The Income and Sales Tax Department in Jordan used a manual process to handle tax submissions and wanted to develop an e-service for citizens. Through its Strategic Partnership Agreement with Microsoft-the e-Government Program of Jordan-the department turned to experts at Microsoft Services consulting services to help implement the solution. The organization benefits from a fruitful relationship with Microsoft Services that resulted in a high-quality e-service, fast time to value, and increased knowledge for its employees.
In the past, taxpayers in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan had to physically appear at one of 19 tax offices, or the headquarters of the Income and Sales Tax Department, to submit tax returns. Citizens would present forms they had filled out by hand and make payments through their banks. It was common for taxpayers to wait in long lines at the tax offices - especially at the end of every month, when sales tax is due, and at the end of April, when income tax is due. The whole process was done manually, although the tax department did archive tax records in a database. The Jordanian government collects JOD2.4 billion (US$3.4 billion) in tax revenues annually.
"The tax-collection process involved a lot of data entry," says Basheer Alzoubi, IT Manager and E-Government Manager at the Income and Tax Sales Department. "One employee would have to key in the return and another employee had to verify that the numbers were accurate. There was an error rate of 1 to 2 percent because either the taxpayer submitted inaccurate documents or tax department employees entered the wrong information-and the department had to involve taxpayers in the correction of returns."
The Income and Sales Tax Department needed a highly available and highly secure customer-centric e-service to assure taxpayers' satisfaction. It sought to ensure transparency in tax processing, standardize how auditors and tax verifiers handled tax submissions, and track and forecast tax revenues more accurately. It also wanted to move employees who managed manual tax submissions to higher-value duties.
Through a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Government of Jordan and Microsoft, the Income and Sales Tax Department turned to Microsoft Services consulting services to lead the e-service implementation. "To shift from a manual tax system to an e-service, we needed people with international experience," says Alzoubi. "We went to Microsoft Services because we knew they had the expertise and knowledge."
Microsoft Services consultants hired Estarta Solutions, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network. Work started in November 2009, and was managed by a combined team that included the Income and Sales Tax Department and the e-Government Program of Jordan. Microsoft Services consultants met weekly with the project team, designed the solution architecture, conducted a quarterly review of development work, and performed quality assurance tasks on solution components. "We relied on Microsoft Services experts to ensure that we were building the fastest and most streamlined system for taxpayers," says Alzoubi.
With the e-Government Service solution, taxpayer data is temporarily stored in Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 database management software. The organization deployed Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway 2010 to help protect data from malicious software (malware) and to help secure internal systems; the public can access only the e-service web application. The Income and Sales Tax Department uses Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to manage e-service components.
The Income and Sales Tax Department launched the e-Government Service in May 2010 and made the e-service available to taxpayers who were expecting refunds or owed nothing. By November 2010, taxpayers could make payments by using the e-service.
By working with Microsoft Services to implement the e-Government Service, the Income and Sales Tax Department benefits from a high-quality solution that can serve all the citizens of Jordan. The organization deployed the solution ahead of schedule and is promoting universal adoption. In addition, Microsoft trained the department's employees, and now the organization can share its knowledge of e-service implementations throughout the region.
"Microsoft Services helped us find the right partner, architected the project, and monitored progress to ensure success," says Alzoubi. "Working with the experts was the only way we could do this project right."
Secured Trusted Advice
The Income and Sales Tax Department implemented a highly secure, intuitive, and effective e-service that is expected to reduce tax submission errors to nearly zero.
"Microsoft Services consultants made sure that we delivered the best possible solution," says Alzoubi. "They advised us on everything from hardware to integration with our existing system, and they worked within our budget. As a strategic partner, Microsoft Services brought us deep expertise and extensive resources that helped us achieve our goals."
Decreased Time to Value
With the help of Microsoft Services, the Income and Sales Tax Department was able to launch the e-Government Service quickly.
"Our weekly team meetings with Microsoft Services were a key to the project's success," says Alzoubi. "Since the beginning, Microsoft Services consultants took steps to ensure that the project would be delivered ahead of time. We originally estimated it would take 19 months, but the e-service solution was delivered in 15 months."
Enhanced Organizational Knowledge
Thanks to the successful collaboration with Microsoft Services, the knowledge of employees at the Income and Sales Tax Department has increased dramatically.
"Microsoft Services worked side-by-side with our employees to build their expertise so that our people can promote the e-service in Jordan and beyond," says Alzoubi. "I have visited several countries to demonstrate how we implemented the e-Government Service and what it can do."
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