The Department of Revenue Services may not be the most popular wing of state government, but Commissioner Scott Jackson wants to ensure it's one of the most responsive.
"Our first goal is customer service," Jackson told members of CBIA's Taxation and Finance Committee Jan. 28.
"Our department has several hundred of the best tax experts in the state of Connecticut."
Jackson said his role is to ensure those experts are working for the people who pay their salaries.
"We want to make sure we are responsive to all taxpayers—individuals, corporations, out-of-state taxpayers—wherever you may be.
"We need to listen to constituents, and integrate our services with the needs of those who are receiving them."
DRS collected $19.5 billion in state taxes last fiscal year, a 17% increase over the previous year. The personal income (including pass-through entities), sales and use, and corporation business taxes represent 83% of all tax collections.
Adopting Best Practices
Jackson, who took over as tax commissioner last June after serving as state labor commissioner, said he wants to study how other states collect taxes.
"What are the best practices that we can adopt and incorporate?" he asked.
He said he's been in contact with officials in Massachusetts, where marijuana is sold legally and taxed, because it seems likely Connecticut lawmakers will legalize recreational use of the drug.
But since legal marijuana is a cash only business, Jackson said Connecticut is not ready to handle the tax receipts.
"If we are going to extract a [marijuana] tax, we need to be prepared to handle it in cash, and we are not," he said.
"We need a bank facility secure enough to handle a lot of cash."
Computer System Overhaul
Jackson recalled an issue he had with federal taxes that warranted a phone call to the IRS.
He called from his car on the way home from work and was put on hold. He remained on hold while making and eating dinner, and all throughout a parent-teacher conference at his child's school.
It wasn't until he got home, about four hours after placing the call, that he talked to a representative.
"I don't like that and I don't want that," Jackson said.
DRS is replacing its core computer system to improve efficiency and customer service, a process that will take several years and cost millions of dollars.
"But the quality of the information we are providing is important, too, and if we aren't giving people the information they want, it doesn't matter how quickly we answer the phone," Jackson said.
DRS is replacing its core computer system to improve efficiency and customer service, a process that will take several years and cost millions of dollars, Jackson said.
Jackson also wants the state to rely more on the expertise of the DRS staff.
While he said he'll leave state tax policy decisions to lawmakers, he believes his staff can review proposed tax policy to ensure it accomplishes what the legislature intended.
"My staff is willing to help with the language of a proposed bill while not setting policy," he said.
Committee chair Scott Roberti of Ernst and Young said it was a good idea.
"It's nice to hear that your agency, while not dictating policy, will review it," he said.
But the most important thing Jackson's agency can do for Connecticut business is provide a tax structure and policy that's predictable and consistent, Roberti said.