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Montana computer glitches may cause late tax refunds
By ERICA CURLESS Gazette State Bureau
HELENA - Temporary glitches in the state's new tax computer system may mean Montanans will get their tax refunds two weeks later than usual, state Revenue Director Mary Bryson said Monday. "We had anticipated the kinks would be worked out by now," Bryson said, adding that tax refunds for people who file in January could be delayed one-to-two weeks.
The setbacks are caused by the conversion to a new computer system the department installed in December, Bryson said. She added that the department hasn't notified the public about the delays because staff is working hard to iron out the wrinkles and the delays should only affect people who file their tax returns in January.
The system will eventually integrate the programs used to process 30 various taxes collected by the department. This one system will do the job that eight different programs handled in the past.
Currently only six tax categories, such as employer withholdings and unemployment insurance taxes, are running in the new system. The department will install the remaining categories as it gets money and resources, Bryson said.
The department processes more than 450,000 individual income tax returns annually, receiving the bulk in March and April. Bryson said she hopes the majority of the problems are solved by this time.
The 1997 Legislature approved $11.7 million to create the new system to make tax season less burdensome for Montanans. The 1999 Legislature approved another $18 million to fully install the system.
The new system can "talk" to each tax category, meaning the department will only have to enter information about an individual taxpayer once even if they owe taxes in several different tax areas such as property and income, Bryson said. The new system also solved any potential Year 2000 bugs.
This tax system, known as POINTS or Process Oriented Integrated System, is separate from the new state computer network that keeps Montana's financial books. But the two systems do communicate, Bryson said. The difference is POINTS is specifically tax-related, while the other system integrates the 30 state agencies.
Connecting these two systems has caused some problems, Bryson said, but not all the glitches.
Mick Robinson, chief of staff for Gov. Marc Racicot, said he's been monitoring the department's progress and that some hang ups are expected with the installation of any major new computer system.
Erica Curless can be reached at (406) 443-4920.
Updated: Tuesday, January 25, 2000 Copyright ) The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), January 25, 2000
February 3,2000 State computer spits out tax reports without a hitch HELENA - Montana's new $16.5 million computer system passed a large test last week by cranking out - without any glitches - 23,000 tax withholding reports. State employees and companies that contract with the state should receive their W-2 and 1099 tax forms in the mail sometime this week. Tony Herbert, state Information Services Division administrator, said the procedure was a challenge because the state had to convert information from the old system into the new program. As Montana gets used to its new human resource and financial computer network, it will experience a lot of one-time challenges, such as merging these two tax reporting systems, Herbert said. The 1997 Legislature approved the state's purchase of the integrated computer system. The state decided to buy an off-the-shelf software package from PeopleSoft Corp. instead of building a new bookkeeping and human resources system like it did in the 1970s. The new network is known as SABAHRS - the Statewide Accounting, Budgeting and Human Resources Systems. Since the system was plugged in, it's had some problems such as incorrect paychecks, not paying companies that do business with the state on time and difficulties in preparing federal reports. Most of these glitches have been solved, but an occasional hangup does occur. State employees saw an example when they received their first paycheck of the year last month. The system miscalculated employees' vacation days, but the problem was corrected for the next paycheck. http://www.billingsgazette.com/ Asked by Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) from 22.214.171.124 on February 03, 2000. (Reclassified by GICC analyst to this thread 2/3/00)
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), February 04, 2000.