Friday, Oct 25, 2013
Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: Simplifying Government Services
Paying taxes and renewing vehicle registrations is a necessary part of American life for most of us, but rarely an enjoyable one. Governments should do what they can to at least make the process as simple as possible for its citizens. This is often easier said than done. However, Arkansas has made great technological strides in recent years to simplify both of these obligations.
Not long ago, our Department of Finance & Administration was processing taxes with 30 different computer systems. Those systems ran on aging mainframes, and some of the work still could only be done on paper. So, in my first year as governor, we devoted some of our surplus funds toward building a modern, streamlined system. The Arkansas Integrated Revenue System, or AIRS, was developed and implemented over five years, ending up on time and on budget.
AIRS automates the accounting of daily deposits, fund transfers and monthly State revenue distributions. Much of this information was previously processed manually, and the new system has greatly reduced the potential for errors. The system also gives DF&A employees more complete and up-to-date information to use when assisting taxpayers. All tax returns and payments are stored electronically and can be accessed immediately. AIRS also allows taxpayers to manage their tax accounts from their homes or offices.
This year, Arkansas has also rolled out the new Driver Services and Motor Vehicle System. Similar to AIRS, this system replaced technology that was more than 40 years old, difficult to use and expensive to maintain.
Nearly 1,000 public employees now utilize the system to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards, to support court hearings, and to administer driver sanctions and accident reporting. The system also permits Arkansans to voluntarily use their Driver’s License Number when registering a vehicle or renewing a motor vehicle license. This allows the system to match all vehicles owned by an individual. That means, for example, that you can now change your address for multiple vehicles and renew your driver’s license in a single transaction. Already, Arkansans have noticed a reduction in waiting time at revenue offices. There are also fewer errors committed related to their accounts.
The simplified operations of these systems come not just from new technology, but also from combining a multitude of smaller systems that haven’t always interacted well. In some instances, those old systems required hand-written ledgers to be continually maintained and stored in file cabinets. These new systems better serve our taxpayers, keep taxpayer information more secure and operate at greatly reduced costs.
These improvements are the latest in a growing list of technological advancements that Arkansas has made and that the nation has noticed. While many of these changes happen behind-the-scenes, they are investments of your taxpayer money that benefit you through shorter lines and a smaller chance for mistakes. While paying taxes and renewing your tags are necessary work, Arkansas is being recognized for the steps we’ve taken to make that work easier.