Technological innovation is sweeping through state departments of revenue. Burdened with the overwhelming task of collecting a myriad of taxes, processing reams of individual forms, and ensuring the proper distribution of funds, state departments of revenue have sought information technology solutions to increase processing efficiency as well as help collect all available revenue.

Essentially, information technology has enabled these agencies to combat their paper-intensive processes, high-volume transactions, and time-sensitive materials with solutions that provide significant gains in efficiency, cost-savings and tax collection. In particular, the implementation of Imaged Revenue Management (IRM) Systems have transformed many state tax operations.

There are four key components to a complete IRM system.

* Front-end data capture. This enables agencies to scan data from tax returns into the system, eliminating the need for manual data entry while improving the speed of front-end processing. OCR/ICR scanners are the cornerstone of the front-end data capture process.

* Remittance processing. Often, agencies utilize remittance processing in conjunction with the main imaging system in order to efficiently capture check information, deposit funds and speed the issuance of refunds.

* Optical storage. This back-end processing involves the electronic storage of the return. Optical storage frees agencies from the burden of managing paper files.

* Error correction. This process enables agency personnel to manipulate an optically-stored return, which provides greater access to information, aids dispute resolution, and answers phone inquires more efficiently.

In many cases, state departments of revenue are plagued by data entry errors, a backlog of filings, delayed deposit and issuance of tax moneys, and poor document management. Consequently, they can utilize the vast capabilities and functionality of Imaged Revenue Management Systems to resolve business problems within the agency.

In particular, IRM systems provide:

* Increased data integrity. OCR/ICR imaging scanners capture data directly from the tax return, dramatically reducing errors commonly caused by manual data entry. Imaging makes the transfer of information from a hardcopy document to electronic format both faster and more reliable.

* Improved tax processing speed. From front-end data entry to back-end storage, IRM enables departments of revenue to significantly reduce the time required to process a single tax application. One agency shrank the tax processing season by nine days after the implementation of an IRM system.

* Greater access to data. Imaged revenue management enables multiple users to have access to and perform functions on tax information. Electronic storage of returns eliminates common problems of misplaced -- or even lost -- files.

* Better customer service. With the added capabilities of IRM, departments of revenue are better positioned to retrieve vital tax information and answer taxpayer queries in a single phone call.

* Increased tax collections. By improving the speed of tax processing, agencies can concentrate on increasing tax compliance and resolving delinquent cases. Departments of revenue have all realized tangible increases in tax collection after the implementation of an IRM system.

* Streamlined tax processes. Given the benefits of an initial IRM implementation, other divisions within a department often try and leverage IRM. This spurs several agencies to combine disparate applications and build an integrated tax system.

IRM SYSTEM SUCCESSES

In 1990, Delaware's Department of Revenue ambitiously set out to reengineer the state's tax collection process to improve tax processing, auditing and collection functions. The department worked with Grumman Data Systems to implement the Storage Access Management System and Optical Network (SAMSON), which provided increased functionality to tax management.

Utilizing SAMSON, Delaware's Department of Revenue is now able to process over 50,000 documents per day. The system has reduced an auditor's average per-case research time from 13 hours to two hours. It is estimated that this IRM system has increased overall productivity within the department by 25 percent. More importantly, SAMSON has increased enforcement revenues by at least 20 percent.