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The Itat Quarterly

Arnolds Park Amusement Park - Dickinson County

Fiscal Year 2022 - Q1 Edition

Welcome to the first edition of The ITAT Quarterly!

The ITAT Quarterly newsletter is brought to you by the County Treasurer's of IowaTaxAndTags.org and is designed to increase communications and to provide treasurers with information on hot topic issues that concern Iowa County Treasurers.

During the past 18 months, County Treasurers Offices have had to adapt to an ever-changing landscape whether it be due to building restrictions, employee health and safety concerns, or a change in citizen preferences for more contactless services.  

As a vaccine became available and the CDC guidelines concerning gatherings were eased, counties were able to get back to a more normal routine and serve more customers in-person. It sure was great to be able to meet again in-person and see smiling faces. Unfortunately, with the Delta variant and the potential for other new variants, there is a lot of uncertainty of what to expect as the seasons change to Fall and Winter.

With all the uncertainty over the Covid-19 variants, it is even more important to have a safe, secure and easy to use payment website that is adaptable to our ever changing environment.  

IowaTaxAndTags.org, commonly referred to as ITAT, is a group of County Treasurer's who are committed to providing an online payment platform that provides an easy, safe and secure way for citizens to pay their property tax and vehicle renewals.  ITAT has always been great at collecting property tax and vehicle renewal registrations but now we are committed to expanding our product offerings in order to meet the ever changing needs of Iowa County Treasurers.

Don Lewis, CPA, ITAT Project Manager

What to expect from The ITAT Quarterly newsletter:
  • Legislative and administrative rules changes - discussion on any new legislative or administrative rules and how they affect the County Treasurer's Office.
  • ITAT Enhancement Update - find out what the IT developers have been working on and what they have up their sleeves for the next quarter.  
  • County Treasurer Spotlight - go in depth with one of the ITAT County Treasurers to find out what is new in their county and what benefits they get from being an ITAT County.
  • Technical Review - learn how Iowa Tax And Tags utilized the latest technology to ensure payments are transacted safe and securely.

 

County Treasurer Spotlight

Kris Rowley, Dickinson County

How Dickinson County Became an ITAT County

When I was running for election for the first time in 2006, I read in the news that Iowa's county treasurers had split into two different web payment groups following a disagreement regarding their shared online payment system for collecting tax and motor vehicle tags.  I later learned that the split among the treasurers had to do with opposing philosophies of management (one county vs 99 counties) and about where  the interest generated from the portal payments should be applied.  The original online payment group became Iowa Tax and Tags, and the split-off group became ICTEA.

Initially no one considered that the account where the online payment money flowed through would generate significant interest. But after several years, more and more people made web payments, and the interest grew dramatically. In 2006, some treasurers felt the interest should go back to the counties, and some felt it should be kept by the website for future enhancements.

Some felt the account should not be run by a county but should be its own entity. All agreed that some interest should support the web portal operation along with service fees.  I assumed the duties of office on 1/1/2007. I had not worked in the treasurer’s office previously so definitely had a learning curve in those early years.  The previous Dickinson County Treasurer joined the new ICTEA group in 2006, so originally I was an ICTEA treasurer too. As I settled in and began evaluating the various processes in the office, I looked at the online payment system and wondered which web group would be a better fit for Dickinson County.

I met with Polk County Treasurer Mary Maloney and some of her staff in mid-2007.  Prior to the meeting, I provided data regarding tax and tag volumes and Dickinson County’s parcel info.  ITAT showed me projections of what ITAT’s revenue and expenses for Dickinson County would be at our meeting.   Back in 2007, interest rates were around 5%.  The ITAT group was returning most of the interest to counties based on web payment volume.  At that time, ICTEA kept the interest for its new website development and management costs.  Over the eight-month period between September 1, 2006 and April 30, 2007, Dickinson County would have received $3,957.00 in net revenue had I been an ITAT county vs $0.00 that I earned in this period as an ICTEA county.   On June 28, 2007, Dickinson County became an ITAT county.  On July 1, 2007, Iowa County joined ITAT as well.

Over the years, I’ve heard some treasurers say they wish we were back to one website again.  I personally think it is good to have options.  The money pouring through the online portals is much greater than back in 2006, so there is more risk for hackers.  Although there are many more counties in ICTEA, the total dollar amounts flowing through are fairly evenly divided between the two websites.  This keeps both afloat.  I am a believer in competition’s ability to spur on innovation.  Both websites have benefited from each other’s existence, offering more services at better prices.

For me, ITAT has continued to provide a reliable web payment service for my county.  There have been very few interruptions of services.  The fees for citizen payments have reduced substantially from the 2007 rates.  The costs to provide the service are also minimal.   I appreciate having online citizen payments and the Interest that accompanies them settle directly into my county’s accounts.  The website has been secure from hackers.  The merchant services have been safe.  The staff have been great to work with.  All the ITAT counties have a voice at the table.   I’m looking forward to many more years of partnership with ITAT.

 

Featured Enhancements

The ITAT Programmers have had a busy and productive summer completing some highly anticipated enhancements.  Some of the higher profile enhancements include:  

  • Fleet Renewal Service - The Fleet Renewal Service gives fleet customers a tool to manage and pay the vehicle registration for their fleet vehicles.  Key features include: One-Step plate validation; Renewal options to import a list of plates or renew using our convenient search tool; Ability to add different one-time mailing address to each plate; and Option to renew up to 500 plates in a single transaction.  
  • Improved Online Bill Display - Parcel search results now display all bills together.  This has reduced the amount of replicated information and warnings being displayed, making the design even more user friendly. 
  • New Parcel Detail Page - The Parcel Detail page focuses on parcel level details including a summary of all taxes due, a complete online payment history and a map of the property location.  
  • New Bill Detail Page - The Bill Detail page focuses on activity for each specific bill.  This includes the original amounts due, payments applied by the county (including outside of ITAT) and recent online payments on the bill. 
  • Advance Payments (Testing Phase) - Allows citizens to make an advance payment on unbilled taxes.  The ability to make advanced payments is only available when all current and delinquent taxes have been paid in full.  This is an optional feature for ITAT Counties.
  • Online Display of Unredeemed Tax Sale Information (Testing Phase) - For active unredeemed tax sale certificates, ITAT is displaying the current amount due to redeem.  In addition, once the 90-day affidavit for tax sale has been filed, the last day to redeem is also displayed.  

In addition to working on the current enhancements, there has been many hours and days planning for the next set of enhancements.  Here is what's next for Q2 enhancements:

  • Online Subsequent Payments - Tax Sale Certificate holders will now be able to pay subsequent tax payment online.  This enhancement has a production delivery date of November 1, 2021.    
  • Public Citizen User Accounts - Customers will be able to create an account within ITAT.  The account will allow users to save properties and vehicles to their account as well as to setup custom notifications.

 

Technical Review

Dan Radkay, ITAT Senior Applications Developer

Ensuring Secure Payments and Delivering Stability

Online payments present a unique opportunity to your County’s residents, delivering flexibility and stability to their already busy schedules. Providing an online gateway to pay your property taxes and vehicle tags for less than the cost of a postage stamp is one thing, but delivering that savings in a secure environment is entirely another. End-to-end security turns an on the fence first time user into a repeat return user. 

Iowa Tax And Tags ensures that your transaction is secured at every payment stage. We utilize an algorithmic encryption process, developed in-house, for all sensitive data; that process translates to secure payments made and to be made. We also partner with well-established payment providers that deliver on our strict security requirements, allowing us the flexibility to transact and verify a payment securely. Our developers employ a perpetual code improvement process, providing an ability to be nimble for implementing security improvements while simultaneously allowing for new enhancement development. Persistence and vigilance is the name of the game when it comes to security, and at Iowa Tax And Tags we deliver.  

 

County Treasurer Reminders

Event/Location Date/Time

IowaTaxAndTags.org Update
Veterans Memorial Community Choice CU Convention Center
Des Moines, Iowa
Room 306

August 24, 2021
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

 

ISAC Annual Conference
Veterans Memorial Community Choice CU Convention Center
Des Moines, Iowa

August 25, 2021 -
August 27, 2021
All Day 

Labor Day Holiday September 6, 2021
Batch Company - September Tax Due Date (ITAT Counties)

September 20,2021
10:00 am

Property Tax Due Date - September Installment September 30,2021

 

Considering a Change in Web Venders?

Transitioning to the IowaTaxAndTags.org website is easier than you may think. Contact ITAT today to discuss the benefits of joining the IowaTaxAndTags.org website.  

 

Email: Contact@IowaTaxAndTags.org

Phone: (515) 323-5278   

ITAT Staff:
Dan Radkay, Sr Applications Developer
Sarika Mandumula, Sr Applications Developer
Don Lewis, ITAT Project Manager