With lock box, paperless tax payments may be next


Paper still rules when it comes to taxes.

At least that appeared to be the case yesterday as a steady stream of taxpayers waited in the cool of the City Hall Annex, clutching the tax bills they received the week before.

City Tax Collector and Assessor Kenneth Mallette has seen it before – people want hard proof they’ve paid and nothing will substitute for a receipt.

“This is the annual line of the first day of paying the motor vehicle tax. We’ll handle it as best we can,” he said.

He said additional staff has been assigned to man the counters, but behind the scene changes promise to do even more to expedite tax processing and give department staff time to address issues raised by individuals.

For those people using the addressed envelopes provided with their tax statement, tax payments are starting to flow into a “lock-box,” rather than being delivered directly to the city.

So far, Mallette said, several hundred thousand dollars in payments have been processed through the lock box. Payments received are deposited in the city’s account that day and taxpayers can expect to see a corresponding withdrawal from their accounts within two days. He said his office meets weekly with Citizens Bank and Fidelity to review the mechanism and address any problems. The city contracted with Citizens for the service, which Fidelity is actually providing.

Fidelity provides the city with an electronic file of the payments and the control numbers of the taxpayers making them. The city then electronically applies those payments to its records, completing the “paperless” process.

Mallette says the city is laying the groundwork for a completely paperless process that would enable taxpayers to make payments online and the transaction being completed instantly. Presently, even though taxpayers are making online payments through their banks, the bank still cuts a check that is sent to the lock box operation in Boston. That is even the case with Citizens Bank, which the city uses.

Mallette said the city is on the path, “to no more paper pushing,” with payments being made electronically and, in turn, the city receiving an electronic file of all payments.

Mallette also said the city is issuing new bills for those senior citizens who failed to receive their exemption on their real estate bill.

“This was just a calculation thing that happened with the new system,” Mallette said.

What happened in some cases involving spouses who are both entitled to exemptions is that a $6,000 exemption was applied to the motor vehicle bill. As the computer program keyed on the name on the motor vehicle bill, if the first name on the real estate bill was the same, it didn’t apply the exemption of the spouse on the real estate bill. That exemption amounts to $12,000.

Asked why the exemption does not appear on the motor vehicle bill of seniors qualified for the exemption, Mallette said there wasn’t the space on the bill. Nonetheless, the exemption is reflected in the payment that can be seen by comparing the tax on the vehicle and the actual amount due.

Mallette urged seniors who have not received their exemptions to contact the office so that they will be issued corrected bills. He said the first quarterly payment should be made as the bill was issued and that future quarterly payments would be adjusted to account for the full exemption.

As for the line yesterday morning, Mallette said, “They are mostly seniors who don’t trust me. They want a piece of paper in their hand, which is fine.”

The first quarterly payment is due July 15. Those choosing to make the payment in full have until Sept. 15.

Those taxpayers with motor vehicle tax bills of $75 or less have until Sept. 15 to pay the full amount even though the amount is shown on the first quarterly payment stub due July 15.

Mallette said tax bills have been that way for years. This year, however, to add to the confusion, the bill reads payment in full is due Sept. 15, 2014. In fact, they are due Sept. 15, 2013.


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