An Post must help those without internet access to save money while supporting post offices -Naughten

In South Roscommon by Denis Naughten

ATTXGP7KOver €1/2m could be saved by operating property tax through post offices

Denis Naughten TD has called on An Post to improve its services for those who are losing money because they cannot access the internet.

“It has been revealed today that those who are off line because they don’t have decent internet access or who are not IT literate are losing up to €400/year in additional charges,” explained Denis Naughten.

“Rather than ignoring the issue, An Post should be meeting this challenge head-on. An Post could set up an alternative system where banks or utility companies could e-mail their customers’ statements directly to An Post, through the use of secure e-mail, and An Post could then assume responsibility for printing and posting the statements directly to the customer at a fraction of the current cost involved. This would help to reduce costs for those who cannot avail of online billing.

 “Such a service could also be expanded into an e-invoicing sector where An Post could provide this back office support to many small and medium sized businesses who do not have access to such services. This would help to stem the reduction in the An Post letter post operation while also improving the efficiency of smaller businesses where cash flow is so important.”

He added: “However it is not just individuals and companies who can benefit, as the State itself could save significant amounts of money by operating services via An Post. For example, it has been revealed that well in excess of €1/2m could have been saved on the paper based aspect of the Local Property Tax (LPT) if the local sub post office network was used to support its establishment.

“The Revenue Commissioners spent over €500.000 establishing a paper based system of returning the LPT, which could more cost effectively have utilised the post office network, where each local sub post office has the same IT system as the GPO in Dublin. This would not only support the viability of smaller post offices but also provide a far more user friendly interface for homeowners.

“Every year Government agencies and departments are wasting millions of euro maintaining paper based systems for those who do not have access to online services. However, rather than each agency having to maintain such system, the sub post office network could operate this and ensure that electronic returns are made to Government Departments & its agencies.

“Not only would such an automated system lead to far less errors or fraud, it would also provide a far better interface for those who have difficulty filling out such forms and push more business through An Post.

“We see in just one small area that Revenue has incurred great expense having to handle the paper based LPT returns and this is just one very small aspect of the issue across the whole of Government.

“So rather than lamenting the loss of letter post, An Post could provide an enhanced service which would curb the annual reduction in letters while also providing a much needed service to those who are off line,” concluded Denis Naughten.


Dail reply on cost of maintaining paper based systems:

Tuesday, 16 December 2014 

Denis Naughten 

210. To ask the Minister for Finance the cost of establishing and maintaining the paper based local property tax system; the potential savings of a fully automated system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47915/14 

Michael Noonan (Minister, Department of Finance; Limerick City, Fine Gael) 

I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the introduction of Local Property Tax (LPT) was the largest extension of the self-assessment system in the history of the State, with a customer base of over 1.3 million property owners.

With regard to the Deputy’s request for the cost of establishing and maintaining the paper based LPT system, the Commissioners have confirmed that the paper based aspect of the LPT system is so integrated with the rest of the LPT system that it is not possible to provide a disaggregated figure for the Deputy.  Most of the costs – namely IT developments, salaries, outsourced contact centre, advertising, printed material and postage – incurred in establishing and maintaining the LPT system would have been incurred regardless of whether dual paper and online systems were developed and operated.  

I am further informed, however, that certain charges can be specifically attributed to the paper based system and these relate primarily to the production of the 2013 paper LPT1 form, the 2014 LPT1A (Payment Instruction) form, the scanning by an out-sourced third party (Billpost, a subsidiary of An Post) of paper forms submitted by property owners and the processing of cheques submitted with these forms. The Commissioners have confirmed that these costs amounted to approximately €520,000 for 2013.  I am advised that relevant costs for 2014 are not yet available but are likely to be significantly less than the 2013 figures, as will be seen from the figures below.  

In Revenue’s public information campaign, the online filing option has been strongly promoted as the easiest way to file and pay and the success of this campaign is reflected in the number of owners who are using the online LPT facility on the Revenue website.  In addition, the Deputy will be aware that any person who owns two or more properties is obliged to file electronically and Revenue provides a telephone based e-filing service for those property owners who do not have the capacity to file electronically themselves.  I am informed that 77% of all LPT returns for 2013 were filed using the online LPT filing system and the balance of 23% were paper returns. For 2014, about 90% of those who were required to select a payment method completed their transaction online and the indications for 2015 payments so far are consistent with this figure.

While it is stated Government policy to move to online service provision, in view of the range of property owners who may not be currently “e” enabled and need the paper filing option to make their LPT Return and payment, I would not be in favour of moving to a fully automated LPT system at this point in time.