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Simplified tax reporting takes Estonia one step closer to the citizen

It is safe to assume that, globally, only one category of people enjoys the activity of tax reporting – accountants. For the rest of us, this usually represents a task we are not too fond of. That is one of the reasons why the Estonian Tax and Customs Board has implemented a new self-service system of tax reporting in their e-MTA environment. As of September 2019, the improved dashboard design and flexible structure make doing your taxes in Estonia easier and quicker than ever before.

Based on a no-legacy policy, the platform employs the latest technical advancements in information systems, to keep the public sector up to date with the pace of technological developments. It represents another crucial step in the building of a future-proof e-taxation environment. Naturally, this needs to be tailored to the needs of citizens and businesses alike.

The newly developed self-service is the result of a private-public partnership between the Information Technology Centre of the Ministry of Finance, and Estonian companies Cybernetica, Nortal, and Icefire. Once again, innovation and technical expertise in both sectors come together in Estonia with the common goal of making people’s lives easier.

We spoke to Triin Raaper, Deputy Director General of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (ETCB), to explore the dynamics driving such change.

Triin Raaper, Deputy Director General of the ETCB

What are the main needs you’re aiming to tackle with the self-service system?

The main goal was to develop a more user-friendly and intuitive interface. This will simplify everyday operations both for internal and external users.

This approach is based on the following principles:

  • Providing a more technologically advanced platform, that can be used from various devices;
  • Simplifying navigation and structure of information;
  • Giving the user the possibility to have all important information in one place (overview).

It is also important to note that the new technology allows us to quickly implement changes and updates to the environment, permitting further development based on user feedback

How does this latest development contribute to increasing the ease of doing business in Estonia?

The new self-service system offers improved clarity and is more modern, giving users an easy overview of their tax and customs affairs. This is very important if we consider that businesses use e-MTA every month.

Our main objective was user-friendliness. Customers now have a convenient, direct channel of communication with the agency, and can customise their desktop including links, as well as easily use services on smart devices. We also added multilanguage support, that will allow companies to use the system more conveniently – also in English.

The self-service system is an important milestone in updating Estonian Tax and Customs Board’s services, as we will continue to do in the next years.

The change is based on a no-legacy policy for what regards the technology used. Why such a choice? And can this element provide a starting advantage in designing the e-taxation of the future?

Our goal is to support the economic development of the country. It is necessary, then, to provide right and convenient tools to citizens and businesses. In doing so, we must be flexible and fast to adapt our technology to the new policies and requirements. The no-legacy approach gives us the possibility to be flexible in terms of future changes and, at the same time, keep costs on a reasonable level.

The old e-Tax/e-Customs consisted of more than 200 different services and applications. They were built at different times, and with different technological capabilities. It means that the old IT-structure had uneven capacity and user experience design. The no-legacy policy enabled us to build an IT-architecture from scratch. All IT-processes were reassessed, receiving new meaningful user experience design. In addition, it gave us the possibility to be more agile and react to customer needs timely.

The new e-MTA is also the result of public-private cooperation. What type of resources did you find so valuable in the Estonian private partners with respect to this project?

This project is a good example of innovation in partnership between the public and private sectors. E-MTA was co-developed by ETCB with the Information Technology Centre of the Ministry of Finance, Cybernetica, Nortal and Icefire. All the partners have their own department of valuable knowledge that we used in this project. They contributed to the general goal of further improving communication with the state.

For the users, the most striking change is the new UX design, based on the work of strategic brand agency Velvet. With the visual identity created by Velvet, e-MTA is now a simple, convenient, and efficient portal for every taxpayer. We are happy that all the partners contributed with their financial and technology-related competences to Estonian e-service development.

Will accounting ever become so easy in Estonia that people will start enjoying doing it?

We believe that already today we have achieved this level. Citizens can enjoy using our systems and having the ability to present declarations in minutes.

We are constantly improving our policies, processes and information systems. People have the possibility to focus on their job, while we support them in fulfilling their obligations towards the government. E-MTA is an intuitive and helpful environment that meets a user’s actual needs. Also, it does not require any special training for carrying out day-to-day operations. Each business owner or individual can use the environment by themselves to perform their tax and customs obligations.

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