5. Services

A core part of supporting taxpayer compliance is the provision of a wide range effective and easy to use services to taxpayers such as specific guidance, appropriate prompts or calculation tools. Tax administrations report that their investment in services is growing, with a focus on providing services that are more relevant to the taxpayer’s individual circumstances.

This increased range of services is helping facilitate the drive towards self-service, on a real-time and 24/7 basis. In addition, tax administrations are reporting a rapid growth in the use of technology to transform their operational models. The use of advanced techniques in artificial intelligence, machine learning and machine to machine links are opening up new service options for tax administrations that allow more ‘compliance-by-design’ style approaches to be made possible. This is a growing trend that is expected to accelerate as tax administrations continue to unlock the power of digital transformation. Box 5.1. provides an example of digital transformation allowing the introduction of new services and access channels.

This growth in the use of technology and more personalised services has seen tax administrations focus more on the experience of taxpayers in using these services. This has also led to taxpayer centred service improvements which help improve outcomes for administrations and taxpayers alike. Box 5.2. below contains examples of taxpayer feedback being used to drive service improvements.

Service improvements have often been supported by the use of behavioural insights. Behavioural insights is an interdisciplinary field of research using principles from the behavioural sciences such as psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural economics to understand how individuals absorb, process, and react to information. These principles can be used to design practical policies and interventions based on human behaviour. This can be particularly powerful when combined with insights gathered from the analysis of the increasingly large volumes of data available to tax administration, both internally and externally generated.

Previous editions of this series have seen and increasing number of tax administrations report employing behavioural researchers and using behavioural insights in specific areas to influence voluntary compliance. This trend has continued with three-quarters of administrations reporting the use of behavioural insight methodologies or techniques in 2021 (see Chapter 6, Figure 6.1.). The 2021 report from the OECD’s Forum on Tax Administration Behavioural Insight Community of Interest also contains many examples of this in practice (OECD, 2021[1]).

An important aspect of meeting taxpayer preferences is getting the mix of channels right. Such strategies of course need to be based on good measurement and understanding of demands and constraints. Table 5.1. highlights the shift to digital that occurred since the pandemic, with use of online channels continuing to grow significantly. The rapid decline of in-person visits to the tax office persisted during 2021, while the use of paper correspondence went back to pre-pandemic volumes. Digital assistance, for example through chatbots, has become an important channel in many jurisdictions. The data hints at a structural shift away from costly and time-consuming in-person visits to online interactions.

The self-service offering from tax administrations continues to grow, with an expanding range of self-services being provided. Common examples of this include the ability to register, file and pay on-line, along with a range of interactive tools. This is leading to efficiency gains in tax administrations, as well as being able to provide a more 24/7-style service to taxpayers. A number of tax administrations are also applying artificial intelligence techniques to the large amounts of data that is collected through these services to help develop them further to better meet taxpayers’ needs.

The previous editions of this series highlighted how a growing number of administrations are using virtual or digital assistants to help respond to taxpayer enquiries and support self-service. As Table 5.2. shows the growth has been significant and these services are now commonly used by many administrations.

The success of these services are now being developed further with jurisdictions investigating how they use advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver more sophisticated levels of support. Figure 5.1 shows that 40% of administrations who have a virtual assistant are using AI in some form to improve the service. This can allow the system to cope with more complex questions being asked by taxpayers and/or more personalised answers being given. This is part of the wider trend of the use of AI in tax administration which can be seen throughout this report.

The recent trend for the increasing use of mobile applications by tax administrations seen in other editions of this series has continued. Mobile applications allow taxpayers to access services on the go and thus provide additional flexibility and support self-service.

While the main use often remains the provision of information and guidance, mobile applications are becoming increasingly transactional, and are becoming a primary way for taxpayers to access relevant records and personal tax accounts, communicate with the tax administration, supply information and tax returns and make payments. Box 5.5. provides latest developments in this area.

Digital services have been critical to tax administrations delivering enhanced services to customers, as well as opening up new service options. While there is an increasing shift to the use of electronic services for both convenience and cost-efficiency purposes, a proportion of taxpayers will not have access to, or be comfortable with such services. This calls for considered strategies as to how to influence channel shift for those for whom it would offer better outcomes without adversely affecting the service offering to other taxpayers.

Figure 5.2 highlights that 80% of administrations offer specific services to support those who are not online, and over 60% make sure their services are available to those with a disability. Whilst more progress clearly needs to be made in this space, these programmes are starting to ensure that all taxpayers are served effectively by the tax administration. Tax administrations are therefore continuing to invest in detailed research to understanding the needs and drivers of these taxpayer groups and to develop considered strategies as to how to serve these taxpayers in the most appropriate way.

As the digital services developed by tax administrations grow, more and more administrations recognise that these services bring opportunities to connect into the systems of taxpayers, often through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs are allowing connectivity between systems, people and things without providing direct access, and are the critical enablers of many of the innovative services highlighted in this report. It is against this background that 80% of tax administrations are now creating APIs and that three-quarters of them are making the APIs available to third party developers. See Box 5.7. for examples of latest developments in administration regarding APIs and Chapter 10 which contains more detail on the role of APIs in digital transformation.

The OECD report Unlocking the digital economy – a guide to unlocking application programming interfaces in government (OECD, 2019[2]) provides an overview of the practices, techniques and standards used to deliver contemporary and effective digital services for taxpayers through APIs. As the services delivered become more sophisticated, and play a greater role in delivering a quality service to taxpayers, tax administrations are having to invest more in the management and oversight of their APIs.

The new possibilities for service development opened up by APIs means that tax administrations are also deepening their collaboration with an increasing number of organisations outside of government, including in the development of new joined-up services. It is expected that this trend will accelerate and grow as tax administrations digitally transform their operating models and the natural systems of taxpayers and tax administrations become more connected. Box 5.8. illustrates this.


[1] OECD (2021), Behavioural Insights for Better Tax Administration: A Brief Guide, https://www.oecd.org/tax/forum-on-tax-administration/publications-and-products/behavioural-insights-for-better-tax-administration-a-brief-guide.htm.

[2] OECD (2019), Unlocking the Digital Economy - A guide to implementing application programming interfaces in Government, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/tax/forum-on-tax-administration/publications-and-products/unlocking-the-digital-economy-guide-to-implementing-application-programming-interfaces-in-government.htm (accessed on 22 May 2023).

[3] OECD et al. (2023), Inventory of Tax Technology Initiatives, https://www.oecd.org/tax/forum-on-tax-administration/tax-technology-tools-and-digital-solutions/ (accessed on 22 May 2023).

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