Annual Report 2011-2012
Meeting Taxpayer Needs
The BOE is committed to helping all California businesses and individuals properly comply with the state’s complex and changing tax laws. The agency offers a full range of services tailored to the diverse needs of the state’s businesses—from 24-hour electronic services to personal assistance with tax compliance questions.
Resources and Assistance
Customer Service Center: 1-800-400-7115 (TTY:711)
In fiscal year 2011-12, the Customer Service Center received more than 650,000 calls from registered taxpayers and feepayers, tax practitioners, and the general public. Of these calls, 96 percent, or more than 625,000 callers chose to speak to a "live" agent. The remaining four percent of callers elected to use the BOE's automated services, which included fax requests for selected forms and publications; a recording of sales and use tax rates; and an interactive seller’s permit verification system. The average wait time for this year improved to 73 seconds, a decrease of more than 48 percent from the previous year. Besides handling calls, the Customer Service Center also responded to over 17,000 emails.
Expanded Online Services at www.boe.ca.gov
The BOE’s extensive website provides forms, publications, statutes, regulations, reports, tax news, meeting agendas, and special features for taxpayers, local governments, and the general public. The BOE continues to improve transparency and customer service both externally and internally by the use of Internet-based services, and by the use of video content available on BOE’s website. There were 15 Board Meetings with a cumulative total of 31 meeting days which were successfully streamed on the Internet to BOE employees and the public. Internally, there were 19 streamed events for viewing by BOE employees. These internally streamed events included employee health and benefits training, all-staff meetings, and town hall meetings. The BOE now has videos on YouTube, its own Twitter stream, and a Facebook® page.
KBOE video content
A successful pilot project placing video monitors into five field offices (Sacramento, Fresno, Redding, Ventura, and Bakersfield) was completed. The KBOE pilot project included several minutes of video content developed by Media Production Services and played on monitors in the public waiting areas of these field offices. The video provided useful information for the taxpayer to watch while conducting business in the field office. The pilot project proved so successful that it was implemented in every field office throughout the state.
Taxpayers' Rights Advocate Office
Consistent with the California Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, the Taxpayers' Rights Advocate facilitates resolution of taxpayer complaints or problems, monitors BOE programs for compliance with the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, recommends new or revised policies and procedures, ensures taxpayer educational materials are clear and understandable, and coordinates annual public hearings to allow taxpayers to express their concerns and suggestions directly to the Board Members. Business and Property Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights hearings were held in Sacramento in September 2011, Culver City in April 2012, and in Sacramento in June 2012.
In 2011-12, the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office worked closely with BOE employees to implement a number of its recommendations for improving taxpayer compliance, easing the burden of compliance, and facilitating uniform and fair administration of the law. This year’s accomplishments, involving staff and taxpayer education, and law and policy changes, are summarized in the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate's 2011-12 Property and Business Taxes Annual Report. The report, which is available on the BOE’s website, also describes project involvement, identifies work in process, contains examples of cases, and summarizes taxpayer contacts with the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office.
Tax Appeals Assistance Program
The Tax Appeals Assistance Program, which began in 2005 and is managed by the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate, makes available free legal assistance from law students to low-income individuals with certain types of income tax appeals and consumer use tax appeals of less than $20,000. The program is also available to assist individuals appealing BOE notices of cigarette and tobacco products license act violations. Since its inception, the Tax Appeals Assistance Program has grown from one law school with a few students instructed by one BOE tax counsel to five schools with over 40 students instructed by two BOE tax counsels. The cases completed in 2011-12 have fulfilled the purposes of the program, which are to educate and assist taxpayers in voluntarily complying with the law while minimizing their compliance burden and to enhance the preparation and quality of the appeals that come before the Board Members. More information about the program can be found in the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate’s 2011-12 Annual Report. Contact information is available on the BOE website through the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate page.
As part of its commitment to provide equitable access to BOE services and effective tax administration, the BOE provides interpreter services in its offices and at Board hearings, when requested. The BOE’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office maintains lists of bilingual employees available to assist taxpayers or members of the public who have limited English proficiency. Currently, the lists include 434 employees, who together have fluency in 33 languages and dialects, including American Sign Language.
Publications, Special Notices, and Newsletters
In 2011-12, tax program and communications experts created and updated various publications, special notices, forms, posters, flyers, eblasts, online tutorials, and HTML documents. The agency continued to publish five tax newsletters that serve more than one million readers.
New and Revised Publications
BOE posted 18 tax fact publications to the website in HTML format. These publications are easy to navigate and accessible, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Reading the publications online in HTML format, the user can choose a font size and a window width so the text is easy to read, and paragraphs are laid out to suit the users’ preference.
The BOE completed the following significant projects:
- Created publication 306A, BOE Prospectus: Taxes, Fees, Programs, and Services which provides a brief history of BOE-administered tax and fee programs and the revenues collected during fiscal year 2009-10. This publication is available on the BOE website.
- Posted publication 216, The History of the Board–the First 100 Years, in HTML format on our website;
- Converted publication 347, Publication and Resource DVD, to a DVD format (from CD-ROM) which now includes embedded videos and tutorials in English and other languages;
- Developed publication 235M, Tax Exemption for Farm Solar (Board Member Runner). Copies were printed and distributed at the Green Conference in April 2012.
- Revised publication 164, Statewide Compliance and Outreach Program (SCOP) which includes information related to electronic registration (eReg). This particular publication is provided to businesses when visited by SCOP representatives. This publication is also available in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
- Updated 31 publications to accommodate electronic registration (eReg).
Publications about the budget cycle, budget change proposal timelines, and the trailer bill process were also developed for BOE employee use.
Outreach Educational Endeavors
The BOE continued to market its electronic filing (eFiling) program and promote its new eReg program by developing new outreach materials for the taxpayer. The BOE prepared outreach elements such as new logos, posters, and mail inserts, to educate the public about both the BOE’s new eReg program, and the Underground Economy in California.
For a full list of publications and newsletters, see the Appendix.
Intelligent Barcode Project
The Intelligent Barcode Project consisted of approximately 105 forms and envelopes containing Postnet Barcodes that needed to be replaced with the new USPS Intelligent Barcodes. The BOE converted the entire series of forms and envelopes that contained barcodes well in advance of the Postal Service’s deadline.
A new search engine for the law guides DVD was approved and put into production. The new DVD contains 2011.1-2011.4 revisions, and has PDF backup letters. A user satisfaction survey was also developed and included.
The 2012 online version was made available.
Translated Forms and Publications
The BOE is committed to the education of all California taxpayers and feepayers, including non-English speakers, to help them understand tax laws and to improve voluntary compliance.
To promote tax compliance and better serve the needs of California’s diverse business community, the BOE has information in 23 languages and has many documents translated in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese–our core, or most commonly requested, languages. The BOE translated 32 new forms and publications this year—four in Chinese, seven in Korean, five in Spanish, seven in Vietnamese, four in Arabic, four in Punjabi, and one in Russian. In addition, 80 forms and publications were revised, many of which required major changes in wording and design.
The BOE continues to concentrate its efforts around the redesigned multilingual webpages showcasing Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean while also providing information in other languages. This wealth of new information enables taxpayers to find information about the BOE, easily access translated forms and publications, and find sales and use tax classes taught in multiple languages.
Taxpayer and Public Outreach
The BOE is dedicated to educating taxpayers and tax practitioners about services the BOE provides. The BOE joins with federal, state, and local agencies in sponsoring all-day tax events to bring tax compliance information to taxpayers and tax practitioners throughout the state. The BOE also conducts full-day, multi-agency nonprofit seminars, and continues outreach efforts to business groups by coordinating speakers for programs presented to professional societies, industry and trade groups, governmental organizations, and schools statewide.
As part of the BOE’s education and outreach, upon request from taxpayers or feepayers, audit staff will schedule appointments to visit businesses and meet with individuals to discuss applicable tax or fee programs, and to determine if they are applying the law correctly to their business transactions. The BOE also offers a number of other outreach opportunities to assist the public. These include conducting workshops on how to efile, disseminating material on special taxes and fees, and providing up-to-date information through the media.
Classes, Seminars, and Presentations
Online Educational and Learning Products
BOE offers a variety of online educational products as a cost-effective way for taxpayers to learn about their tax and fee obligations. The topics include information for business owners as well as nonprofit and faith-based organizations, eFiling, eReg, and taxpayer appeals.
These informational videos provide taxpayers with the same information presented at an educational seminar or small business fair, but in a self-paced environment that is conveniently accessible 24 hours a day. These educational and learning products can be found on our website on the News & Events page.
Sales and Use Tax Classes
In 2011-12, BOE staff conducted 274 Basic Sales and Use Tax and Tax Return Preparation/eFile classes throughout the state. These classes provided education and information to more than 4,200 California taxpayers. The classes are offered in English and Spanish statewide as well as in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and Vietnamese in limited areas. Information on classes can be found at www.boe.ca.gov under the quick link, News & Events.
Online Tutorial for Sales and Use Tax
As an alternative to attending an instructor-led Basic Sales and Use Tax Class, an online tutorial is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. The tutorial provides taxpayers the same information as the instructor-led class but in a self-paced environment. It can be found on our website under the quick link, News & Events, and then under Online Seminars.
Education Outreach to Tobacco Retailers
With a diverse tobacco retail business community, the BOE is expanding its online tobacco related seminar into other languages to increase compliance with state tobacco laws. In 2011-12, a Spanish version of the seminar was posted on the BOE website, with five additional languages commonly in the tobacco sales community to follow.
New Appeals Training Module
Appeals: Weighing Your Options is a training module developed to help business owners and tax professionals gain a better understanding of the appeals process. The objective of the module is to educate the audience so taxpayers can more effectively maintain realistic expectations and understand the numerous opportunities for conflict resolution prior to a formal Board hearing.
The informative 50-minute training module, developed by BOE experts, combines a PowerPoint presentation with the expert discussion of two BOE attorneys well versed in the art of law and taxation.
Appeals: Weighing Your Options won the 2012 Silver Award from the State Information Officers Council in the Promotional Device category.
Small Business Seminars/Events
In 2011-12, the BOE joined with federal, state, and local agencies in sponsoring 12 free, one-stop shop tax/business events, bringing important tax compliance information to over 3,360 taxpayers and tax practitioners throughout the state. Attendees obtained individual assistance and materials at tax agency booths and attended classes on common tax subjects.
Nonprofit Educational Seminars
In a collaborative effort focused on meeting the unique tax education needs of the state’s nonprofit sector, the BOE provided five full-day, multiagency nonprofit seminars for approximately 1,900 participants throughout California. The events brought together BOE sales and use tax and property tax experts as well as representatives of the AG, the EDD, the FTB, and the IRS. Participants were able to attend presentations and receive individualized tax advice.
Taxpayer Educational Consultation Program
During their first year of business, taxpayers, upon request, can receive individualized tax information, education, and assistance through the Educational Consultation Program offered by the Sales and Use Tax Department. The consultations are provided at no cost to the taxpayer and normally last no more than one day. Taxpayers participating in the program were very satisfied with the professionalism and courtesy extended by the BOE audit staff. They also were appreciative of the information and service provided.
Statewide Compliance and Outreach Program (SCOP)
SCOP representatives conduct door-to-door visits to nonresidential businesses and also contact businesses by telephone. Prior to visiting a business area, letters are mailed to taxpayers and cities providing them advance notice of the upcoming SCOP visits. During this fiscal year, 90,732 businesses were visited or contacted by one of the seven SCOP teams located throughout the state. SCOP representatives visit businesses to:
- Provide business owners with the opportunity to ask questions;
- Educate business owners, as needed, regarding their tax responsibilities;
- Ensure businesses have the required state tax and fee permits;
- Confirm businesses have a city or county business license;
- Verify and update BOE account information, if necessary; and
- Review business operations compared to returns filed to provide guidance on proper reporting.
The visits are intended to educate business owners and help keep our tax system fair for all by verifying that all business owners are properly permitted and licensed.
Law Enforcement Training
The BOE is often approached by local law enforcement to provide information about its Investigations Division program. To provide consistent and comprehensive information about the BOE’s handling of tax fraud investigations, a Law Enforcement presentation was developed. Through these training sessions, the BOE is able to network with local enforcement and collaborate in joint investigations of cases where noncompliance and tax fraud are evident.
The Outreach Services Division reached out to business groups by coordinating speakers for more than 140 presentations to professional societies, industry and trade groups, governmental organizations, and local schools statewide. Staff members are available to provide bilingual seminars for business owners in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
The BOE’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) issued 137 news releases on 50 topics in 2011-12, and made daily contacts with print, radio, and television reporters, responding to more than 600 media inquiries. The official BOE spokesperson was quoted in newspapers across the state and nation, and BOE programs were featured in news and consumer reports broadcasts on television and radio. The OPA also facilitated coverage of new BOE programs and regulatory issues.
Social Media News Releases
The OPA began using a new format to send information to the media–the Social Media News Release (SMNR). The SMNR accompanies a traditional news release but is in a format that allows the media to interact with BOE’s media tools in a new way. The SMNR enables reporters to access videos, high resolution photos, Quick Response Code (QR), and facts in a way that allows them to quickly write and broadcast information.
Public Service Announcements
Media Production Services produced several video and audio Public Service Announcement (PSAs) in order to promote numerous outreach events taking place in various BOE districts throughout the state.
BOE on Facebook®
Social media is an increasingly important tool to communicate BOE's activities. In 2012, BOE launched a Facebook page to communicate in a conversational way BOE events, accomplishments, and services. BOE’s Facebook presence helps raise its profile to the general public and familiarize people with who we are and what we do. BOE’s Facebook page so far has more than 500 “Likes” and is another tool taxpayers can use to get up-to-the-minute information.
The BOE won a number of awards from the State Information Officer Council (SIOC):
- Gold Award for Special Publication: Ethics Guidelines for Professional Conduct
- Silver Award for Special Publication: Appeals: Weighing Your Options
- Honorable Mention for Best Education, Outreach or Marketing Video: KBOE-TV 2011
- Honorable Mention for Best Brand Identity, Product, or Package: Sales and Use Tax Department–Seven Goals for Success
To ensure quality service while meeting the requirements of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, the BOE managers and supervisors evaluate the public contact skills of the BOE employees. Each employee performance report and annual review must include the supervisor’s comments regarding the employee’s public contacts, whether those contacts are made in person, in writing, or by telephone. The evaluations are strictly based on public contact skills and the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate confirms that the BOE does not evaluate individual offices or employees based on the amount of revenue they assess or collect.
During an audit, field auditors are expected to adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards, and to conduct themselves in a professional manner. The auditors are also expected to administer all BOE tax and fee laws in a fair and uniform manner. Following an audit, taxpayers are sent an audit survey from the respective Offices and are encouraged to provide their comments by completing and returning the audit survey form to the BOE Headquarters in Sacramento. The audit surveys are reviewed and returned to the district of the account. Taxpayer responses to the survey provide valuable information on the effectiveness of the audit program and help the BOE improve procedures to better serve the business community and taxpayers.
The Sales and Use Tax Department has another survey, entitled How Are We Doing?, which is available in each BOE field office, included in mail-in registration packets, mailed with taxpayer correspondence, and available on the BOE website. The survey is designed to capture taxpayer feedback on the quality of customer service and help the BOE improve the overall level of service. In 2011-12, the Sales and Use Tax Department received nearly 38,000 survey responses, in which over 99.6 percent of the respondents were pleased with the overall process and services provided by BOE staff.
Special Taxes also provides How Are We Doing? surveys and audit surveys with taxpayer correspondences and inquires. The surveys are also available on the BOE website under the Special Taxes webpages. The responses are reviewed and provide the program areas with feedback that is used to improve services. Similar to Sales and Use Tax, respondents indicated they were pleased with the service provided by Special Taxes staff.
The Sales and Use Tax Department’s SCOP introduced their own survey entitled Statewide Compliance and Outreach Program Survey—How Are We Doing?, that is provided to taxpayers during visits by the SCOP representatives and is also available on the BOE website. In fiscal year 2011-12, the Sales and Use Tax Department received more than 4,500 SCOP survey responses; of this figure, over 99 percent of the respondents were pleased with the quality of public service provided by this program.
However, when taxpayers express dissatisfaction, make complaints, or raise an issue regarding an employee or service, the BOE makes every attempt to contact the individual and address the issues raised. After a review by Sacramento Headquarters staff, issues brought forward by taxpayers or feepayers on the surveys are sent to the respective District Administrator for further investigation or resolution. The BOE staff members work closely with the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate Office to help taxpayers who have not been able to resolve matters through the normal channels.
Overall, the BOE finds that taxpayers are satisfied with the quality and efficiency of the service they receive and the professionalism and courtesy extended to them by the BOE staff. The agency receives many unsolicited letters each year from taxpayers who write to thank staff members for their assistance.