Local Post Offices must become the one-stop-shop for all Government services not only to minimise the risk of Covid-19 but to ensure that the 950 strong network does not collapse, says Denis Naughten TD.
“Since the emergence of Covid-19 last March access to many Government services has been restricted for those who don’t want to, or who cannot, use the online digital options but throughout the pandemic our post offices have remained open,” stated Denis Naughten.
In Dáil Éireann this week Denis Naughten will seek the Government’s direct intervention to develop new State services for the post office network, in line with a previous commitment given to use the Post Office network as the off-line option for all State services.
Denis Naughten went on to point out that “while we are hearing that we have to learn to live with Covid-19 there has been a failure to deliver alternative ways to engage with Government other than trying to force people to go online”.
He added: “This does not work for everybody. For example, you cannot renew your motor tax online unless you have an email address and this condition will be expanded across all online payments when the EU Payments Services Directive 2 is implemented by the end of this year, which is in just 73 days’ time.
“Surely older people and those currently offline have enough to contend with as a result of Covid-19 and Brexit without being excluded from Government services because they don’t have an email or cannot use technology?
“And while all online transactions are going to get more complicated, we have the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) together with Safeguarding Ireland calling on older people to take back and keep control of their own money, particularly if vulnerable.
“The fact is that two thirds of people who needed help from others to manage their money during the Covid-19 lockdown have not taken back control of their own finances and this will get even worse with Covid restrictions to Government office opening hours and the impending EU Payments Services Directive.
“Vulnerable people, those who don’t wish to or who cannot use technology and those who don’t use email would be able to maintain their independence if these services were available through their local post office. This would also save the taxpayer a considerable amount as those staff involved in these mundane administrative paper processes could be redeployed into urgently needed contact tracing.
“It would also eliminate costly paper-based notices and transactions as outlined in a case study which I published previously on the roll out of property tax. I hope that Government will support the Private Members Motion tabled by the Regional TDs in Dáil Éireann which calls for decisive action to support rural communities, vulnerable people and our vital post office network,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Details of the EU Payments Services Directive 2:
MOTOR TAX RENEWAL
Dear Deputy Naughton
I refer your correspondence regarding the requirement for inclusion of an email address when taxing a vehicle online, and the difficulty this is causing a constituent of yours.
Motor tax services are currently provided through the Departments online service, and via local motor tax offices. With regard to the online service, the inclusion of an email as part of the transaction has been made mandatory. The email address itself is used to send an electronic confirmation of the transaction to the vehicle owner for their records, and is used to send the vehicle owner their next motor tax reminder notification electronically when their motor tax falls due. The Department traditionally issued over 4.5 million of such motor tax renewal notices annually by paper involving significant operational costs. The unit cost of posting such a document has increased year on year over the past five years due to significant An Post increases and this has resulted in the issuance of the paper document becoming unstainable. Transfer to electronic reminders has significantly reduced costs associated with the paper based system. In practical terms motorists who use the online service to pay tax receive the tax reminder and the online PIN through electronic means rather than a posted notice thereby completing the overall transaction electronically. The Department complement this with offline services through the post or by personal appearance at motor tax offices.
In addition, the impending introduction of the EU Payments Services Directive 2 Regulatory Technical Standards (PSD2 RTS) will require Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) to be used for all electronic transactions, and will have profound implications for how online service providers handle online transactions. The requirement ensures that electronic payments are performed with multi-factor authentication, to increase the security of electronic payments. This requires all online service providers to capture additional transaction information (including e-mail address) and send to the cardholder’s bank. The banks will use this data to verify the cardholder. The aim of the directive is to reduce online fraud and increase cardholder confidence in using online services. The introduction of mandatory email is the first step in the Department having its implementation plan in place for later this year, when the Directive comes into force. This additional data, in conjunction with other data that is currently sent to the cardholders bank as part of their online transaction may help in the transaction being processed as it is done so at present, and without any additional requirements being made on the cardholder.
An Roinn Iompair, Turasóireachta agus Spóirt
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Lána Líosain, Baile Átha Cliath, D02 TR60
Leeson Lane, Dublin, D02 TR60
Local Property Tax Costs:
Over €1/2m could be saved by operating property tax through post offices
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.
Dail reply on cost of maintaining paper based systems:
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
- 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.