The Department has been enhancing its efficiency, productivity and quality of services through strategic use of advanced information technology (IT) and promotion of electronic services.
During the year, the Department continued to employ various Information Systems to enhance productivity and service quality. With the Assess-First-Audit-Later System in place, the Department automated the assessment work and achieved manpower saving and improved efficiency. Investigation works are also facilitated through the use of large database and advanced analysis tools. With extensive utilisation of the Document Management System and Workflow Management System, the management, control and monitoring of documents, files and workflows are enhanced, thus strengthening our efficiency and accountability, ensuring our overall service quality and improving our responsiveness to public requests.
The Department has a well-developed network of over 2,600 workstations that supports a computerised and paperless working environment. By using the network facilities, the staff can perform on-line enquiries and updating transactions, process assessments and work tasks allocated to them by the Workflow Management System. They can also have convenient access to the Document Management System to view the images of tax returns and other documents, or to the General Enquiry Knowledge Database for quick access to information and answers for enquiries. The network has greatly improved the efficiency of our day-to-day operations and the handling of general enquiries. To enhance operational efficiency and further reduce paper consumption, e-mail facilities and access to the Internet are provided to all staff of the Department.
During the year, the Department continued to provide a wide range of electronic services to the public and introduce convenient features to meet users' need.
The electronic tax return filing service has been further improved with enhanced functions such as "Pre-filling of data", "Estimated salaries tax computation", etc. These convenient features make the filing process easier and simpler, and facilitate early planning for tax payment by computing the taxpayer's estimated salaries tax payable immediately upon the return submission.
Our continuous efforts made to develop more user-friendly features have increased the popularity of our e-services. The overall usage of the Department's e-services has increased remarkably. In particular, e-filing in the year has increased by 29% to about 143,000 cases, e-stamping by 83% to nearly 302,000 transactions and e-applications for supply of information on Business Register by 23% to about 63,000 applications. Interactive tax enquiries and requests for related documents have also risen by 95% to nearly 73,000.
The provision of free software developed by the Department to employers for preparation and submission of annual returns in respect of employee's emoluments continued to attract more employers to use electronic means for filing returns. During the year, some 47,300 employers furnished electronic returns for about 2,470,000 employees. 35,100 of these employers used the free software provided by the Department.
To strive for excellence in service quality and to align with the New Wave of e-Government strategy, the Department launched the eTAX this year, marking a milestone in our e-services. This initiative allows taxpayers to have access to a complete range of e-services through the one stop access portal of GovHK. It facilitates taxpayers to comply with their tax obligations through an easy, secure and environment-friendly channel.
The first phase of services was launched on 19 January 2008, re-provisioning all the services previously provided under the Electronic Service Delivery Scheme to the new platform, as well as launching new e-services to the public. Taxpayers can view their account profile, check the status of tax return, assessment and payment as well as notify changes in personal and business particulars. They can also enjoy other on-line services for stamping of property document, business registration and payment. These personalised on-line tax services enable taxpayers to keep track of their tax position, manage their tax affairs and communicate with the Department more conveniently anytime anywhere. Besides, eTAX Account holders may choose to receive notices and documents related to tax return filing, assessment and tax payment in the form of electronic records instead of paper. This enables them to manage their tax records in an environment-friendly manner.
The scope of eTAX services will be expanded by phases. More new services are launching in the year 2008, including issuing of e-Returns, e-Assessment notices, e-Reminders for outstanding tax, e-Receipts for tax payments, etc. eTAX Account holders will be given e-Alert messages before the due date for filing tax returns and tax payments, which facilitate them to comply with their tax obligation. Through the new platform, taxpayers may also file tax returns electronically and obtain instant estimation of salaries tax payable, as well as lodge objection against tax assessment, application for holding over of provisional tax, etc.