Cook County, Illinois, moves out of 'stone age' with tax software

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Cook County, Illinois, last week went live with a new tax processing system that officials in the second-most populous U.S. county said would take it out of the “stone age” of tax administration.

The county, which includes Chicago, is now using Revenue Solutions Inc., a tax and compliance software company from Massachusetts, to process collections of local taxes on a range of products, including tobacco, motor vehicle sales, gambling machines and firearms. The software’s expected to save tens of millions of dollars and improve efficiency over the next several years, according to Ken Harris, the county’s deputy director of revenue.

The software replaced a fully manual process that required Cook County residents and businesses to mail in their tax filings and county employees sending physical letters asking why payments were missing or late.

“It was pretty antiquated and outdated, it didn’t have the ability for any kind of online tax filing or payment or anything like that,” Harris said, citing the county’s previous system, which was developed in the 1990s.

Cook County has paid Revenue Solutions nearly $14 million since 2015 to upgrade its tax-collection systems. The software was first implemented in 2017 to process taxes on hotel rooms, liquor, fuel and amusements, though Harris said he expects another 2,000 businesses countywide will begin filing electronically with the expansion this month.

Taxpayers can register, file their returns, pay their taxes, submit service requests and receive electronic messages from the county through the application, giving Harris and his team a much easier method of analyzing tax data than sifting through thousands of paper returns, he said.

“This will give us the ability to have detailed line-by-line information, which helps for compliance purposes,” Harris said. “It’s a huge part of our strategy not to just generate more revenue for the county, but to equitably administer the taxes. We want a fair playing field across the board.”

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Cook County, Illinois, taxes
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