Over the past few weeks, as people are increasingly working from home, we have received a tremendous amount of feedback from our clients regarding their experiences as they shift to remote workspaces. As a result, we decided to bring members of the property tax community together and facilitate an open forum for property tax managers and analysts. This virtual meeting served as an opportunity for attendees to discuss the challenges they face in light of COVID-19 and share some of the strategies they are implementing to deal with shifting workforce practices.
While some organizations involved in the discussion found themselves better prepared than others to manage these changes, we noticed a few themes in the pain points mentioned. In order to help the larger real estate and property tax community better understand and navigate this situation, we have put together a summary of some the more common challenges discussed:
1. Managing Hard-Copy Bills
Even though most organizations are switching to electronic billing where possible, most jurisdictions still rely on mailing out hard-copy property tax bills and notices. For any company that owns, occupies or manages multiple properties, this can pose a problem when no one is present at the office to collect and distribute all these documents to the appropriate person or teams.
An example of a strategy some companies are implementing to manage this challenge is to send different team members to the office on different days to collect and manage the physical information they need. Another tactic being used is to forward all incoming property tax bills to an individual’s mailing address so that he/she can then administer the bills accordingly. While this has not prevented property tax managers from completing their work, it obviously makes the process of receiving and managing incoming bills incredibly inefficient. Individuals are spending their time manually photocopying and mailing or scanning and emailing out multiple copies of different bills in addition to completing their regular property tax management functions.
2. Submitting Payments
Not only is receiving property tax bills an issue for many owners, occupiers or managers of multi-property portfolios right now, but paying those bills is also proving to be a challenge for many as they struggle to navigate the traditional payment approval procedures in a remote work environment.
Under normal circumstances, many organizations still rely on manual processes for payment approvals. Many will print payments requisitions and collect a physical signature or multiple signatures as part of their validation and approval process. These payments are then inputted into an accounting system for processing. Obviously, if everyone is physically distancing, obtaining multiple physical signatures can cause a major roadblock in completing payments securely and on time.
3. Monitoring Jurisdictional Changes
Due to the financial hardships businesses are currently facing, some municipalities have delayed their deadlines for property tax payments or adapted their processes for property tax collection. However, these jurisdictional changes are by no means consistent across neighbouring counties and municipalities —let alone states or provinces— so monitoring shifting deadlines has become an added complexity to the process of property tax management. With office closures and staff reductions, even reaching someone at the taxing office to confirm policy or deadline changes can be difficult.
Many organizations are wondering how they can ensure their internal teams are up-to-date on all the changes, property tax deferrals and relief being offered across their portfolio. Some are relying on attorneys or other third parties to help gather information. Others are monitoring websites and storing any data they find in spreadsheets. However, collecting information from external teams and resources while relying on these kinds of programs to track, store and share data can also become complicated as multiple document versions start circulating and causing confusion.
Using this Time to Rethink Processes
There is no doubt that Covid-19 is presenting new and complex challenges to organizations across the globe and many are struggling to adapt. It is forcing companies to re-evaluate their immediate operations and priorities. However, those who are able to think objectively about their current challenges in conjunction with their long-term goals are also finding opportunities for lasting operational change. It is important to remember that, with the future being as unstable as it is, reactive disaster management is not enough for continued success. Organizations should be using this time to innovate, reassess priorities and rethink processes.
Contact our team to discuss how Rethink Solutions can help your organization navigate the current property tax management challenges of COVID-19 and have a positive, lasting impact on your operational processes.