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Kansas City’s upgraded revenue system enters crucial season

Updated: 2014-01-11T01:11:14Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

Paying taxes to Kansas City, and complying with its business regulations, isn’t getting any cheaper.

But it is getting easier.

The city last year replaced an antiquated computer with a new $13.4 million integrated revenue system. It has been working well since it went live June 10, but it will face its biggest test over the next few months during tax and business license filing season.

Revenue Commissioner Mari Ruck is reminding business owners that annual business license applications and payments are due Feb. 28. Earnings and profits taxes are due April 15. Failure to file by the deadlines results in penalties and interest.

She said that what has been a clunky, often frustrating process should be easier. The new Quick Tax system allows for more online transactions, including electronic tax form submission and payment.

“For people who are computer savvy, they’ve hated the fact that they’ve had to do everything on all of our primitive software, or on paper,” Ruck said. “So this really gives them the options to simplify their lives.”

And, she said, it gives people a chance for the first time to go in and see what happens on their accounts.

The city has revamped its lengthy and complicated business license applications, which are now available online at https://quicktax.kcmo.org.

In the past, business owners had to consult long tables to calculate their occupational license fees. But Ruck said the online system works a bit like TurboTax: Once a business owner establishes an account, defines the business type and puts in the gross receipts, the system will pull up the correct forms and tables and calculate the tax.

Taxpayers can also review past account activity, see five years of payment history and view revenue division correspondence. They can also authorize a third party, such as an accountant, to access their records.

Paper forms and instructions are still available at kcmo.gov/tax.

The division also has staff available to answer general tax questions at 816-513-1120 or business license questions at 816-513-1135.

So far, the system has mostly been used by people who do monthly tax withholding or who file and pay monthly convention and tourism taxes. Ruck said no insurmountable problems have surfaced. But many more businesses and taxpayers will now be interacting for the first time with the new system.

One big advantage, she said, is that taxpayers who file online should get their refunds faster. Under the old system, it often took three months to send a refund to people who filed their tax returns in peak season because they were all handled manually. Processing refunds should occur more quickly, although Ruck made no promises on a specific time frame.

Business groups such as the Civic Council and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce have been pushing the city for years to modernize its financial processes.

To get the word out about the changes, the revenue division has mailed more than 46,000 notifications to businesses and more than 44,000 notices to wage earners whose earnings taxes are not withheld by their employers.

Kansas City’s 1 percent earnings tax applies to any wage earner living or working in the city, and the revenue division is also reminding all companies with a Kansas City office that they are required to file W-2 information for those employees.

In the past, thousands of companies failed to file withholding information to the city on time or at all. Ruck said compliance has improved dramatically in the past year, but companies that fail to comply will face huge penalties starting this year. The new penalties mirror penalties from the IRS and take effect for 2013 W-2 records due Feb. 28.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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