A Taxation Milestone

The first electronic sales-tax payments of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP)have been successfully received and processed by the state treasurers' offices in North Carolina, Michigan and Kansas.

The SSTP pilot program is an initiative from state governments, in partnership with local governments and the private sector, to simplify and modernize administration of sales and use taxes for all types of state commerce.

The system will incorporate uniform definitions within tax bases, simplified audit and administrative procedures and emerging technologies to substantially reduce the burdens of tax collection.

Through Taxware, the SSTP's first certified service provider to go live, North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin have taken over the burden of tax collection on behalf of participating businesses in their states. The SSTP gets payments to the appropriate state and local taxing authorities, while allowing the merchants that are involved to pay sales and use taxes electronically.

The SSTP's goal is to make it easy for merchants and retailers burdened with calculating and remitting sales and use tax to the states. Merchants' compliance costs are reduced by allowing the calculation and remittance of taxes to be done on the merchant's behalf remotely, through a process sanctioned by participating states.

The technology also helps reduce costs by eliminating the need for merchants to register with the state, research tax rates and laws, file monthly or biweekly returns, issue check requests and defend audits.

When a customer purchases a product or service from a business, the applicable tax liability is calculated, and the tax information related to the transaction is stored in the new system. The system then transfers funds from the merchant's account to the accounts of all applicable taxing authorities and transmits a periodic tax return for each merchant using the service.

Avoid the SUV

A mini SUV has been prowling Boston's streets looking for potential victims. Sporting bumper-level, specialized digital cameras, the SUV is quite possibly every parking scofflaw's worst nightmare.

The SUV's cameras use a mobile license-plate-recognition system to snap and record high-resolution photos of a vehicle's plate more quickly than human parking enforcement agents.

"We're very pleased with the pilot," said Bruce Graubart, director of Boston's Office of the Parking Clerk. "It's definitely achieved the results we expected. Right now, the data indicates that the new system can easily look up three times as many plates as we can do with a person, and it does it more efficiently."

The new system's primary draw is its ability to automate the work done by booting crews. Graubart's department normally boots between 6,000 and 8,000 cars per year.

"We're looking at moving from a booting application, which is a fairly labor intensive, tedious, manual process of looking at a license plate and then entering it into a computer terminal and determining if it's on our boot list, versus a complete automation of that process that does it instantly," he said.

Other agencies see gold, too, Graubart said.

"While the SUV is [scanning the license plates] for us, it can also be used to simultaneously look up stolen vehicles for the Police Department. For our planning unit, it can do turnover studies. Since it's capturing license plates and it's equipped with GPS, it can identify that a car was parked at a certain location for different periods of the day, depending on how many times we travel that route."

The pilot was set to last until mid-April, he said. At that point, the city will decide whether to buy the equipment or modify the current situation. A parking garage operator, Standard Parking, is funding the pilot.