Online Resolution and Citizen Empowerment: Property Tax Appeals in North America

Online Resolution and Citizen Empowerment: Property Tax Appeals in North America

Colin Rule, Mark Wilson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6292-6.ch011
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In the private sector, the growth in interactive, online technology use has already disrupted many private industries, from medicine to finance to entertainment. Interactive, online technology has empowered consumers, giving them more choices and better information, and business has been transformed as a result. It is clear that government services are in the process of being similarly transformed. What unique challenges do government agencies face in implementing interactive, online technology and what guidelines should government agency decision makers follow when approaching it? In this chapter, the authors answer those questions on the basis of their first-hand experience helping government agencies build advanced online dispute resolution systems. They focus in particular on one case study: transitioning property tax appeals from a paper-based process to an interactive, online process. Through this examination, the authors (1) highlight the unique challenges they encountered and (2) make recommendations for government agency decision makers from the lessons they learned.
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Challenges Faced By Public Agencies In Utilizing Interactive, Online Technology

Ten years ago, proposals to move government services onto the web were perceived in many circles as elitist. Because computers and internet connections were expensive, it was thought that spending public resources on internet projects would benefit only those affluent enough to afford access. This “digital divide” was a compelling enough concern to delay investment in internet-based service channels for many public agencies. But as the cost of access has come down, and internet access has become more ubiquitous (particularly through mobile devices), concerns about the digital divide have faded.

But even with the easing in concerns around the digital divide, many government agencies have still not yet implemented interactive, online interfaces for their citizens. For many local, state, and federal government agencies, forms must still be submitted in person, by mail, or by fax. If online filing forms are made available, they are quite simple; submitted information is simply forwarded to an agency employee’s email inbox, which means the submitter cannot log back into a website and see updated status information for their submitted request. These approaches offer little of the power available through common websites like eBay and Facebook, which are now used by a majority of Americans.

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