 locations in 17 cities
It is therefore no surprise that Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation is also one of the largest and most ambitious programmes in the Southern Hemisphere.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to modernise tax administration in New Zealand” says Gary Baird, Inland Revenue’s chief technology officer.
Baird says that the multi-year, multi-release business transformation programme is re-shaping the way Inland Revenue serves New Zealanders.
“We have three key strategic objectives: to grow voluntary compliance by making it easier for people to get it right, to reduce compliance costs and to make Government policy changes faster and more cost effective.
“Our programme is carefully planned into multiple releases and managed business changes to minimise change impacts for customers while maintaining Inland Revenue’s revenue collection functions without disruption and importantly, delivering significant value with each release.”
The programme is enabled is by a combination of changes which involve: simplifying policy and legislative settings; proactively ensuring that customers get it right from the start; fitting our revenue processes seamlessly into people’s lives; creating an organisation that works together better by making more intelligent use of information to improve outcomes for customers; and implementing a modern technology platform (START) that is digitally based and highly automated.
The technology foundations for the business transformation were laid down in 2015 and 2016 and include new data centres, network, infrastructure and security systems that can sustain the entire change programme -all utilising all of government IT common capabilities.
The first release, which was completed last year, enabled seamless digital services for GST. This was a significant advance as GST accounts for a quarter of the revenue that Inland Revenue collects.
An API gateway also extends Inland Revenue’s digital border so businesses can submit their GST returns directly through their accounting software
“By February this year, more than two million GST returns had been filed using the new web service and around 250,000 returns were filed through customers’ accounting software”.
He notes 84 per cent of customers filed their GST returns electronically, compared to 74 per cent for the year before.
The next release of the programme, which goes live in April 2018 migrates a number of existing tax products to the new START platform (Withholding Tax, Gaming Machine Duty, Fringe Benefit Tax). It also enables payday reporting for employers, introduces improved provisional tax mechanisms and delivers automatic exchange of information.
Over the next four years, further programme releases will streamline all remaining tax services as well as the remaining social policy services such as Student Loans, Child Support, and KiwiSaver.
Baird says, “With the customer at the centre of our transformation, we are moving away from Inland Revenue ‘owning’ the customer. We’ll have an environment where we interact with a managed ecosystem of trusted partners and service providers to simplify the sharing of information in a secure exchange.
“The data that we need to confirm a customer’s tax and entitlements is often already held in other systems; accountancy, payroll and banking systems. Our intent is that the customer can send us the required data from their own systems and we can then share services and provide information (with the permission of our customers) to partners to simplify compliance activities for customers”.
He says there are also a number of other significant technology investments currently underway which include moving to a cloud-based workplace technology solution (Office 365), the implementation of a new Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) system, investment in a new Business Intelligence and Analytics platform and selection of a new Enterprise Support Services solution for managing Inland Revenue’s finance and HR requirements.
Baird joined Inland Revenue in April 2016 and is a member of an executive leadership team who embrace the integral part technology plays in their combined success. “It’s a positive environment where decisions to progress specific outcomes, accept or remediate risk are made jointly,” he says.
This executive representation means that all plans around technology are tightly integrated with the overall strategic goals for Inland Revenue.
He says this collaborative approach continues into other areas with several members of his technology leadership team joining the customer facing business leaders in their meetings and in key decision-making forums.
Baird and his team are leading the way in the move from a traditional, waterfall-style, heavily governed IT shop to embrace new ways of working, focusing on DevOps and agile methods with the customer at the centre.
Recent examples have seen the technology team seamlessly adopt best practices from DevOps, continuous testing, service emulation, service virtualisation, cloud, infrastructure as code, continuous integration, contract testing and the API marketplace.
Hackathons are a recent, well-received tool tackling specific issues and problems identified by IT teams and is proving a great way for cross-functional teams to work together to focus on areas for improvement.
“The DevOps and agile ways of working are giving our people training, tools and guidance to get things done in an engaging, cost and time effective way,” he says.
“Connecting with Inland Revenue at all levels on the role of technology is essential to the IT team” says Baird. “Our successful relationships across all areas of our business means that we are able to provide tailored services and respond quickly to business needs while educating people on the role of technology at Inland Revenue”.
There has been a great deal of interest from people throughout Inland Revenue in what’s been happening in the technology space.
Baird says that the launching of ‘ExperienceIT’ which is a roadshow programme designed to connect all Inland Revenue people with IT has been extremely popular.
“This direct and interactive delivery of information makes it easier for anyone to get the tools they need to be successful, and the knowledge on how to use them.”
Baird oversees and supports an increasingly diverse workforce. For example Inland Revenue’s ‘Women in IT’ group, continues to champion for an inclusive and supportive work environment. “We have 42 per cent women in IT (40 per cent in leadership), compared to the industry average of 17 per cent,” says Baird.
People development is also a priority for Baird and Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation Programme is providing many opportunities for personal growth.
“For my team, our transformation translates as innovation. This means new technologies, interesting projects and learning. All of which contributes to the future of Inland Revenue along with a progressive and stimulating environment to be part of.”