New Hampshire Boosts Revenue With Intelligence, Integration, and Data Integrity
The charter of the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) is to collect the proper amount of taxes due, incurring the least cost to the taxpayers. The DRA manages tax collection for 253 state municipalities, sets the tax rates, and oversees the statewide property tax system.
It’s a large, non-stop operation, yet for Commissioner Kevin Clougherty and his staff, the biggest challenge isn’t just managing the collection of revenue, but managing information. With a vast array of accounting and billing systems, his department was having a difficult time capturing, reporting, and analyzing taxpayer data – let alone making revenue projections. A technology environment that did not permit flexible reporting and analysis stymied the DRA.
“New Hampshire is one of just a few states that requests its department of revenue to estimate revenue, yet our agency lacked adequate tools for analyzing historical trends and conducting future planning,” said Margaret Fulton, assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire DRA. “We had no way to tell precisely where the money came from because our information systems didn’t provide the data that we needed in a user-friendly way.”
Other states have implemented packaged revenue management systems to replace their tax management systems, but the costs are prohibitive, ranging from $40 million to $100 million for the software licenses, consulting services, and associated hardware. A large portion of the budget in these projects is devoted to data architecture: either figuring out how to access disparate information and put it into a usable format, or migrating old data to a new computing platform.
After learning about Information Builders’ solutions for business intelligence (BI), integration, and data integrity, Clougherty and his team were convinced that the New Hampshire DRA could achieve its information management objectives for a fraction of the cost of other states – provided it could gain direct visibility into existing DB2 data on an IBM iSeries Power 6 system. He also knew that better reporting and statistical analysis capabilities would enable the state to get a better handle on taxpayer filing status, examine patterns and trends that correspond with revenue, estimate the impact of new taxes and fees, and assess the net effect of new tax legislation.
A Cost-Effective Alternative
Clougherty petitioned the state legislature for $7 million to upgrade the department’s information systems to meet current requirements. In addition to new technology and tools for BI, data integration, data quality, and statistical analysis, the money would cover the creation of and/or upgrading the department’s telecommunications system, data imaging and electronic remittance systems, mail extraction systems, database design capabilities, geographic information systems (GIS), business process management (BPM) capabilities, and other key IT functions.
New Hampshire DRA received the green light from the legislature and the “Granite to Green” modernization program was born. One of the initial and most beneficial aspects of this program is the Single View of the Taxpayer application. The popular dashboard-driven BI environment leverages the WebFOCUS BI platform and iWay Software integration and data quality technologies from Information Builders. These products and associated services – which only required about 10 percent of the $7 million budget – permit DRA to continue using its legacy applications to process data on the iSeries Power 6, yet put a new face on those applications for data retrieval, reporting, and analysis.
“Information Builders’ technology enables us to create new dashboards and reports to access the native DB2 data directly, while also addressing the critical issues of data quality that are essential to our single view of the taxpayer concept,” says Brian Pace, director of Project Management at New Hampshire DRA.
New Hampshire DRA now has WebFOCUS dashboards in production with custom views for the various divisions: Document Processing, Central Taxpayer Services, Administration, Audit, and Collections. A variety of WebFOCUS Active Technology dashboards are being developed to enhance the department’s ability to assimilate and analyze various metrics.
Authorized users can drill down based on their needs and security clearances. Each dashboard hosts a BI application called Single View of the Taxpayer, along with favorite links, documents, and parameterized reports relevant to the business activities of that division. They simply enter a taxpayer name, identification number, or key word in the search field. Then they can drill down into the results to open new windows that contain related information, such as taxpayer address, outstanding tax notices, and relationships with other taxpayers in the system. They can also analyze the detailed data underlying each backend system to retrieve details about the various types of taxes owed.
Standard reports list outstanding tax notices and variations, liens and lien variations, taxpayers who have filed for bankruptcy, and expiring meals and rentals (M&R) licenses. Several tax revenue reports are run and distributed by WebFOCUS ReportCaster on a regular basis. A variety of operational reports are in production, while new administrative reports are in development, along with some Reporting Objects for users to query with WebFOCUS InfoAssist – an end-user reporting tool that lets people extend the dashboard functionality without the IT department needing to get involved.
Improving Data Quality and Analysis
Pace describes the WebFOCUS dashboard as “an octopus with tentacles reaching into all of the different information systems.” It draws information from a COBOL application called the Taxpayer Information Management System, along with several Microsoft .NET applications that handle various revenue functions. Most DRA data is stored in DB2 on the iSeries Power 6, with additional data in Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
In a related project, the department is using iWay Integration solutions to unify its FairFax Document Imaging System and the iSeries Power 6. Data exits FairFax in XML format. iWay listens for updates, performs some validation, transforms the data to DB2, and updates the iSeries database. Plans are underway to integrate the retrieval of document images via the Single View of the Taxpayer application.
“Information Builders provides native data adapters to connect all of our information systems to the WebFOCUS dashboards,” Pace says. “iWay can transpose all of these data types into one master data source.”
iWay Integrity tools address data quality and master data management issues by creating a master view of taxpayer data. For example, a taxpayer might be listed by three different names (John Smith, Jonathan Smith, and John W. Smith) as well as by a taxpayer ID. With iWay Data Quality, DRA can edit, match, and merge the data and provide a consistent set of master tables to make sure each taxpayer is addressed consistently in all DRA systems.
Meanwhile, DRA is getting ready to launch the “Mosaic” project, the first sustainable, statewide GIS system in U.S. The department plans to leverage iWay to integrate Mosaic with the Single View of the Taxpayer application. According to Pace, having an integrated GIS component will enable the discovery of additional revenue opportunities and provide a visual component that is often more compelling than statistical elements. Examples would include real estate transfers of vacation properties, such as those surrounding lakes or ski resorts, and improving disaster preparedness and response. “This cross-sharing of information makes everyone more efficient in handling taxpayers throughout the department,” Pace explains.
On another front, DRA plans to use the R statistical modeling language in conjunction with WebFOCUS RStat to develop new analytic applications for forecasting, modeling, and regression analysis. “The goal is to more precisely identify how various economic factors impact revenue projects,” Pace continues. “We intend to leverage Information Builders’ statistical modeling tools to determine how unemployment statistics, the rate of inflation, movements in the S&P 500, and other factors figure into the department’s projections.”
When legislators have questions about the impact of these variables on tax revenue or are considering changing existing tax codes, DRA can use predictive analytics to provide that information in a matter of hours. The department will also be able to use the BI tools to obtain a cumulative view of accounts receivables and aging summaries, so they can forecast how much revenue they expect to collect in the next 30 days, 90 days, and so on. This is extremely important when developing projections for the state legislature.
These extensive development projects have proceeded on schedule despite massive staffing cuts, which reduced department positions by 43 percent. Clougherty attributes this level of productivity, in part, to the high degree of automation achieved with Information Builders’ technologies.
“The BI tools let us look across all of these silos to gather information about an individual taxpayer or a group of taxpayers, such as people in a particular profession or region for audit purposes,” Clougherty concludes. “Having this insight helps us judge the economic vitality of the state and the practicality of the taxes. Our entire infrastructure is evolving, and the cost is minimal compared to what other states are paying for similar revenue-management and reporting capabilities.
“For a relatively small investment we are making it a lot easier for New Hampshire citizens to interact with their state. As with any undertaking of this complexity, there is plenty that still needs to be done. However, at this point in the process we are well underway towards achieving our goals.”