4. Towards automated taxation
The Tax Administration set the automation of taxation as a strategic objective in the early 1990s. The idea was that the taxation of individual taxpayers would be as automated as possible. The majority of tax decisions would be made based on the information the Tax Administration collected on behalf of the taxpayer and any corrections made by the taxpayer. The automated process would improve customer service and the legal security of taxpayers, as the process would be the same for everyone.
In the early 2000s, automation gained broader momentum from the State’s information society and productivity programmes, which sought to enhance the efficiency of administration through automation and e-services. In the 2000s and 2010s, face-to-face service at tax offices decreased to a fraction of what it was, and the use of telephone services also declined. Meanwhile, the use of the Tax Administration’s online services surged.
User-friendliness is a key factor for customers in online services. In this, the Tax Administration was helped by factors such as the widespread launch of online banking services and their adoption by taxpayers. Taking care of both banking and taxes online requires the use of strong identification. Bank codes became the primary means of identification among individual taxpayers using the Tax Administration’s services.
When the National Board of Taxes was established in 1970, a three-tier administrative hierarchy was set up, in which provincial tax offices served under the National Board of Taxes and tax offices under them. In 1993, the Tax Administration was reorganised into a two-tier organisation and in 2008–2013 into a single nationwide agency.
The development of information systems and telecommunications played a key role in this. Decentralised regional databases were combined to form a nationwide database in the early 2000s. Tax preparation and advisory tasks that were previously handled regionally could be gradually shared for processing elsewhere in Finland.
As customer service moved online by degrees, location no longer had the importance that it once did. This meant that workloads could be distributed more evenly in the 2000s by allocating tasks from the busiest areas of Finland to the rest of the country. Automation and nationwide operating methods produced even more standardised ways of working – and thereby led to more consistent treatment of taxpayers.
The VALMIS project was the most important reform of digital services in the 2010s. At the beginning of the 2010s, the Tax Administration had about 70 individual information systems, some of which dated back to the 1980s. The systems were intended for specific tax types. This meant that if a Tax Administration employee had to use several individual systems, they had to open multiple applications on the desktop. The maintenance and development of separate systems was laborious and caused additional costs.
In 2013, the Tax Administration decided to reform its tax information systems and replace them with a single off-the-shelf software solution. This modernisation was dubbed the VALMIS project. The chosen software was the American system, GenTax. The VALMIS project progressed into the deployment phase in 2016 – the gradual transfer of different types of taxes into GenTax began. All tax systems had been replaced by this single system by the end of 2019. All types of taxes are now handled by a single application.
This modernisation became apparent to customers when MyTax, the new e-service channel, was launched at the beginning of 2016. Separate digital services were gradually transferred to MyTax in 2016–2019. From 2019 onwards, services covering all tax types for individual and corporate taxpayers became available in MyTax.