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Taxpayers get a smarter and fairer system

May 16, 2019

One of the biggest IT projects ever undertaken in the state sector has successfully passed its latest hurdle with the transition of more than 19.7 million taxpayer accounts from one Inland Revenue computer system to another.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash is congratulating staff and the external agencies, including banks and ICT companies, who worked on the project known as Business Transformation Release 3.

“We are committed to ensuring our tax system is fair. That also requires us to ensure it is administered fairly through Inland Revenue’s own processes”, Mr Nash says.

“The department had to close its call centre and online presence over the Easter and ANZAC break to enable it to happen. A lot could have gone wrong. But instead, everything appears to have gone right.

“Every single taxpayer account for Income Tax and Working for Families was migrated from the legacy computer system to the new system, known as START. It involved a mind-boggling number of transactions and processes.

“The system went live on Friday and has been tested in the real-world environment over the past few days. For example, this week it processed $33 million in Working for Families payments for 161,000 customers.

“The new system will continue to be tested in the coming weeks and extra staff have been brought in to handle customer questions. It is still early days and there are likely to be bumps along the way. However, IR assures me it has plans in place and will be ready to respond.

“The short-term inconvenience to customers while they get used to the new system is more than offset by the significance of the changes. Every taxpayer affected will now have their account managed in a smarter, fairer and more efficient way.

“Too many people have been paying the wrong secondary tax. IR’s technology will now be smart enough to spot if someone is overpaying tax and help them correct it with a tailored tax code. It will make a big difference for those with more than one job or an irregular income.

“It also allows for automatic tax assessments. From late-May to mid-July, salary and wage earners will find out if they have a refund owing or a bill to pay. About 1.65 million customers will be told they have a refund.

“If this year is anything like 2018, an estimated $860 million will be refunded straight into people’s bank accounts.

“Around 330,000 families receiving Working for Families support will receive more accurate payments during the year. This means they get the assistance when they need it and have less chance of a debt to repay at the end of the year.

“All tax revenue is now administered in the new system, after GST, withholding taxes, fringe benefit taxes and others were migrated in the past two years. Other systems administered by IR, including student loans, KiwiSaver and child support, will be migrated in the next two years.

Mr Nash says the Business Transformation Release 3 project has involved the biggest changes to the tax system in two decades:

  • Two million customers were contacted in advance
  • 3,600 staff received special training
  • 92,300 tests were completed beforehand
  • 19.7 million accounts were migrated to the new system
  • Records of 100 million transactions were migrated
  • 8.3 million web account logons were updated
  • More than 1,100 separate tasks were completed to cut-over the systems
  • A core team of 271 people worked over the holiday weekend with support from a further 50 people for distinct processes
  • A significant volume of pizza and chocolate was consumed by the team involved

Find out more about Inland Revenue’s changes at www.changingforyou.ird.govt.nz