First there was e-mail, then came e-commerce. How about eTax?
Canadians might lack the appetite for the risky business propositions our American cousins typically thrive upon, but when it comes to taxation, well, that’s our speciality.
In keeping with that, Mississauga, Ont.-based Artez Information Services has designed a program that will allow organizations to issue electronic tax receipts. Artez’s idea – built on Adobe Systems’ Portable Document Format (PDF) and Delano Technology Corp.’s e-Business Interaction Suite – won over the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF), making it the first organization in Canada to offer Revenue Canada-approved, secure tax receipts in an electronic format.
“It’s a significant cost savings to us,” explained Deborah Kroeger, the CBCF’s national director of IT. “We only issued about 2,000 (eTax receipts) this year, but we’re hoping more and more people will become comfortable with it, and that we’ll get more people to register with us on-line…the Delano application provided the functionality for an organization of our size.”
When an on-line donation is made, eTax Receipt works by transmitting donation information from the CBCF database into an Adobe PDF template, which preserves the information so that it cannot be electronically altered. The secure receipt file is then e-mailed to the donor, and can be opened using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. A copy of the receipt is kept in the CBCF’s records for accounting purposes.
“The CBCF is a big client of ours and has been for many years,” said Rick Poetker, director of sales for Artez. “We did a lot of (their) e-mail deployment and the management of workflow solutions and building on the genesis of those ideas, we got to thinking ‘why not an electronic tax receipt?’ We thought it was kind of cool.”
While the technological option of electronic receipts, billing and its advantages is becoming common, relatively unknown is the notion of a tax receipt being issued without paper. Furthermore, e-commerce security took a public-relations hit in the wake of an unknown Russian teen who held an American corporation ransom by cracking the company’s database where thousands of active credit card numbers were kept. Despite this, Canada’s revenue agency has no reservations about the program or the technology itself.
“There is no difference, whether it’s a hard copy or an electronic receipt,” said Collette Gentes-Hawn, spokesperson for Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. “Donors can keep either a paper or an electronic record of that receipt, but they must have a hard copy available for examination upon request.”
The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency are continuing their own pilot project in 2000 dubbed NetFile, a program which will invite a select 3.5 million Canadians to file their 1999 tax returns over the Internet. In 1998, 5.3 million Canadians filed their tax returns with NetFile – an increase of 5.6 per cent from the previous year.
“I don’t see how it’s not going to go in that direction,” said Ruta Cummings, director of corporate sales for Adobe Systems in Toronto, when asked if she expects other organizations to follow the CBCF’s lead. “From Revenue Canada’s point of view this is huge – the end user has a document [with] integrity.”
Organization promotes digital receipts
Digital receipts may soon replace traditional paper receipts as accepted proof of purchase.
NCR Corp. evidently believes so after spearheading the creation of the Digital Receipt Alliance (DRA), an organization whose mandate is to promote digital receipt technology.
Used for in-store and on-line purchases, digital receipts can allow purchase data to be downloaded into personal finance, tax or accounting applications. The technology also enables retailers to narrow the flow of information to suit the profile of each customer. For example, it can provide a one-to-one marketing communications medium that can be customized for the recipient, it can be used as an opt-in tool, or it can deliver promotions and offers along with the receipt to automate manual tasks.
Small retailers with PC-based point-of-sale systems can make use of the digital receipt with its ability to automatically download customer transactions into accounting and inventory applications instead of manually entering the data at the end of the business day.
The DRA, located at www.ereceipts.org, also includes Microsoft, America Online, Office Depot, ValiCert Inc., RCS, and Hewlett-Packard subsidiary VeriFone.