March 1, 2010 By Casey Mayville
The tax department usually isn't a favorite with citizens, but Selvi Stanislaus, executive officer of California's Franchise Tax Board (FTB), has been reshaping her agency and working to increase public trust in government. Under Stanislaus, the FTB is a consistent technological innovator, launching ReadyReturn, a popular electronic tax filing initiative, and employing Web 2.0 tools to boost transparency.
"Whatever the cost of putting a thing right, it can never be more than the cost of leaving it wrong," Stanislaus said.
ReadyReturn has become a huge success since its debut in the 2007 tax year. The number of taxpayers using the service grows every year. The program grew from almost 11,000 users in 2008 to more than 61,000 users in 2009. Stanislaus sees e-filing as a win-win: Electronic returns are cheaper to process than paper, and taxpayers get their refunds faster. The FTB promoted ReadyReturn via YouTube, she said.
"We don't have an advertising budget, so we needed a creative way of getting the information out there. The videos got so many hits and we saw so many returns coming in; the impact was huge," she said.
A proponent of Web 2.0, Stanislaus helped the FTB get on Facebook. She also has five employees who regularly tweet and blog for the agency.
In staying with her theme of transparency, Stanislaus said the blog will help open communication lines between the FTB and taxpayers. She says hearing the negative and positive can help the FTB improve its service to taxpayers.
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