JIS News

Manager of the Tax Administration’s newly opened Customer Care Centre, Samantha Myers, says there has been an overwhelming response from taxpayers, with the centre receiving over 2,000 calls since it opened on April 1.
The Centre, which operates out of the May Pen Inland Revenue Department, in Clarendon offers an outbound and inbound service.
Customers use the inbound service to make queries, as well as to request services remotely, for example, basic transactions such as change of address and verification of status of requests. The centre also assists with filling in forms for all tax types.
The outbound component has a twin focus. One is a Courtesy Reminder Service. The other is the first tier compliance measure.
The Courtesy Reminder Service will remind taxpayers of upcoming tax obligations, to avoid incurring penalties and interests which automatically accrue upon missing a due date. The other outbound service is for contacting taxpayers who have recently become delinquent, to get them to regularise their accounts in the shortest possible time.
Miss Myers says that, in addition to the 2,000 calls the Centre has received so far, it has also responded to approximately 100 emails. The outbound section has contacted over 4,500 customers, about 2,000 of them with courtesy reminders and the others for compliance activities.
She explains that issues taxpayers call about depend on the tax period.
“Currently most of the queries would be related to the budget presentation and the new tax measures. Before, it was property tax,” she tells JIS News.
She says queries regarding motor vehicle taxes are also regularly received by the centre.
The Customer Care Centre caters to all taxpayers in Jamaica and abroad, and is expected to reduce traffic to the island’s tax offices.
“We are driving the use of e-transactions, which will see less persons going in to pay the traffic fines and property taxes, so we expect to see less persons going into the tax offices to do simple transactions,” she says.
Persons can log on to the Tax Administration’s website and make payments using their credit cards. They can also request the assistance of a customer service agent to complete the transactions.
The Customer Care Centre replaces the previous TAX-HELP service which, Miss Myers tells JIS News, had become inadequate and needed some modification to meet the increasing demand for tax information from the Tax Administration’s customers.
“With the assistance of better technology, we are now better positioned to deliver to our taxpayers the information and the level of service that is needed to enhance voluntary compliance, which is what our main aim is,” she notes.
In his budget presentation on April 23, Finance Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, outlined measures the Government would be taking to reform the country’s tax system, ensuring Jamaica has a tax system that is simple, fair and equitable, in order to increase levels of compliance.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr. Shaw said that the Collectorates across the island are being made more efficient and customer friendly, and paying taxes should not be a physical burden, nor should it result in loss of time and productive energy.
He also disclosed that more than 200,000 persons were not declaring income taxes.
Miss Myers outlines that the Customer Care Centre fits into the Government’s overall plan to increase tax compliance, and is working hard to change attitudes toward paying taxes.
“We want to change the perception of how collection is viewed. We want to go back to the old days when persons wanted to deal with our Collectorates. We want them to come in and feel as if the environment is comfortable enough for them to pay their taxes without force,” she says.
As part of its drive to improve its relationship with customers, the Tax Administration plans to introduce state-of-the-art Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, within the next six months, that will provide a wide range of automated services to the public.
Miss Myers explains that the CRM will give “a 360 degree view of our taxpayers, allowing us to be proactive about customer service and compliance.”
“We will be able to manage customer interaction more efficiently, as we will be using state-of-the-art technology to measure productivity and to manage our call flow,” she said.
She added that the technology will allow the Centre to look at ring time, talk time and wait time. In addition, the software will also allow the Centre to identify peak periods, during which most of the calls are received, and schedule staff accordingly.
“So we see this software just changing the direction of how taxpayers are treated, as well as how calls and customer relations are handled,” Miss Myers adds.
The Centre has already introduced a database manager, which will standardise the responses given to customers.
“So, if a taxpayer calls and speaks to three different agents, they will get the same response, as the information will be stored in a database,” Miss Myers tells JIS News.
The Centre also plans to introduce a shift system in order to increase the opening hours of the Centre. The Centre currently offers service between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays. But, there are plans to move this to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Miss Myers says a 24-hour interactive voice response system is also to be introduced, so that customers can make simple queries, even when the centre is closed.
In another year, the Tax Administration plans to divert all calls from the tax offices to the Customer Care Centre.
“That will allow taxpayers to get consistency in the level of service that is provided by the Tax Administration,” she states.
Currently, there are 15 persons employed to the Customer Care Centre, five in the inbound section and 10 in the outbound section.
Miss Myers explains that these agents have been trained to deliver the highest level of customer service, noting that the Centre’s main aim is to “delight and exceed our customers’ expectations.”
“We answer our phones by the first ring and we hear customers. They are actually surprised that this is happening in Government. The agents are using standard scripts. Training, as it relates to customer service, is ongoing and, as such, the experience that the customers will have calling the Customer Care Centre is an improvement to what was happening before,” boasts Miss Myers.
She says customers have been calling and commending the Centre and the Tax Administration, in general, for the level of customer service. She also notes that though figures are not readily available, there has been an increase in the number of persons paying their taxes since the Centre opened.
The Customer Care Centre can be reached at 1-888-TAX-HELP, from Jamaica; on 1-888-GO-JA-TAX from the United States of America; or by email at taxhelp@tasd.gov.jm.

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