State takes first steps towards streamlining tax payment

Newsroom 30/05/2011 | 11:51

Since the beginning of the year, the state – in the form of its ministries or local public administrations – has announced a couple of measures to streamline the tax payment process and free citizens of the burden of queuing to pay their taxes. BR reviews these recent developments.

 By Otilia Haraga

 At the end of March, the Ministry of Communications announced the launch of Ghiseul.ro, the National System of Electronic Tax Payment via bank card (SNEP).

“The system is very easy for any local administration to implement,” said the minister of communications, Valerian Vreme, at the time. “We conceived and developed Ghiseul.ro so that by next year all Romanian citizens can access its services. For this, city halls need just to enroll in the system of their own free will or at the request of the citizens they represent,” added the minister.

However, the launch of the website did not go without a hitch. Shortly after it went live, bloggers and media reported that the system leaked sensitive taxpayer data. Information such as names, personal user codes and sums paid were available to other taxpayers who were able to see the user’s payment receipt. The ministry later responded to the complaints and fixed the situation.

Government Decision 1235, which approved the SNEP, states that public institutions that collect taxes must register in the system according to a certain schedule, Andreea Stoleru, spokesperson for the Ministry of Communications, told BR.

The first stage is that all counties and cities with a population higher than 150,000 inhabitants must enroll in the system within seven months of the government decision coming into force.

In the second stage, municipalities and cities with a population of up to 150,000 inhabitants must enroll within five months of the end of the first stage, but no later than a year from the original decision becoming effective.

The third stage is the registration of the localities and public institutions that did not sign up in the previous two stages. Enrollment should be done within six months of the end of the second stage but no later than 18 months after the decision came into force.

The Ministry of Communications has the job of making sure the timeline is respected.

“Following our discussions with various mayors around the country, their interest in using SNEP- Ghiseul.ro in the cities they administer has been confirmed and they assured us that they will enroll within the deadline. The inhabitants of these cities will be able to pay their taxes in comfort and no longer have to endure the stress of wasting time in interminable queues or dealing with the inherent problems of the system they have been used to. Equally, city halls will collect the taxes on time and get a financial update in real time,” said the minister of communications.

If a public institutions that should enroll in the second stage wishes to sign up earlier, it can do so by accelerating the enrollment process. The early adopters are inhabitants of Bucharest sectors 2 and 6, as well as people living in the city of Targu Mures.

“The public institutions in these places were chosen because they fulfilled enrollment criteria and submitted the first enrollment requests,” said Stoleru. One week ago it was announced that several other cities were in the process of enrolling in the program: Arad, Baia Mare, Brasov and Zalau.

“Between March 30 and now, a total of 814 payments were made using this system. The website Ghiseul.ro was accessed by more than 40,000 unique users. We estimate that Ghiseul.ro will soon cover more than 1 million Romanians,” added Stoleru.

The system was provided to the Romanian state free of charge by the Association of Electronic Payments in Romania (APERO). “Let us not forget that many Romanians who live abroad had to come to Romania to pay their taxes. And a person who owned an apartment in Bucharest but also their childhood home in Sighisoara had to go to both places, which are a long way apart, to pay these taxes,” said Adrian Apolzan, president of APERO.

Ghiseul.ro is part of the eRomania project, an overall portal aimed at modernizing the state and improving relations between it and its citizens. The value of the eRomania project is EUR 500 million to be spent by 2013.

Just this month, the System of Intelligent Info-Kiosks for unattended POS (point-of-sale) tax payment by card entered a new development stage. The project was initiated in 2009 by the sector 6 Public Service for Local Public Finances, after being developed in partnership with Piraeus Bank Romania, which implemented the card payment technology, and Printec Group Romania, which supplied the technical solution.

The second development stage of the project means that people living in Bucharest’s sector 6 will be able to pay their traffic fines at machines from now on. There is a 50 percent reduction if the fine is paid within 48 hours.

The program is based on technology that is widespread in the western part of the European Union, called the Technology of Unattended Payments. With a bank card or cash, it involves a specialized terminal via which the user interacts directly with the necessary information in a self-service regime.

The project is currently unique in Romania. The payment procedure requires the authentication of the user whose ID card is scanned. Payment is made under the various categories such as taxes or fines. For this, the system inter-connects with the tax payment application used by SPFPL sector 6.

The project started with eight POS devices located in key commercial areas in sector 6, AFI Palace Cotroceni, Plaza Romania, Cora Militari, Metro, Auchan Militari, Selgros Drumul Taberei and Crangasi commercial center. Another four POS devices were installed in areas with intense traffic.

The total value of the project since it was put into place in 2009 is EUR 150,000, which was paid by the sector 6 City Hall. The first stage of the project cost EUR 100,000, after which an additional EUR 50,000 was required when the other four devices were put into place.

Since the system was installed in 2009, there have been more than 6,500 payments reaching more than EUR 125,000, which represents approximately 20 percent of the total sums collected from card payments. Some 15,500 people have used the system.

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