New software, online portal for state tax collection is rolling out

  • A screenshot of the new Granite Tax Connect system. NH DRA—Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 11/30/2019 5:06:59 PM

The ancient programming language COBOL is disappearing from the state’s servers and around 1,000 taxpayers have transitioned to the 21st century, as New Hampshire’s tax-collection system marks the first month of a long-anticipated computer system rollout.

“I’m not going to say there won’t be bumps in the road in the next few months, and as we go through the other rollouts, but it seems to be going well,” said Department of Revenue Administration Commissioner Lindsey Stepp. “We appreciate everyone’s support and patience.”

On Oct. 28 the DRA began the first stage of a three-stage rollout of a user portal and revenue-managing system that will replace a hodgepodge of systems, some of which date back 30 years and still use the outdated COBOL computer language.

“It’s challenging on a daily basis, since we’re operating on multiple systems. It can be challenging to get the full picture,” said Stepp.

This first rollout covers two small groups of taxpayers – those who pay Nursing Facility Quality Assessment and Medicaid Enhancement taxes – and one good-sized group, the businesses that pay the Meals and Rooms tax, including everything from mom-and-pop stores to national hotel chains.

The total group involves about 9,400 accounts around the state, said Stepp. “We have had just under 1,000 signed up for an account. That is increasing pretty steadily on a daily basis.”

Next October should see the big rollout, covering the Business Enterprise and Business Profits taxes, and the Dividend and Interest tax, each of which covers about 70,000 accounts. “There are a lot of folks anxiously awaiting that rollout,” Stepp said.

For now, however, the job is to work out kinks from what is known as Granite Tax Connect, which lets taxpayers file electronically, schedule payments, connect with the DRA and check on their account status. Right now, many of those tasks require making separate phone calls.

Meals & Rooms taxpayers must switch to the new system by Dec. 31.

So far, Stepp said, the biggest obstacle has been making sure people have the necessary information to start an account, including taxpayer identification numbers.

The DRA has been looking to update its revenue-collection system for at least half a decade. It updated the system which calculates and handles property tax payments, which are under the purview of towns and cities rather than the state, several years ago.

In 2017, the state approved a $30 million appropriation for the switchover, and on Halloween 2018 Gov. Sununu and the Executive Council approved a contract with Fast Enterprises, a Colorado IT firm that has installed similar systems in more than two dozen states, including Massachusetts.

Stepp said 30 people from Fast “moved here to New Hampshire and have been working in the building. We assigned 5 DRA staff full-time to the (transition), and over time added four DRA trainers and 23 DRA testers,” she said.

“For a department with just under 150 people, that’s quite an investment in time,” Stepp said.

The DRA collects more than $2 billion in tax revenue each year.

To find out more about Granite Tax Connect go to revenue.nh.gov/gtc or call NHDRA Taxpayer Services at 230-5920, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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