New York’s Finest: Thomas Mattox Receives Hugh L. Carey Leadership Award

Thomas H. Mattox, commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, netted the fourth-annual leadership prize for his work to modernize state government for citizens.

by / September 4, 2014

Thomas MattoxThomas H. Mattox, commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, received the Gov. Hugh L. Carey Leadership Award for Outstanding Public Stewardship during a Sept. 4 reception in Albany, N.Y. Mattox was recognized for his department’s use of technology to modernize state government operations.

The award spotlights a New York public servant who has made major strides in improving the relationship between citizens and state government. The award was presented by Government Technology’s parent company, e.Republic Inc., in partnership with the state of New York.

In the three years since becoming commissioner of the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance, Mattox and his team have focused on fraud detection and prevention. Through his leadership, the department’s analytical capability has expanded to include advanced interrogation platforms used to review tax returns in real time. As a result, taxpayers can be confident with the accuracy of returns and see a direct example of how the state is working to determine whether refund claims are legitimate.

Mattox has also made it a priority to leverage technology investments to better interact with taxpayers. This has been achieved through increased transactional support through the department’s website and increased efficiency in its consolidated call center.

“Without exception we were all pleased with the award – largely because it confirms the work that we’ve been focused on in terms of looking for new ways to leverage technology to insure fairness in tax administration and make it easier for taxpayers to comply,” Mattox said.

In addition to his department team, Mattox noted that he has had the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Mattox said Cuomo has told his commissioners to focus on performance, integrity and have pride in department operations.

Those expectations have led Mattox to develop a healthy relationship with the state’s top technologists. Consequently, business leaders from the Department of Taxation and Finance have developed a solid rapport and partnership with members of the New York State Office of Information Technology Services.

“We continue to benefit from having strong leadership and very capable technologists working closely with our business leaders to develop and implement the various platforms we use,” Mattox said. “And I think that has made a big difference in terms of delivering products we’ve been able to put into service.”

Before being appointed New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance in January 2011, Mattox had a lengthy career in the private sector. He worked at Goldman Sachs & Co., where he served as a managing director and global head of operational risk management. Mattox was also chief of staff of the company’s Controllers, Operations, Finance and Resources Divisions. Mattox is a Harvard graduate and holds an MBA from Stanford University.

Although the Hugh L. Carey Award means a lot to Mattox, he won’t be resting on his laurels. He indicated that the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance will continue to look at emerging technologies such as cognitive computing to improve enforcement and compliance, but also enhancement of services to taxpayers through the Web.

Mattox believes technology will continue to play a critical role in the department for years to come, noting that tech is the second largest line item in the department’s budget, after salaries. He felt that investment will continue to grow, consistent with the culture of the organization as a whole.

“The challenges we face are getting more complex [and] the fraud schemes we see are becoming more sophisticated,” Mattox said, noting the Carey award will be used as motivation to also accelerate development timelines on technology projects. “I think opportunities to serve taxpayers are going to rely more on the Web and other technologies.”

Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.