Hamilton Finance Director Dave Jones has recommended the city discontinue using city of Cleveland employees as its income-tax staffer and instead switch to an organization called Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA).
The switch, to take effect at the start of next year, will allow better customer service through technology than offered by the Cleveland-run “Central Collection Agency,” which has employees in Hamilton’s city-government tower, Jones recently told City Council.
“The reason we’re switching, basically, is technology,” Jones said. “I’ve been doing taxes in some way, shape, form or fashion for 30 years, back into the ‘90s, when people brought boxes in.”
“Now, they come in, and they show you a cellphone,” he said. “And every employer’s got an app, and there’s a W-2 (income) form on that app, and that’s how you file the tax return.”
“Unfortunately, our current service provider has not progressed with technology,” he said. “RITA is by far superior with their technology, website.”
When tax professionals walk through all the steps of filing tax returns electronically, “the federal return will pop up, your state return will pop up, if you live in a school district that has an income tax, it will pop up.”
But with the CCA, it ends there. Instead of filing electronically, “you have to print, staple the W-2s, and turn that over for the person to file their municipal return.”
RITA partners with several e-return providers, so its returns pop up, just like the electronic federal and state ones. The switch also will allow local residents and businesses to have their local taxes filed electronically by the tax-preparers, Jones said. “And then you get an acknowledgment back from RITA that it was accepted.”
An official with the CCA did not return a call for comment.
The city paid CCA $583,000 last year for its service.
With the new system, there still will be a person who works with people on their taxes. The employees will be able to log on to a RITA website and see up-to-date payment information, as well as file returns for people.
“The difference with RITA compared with the city of Cleveland is that each member has a vote,” Jones said. “We do have a say in the governance of RITA.”
RITA was formed in 1971 when three dozen local governments united to collect income taxes. Among local communities already using RITA are Oxford, Eaton, Harrison, Milford, Mount Healthy and North College Hill.
“Currently, with CCA, we’re governed by the city of Cleveland’s finance department,” Jones said.
The legislation to make the change will appear on an upcoming council agenda.
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