It’s no question that paper tax bills and assessment notices present added risk and expense to organizations. According to Sterling Commerce, errors in a single paper invoice can cost upwards of $50 to rectify. Yet, the typical real estate team still receives most of their tax bills in paper format.
Manually entering the data from property tax bills into spreadsheets and systems can lead to expensive data errors. It’s estimated that inaccurate data costs U.S. organizations an average of $15 million each year. That number is expected to grow as data plays an increasingly central role in business operations.
Along with making data itself less reliable, manually inputting property tax bills and notices can quickly become expensive. A considerable portion of the cost comes from labor itself, whether it’s completed in house or contracted to an outside firm. That's because inputting data from paper tax bills is a slow process: opening, reading, and interpreting documents all take time. On top of this, teams must also take time to review electronic data for errors and ensure it’s associated with the correct property or parcel.
Fortunately, technology has come a long way in the last decade. New tools can help you streamline your property tax bill payment processes. One of the key innovations in this space is data capture.
Data capture refers to the process of extracting data from a document – like a property tax bill or assessment notice – and converting it into a form that’s readable by a computer. While the original document can be either paper or electronic, the final product is a digital document that can be searched for and edited. Typically, such as with itamlink Capture, data capture involves some level of OCR (optical character recognition).
Until the early 2010s (and sometimes still today), the standard practice is for property tax teams to manually enter their property tax bills into spreadsheets. As an alternative to manual re-entry, some companies will instead offshore some or all of this process.
Of course, neither of these solutions are sustainable for companies over the long term, particularly as the volume of data associated with commercial properties grows. Having an internal team managing paper documents can be tedious, leading to high turnover and taking specialized staff away from higher-value tasks. While offshoring can work, it can become expensive as your company scales – and it still relies on manual data input.
It isn't only data inaccuracies that present issues when data capture is a manual process. We’ll explore other key challenges below.
Hard copies of property tax bills often need to be associated with specific properties and parcels. When this process is manual, the essential step of assigning a bill to a parcel can sometimes be forgotten. Other times, the tax bill may be assigned to the incorrect parcel.
When property tax bills are missing or assigned incorrectly, it can strain resources and result in costly errors. Team members may have to sift through 100s or 1000s of records to determine whether a bill was received, and if they miss it, it can lead to tax penalties.
Improper management can cause property tax bills to be overpaid, duplicated, or worse, not paid at all. If teams turn to offshoring, this can introduce additional complexities. Since property tax teams need to account for deadlines, ensuring sufficient time to review data for correctness. But if offshore teams operate in different time zones, any back-and-forth clarifying values or data can lead to missed deadlines. The result of a late or missed payment can mean a steep penalty for your company, something property tax teams are highly motivated to avoid.
Of course, entering this data is a slow process -- and that’s before factoring in the additional time that’s required to review after the fact. Teams still need to ensure the data was entered correctly before paying bills, developing forecasts and budgets, or moving onto other tasks that requires tax bill data. They also need to ensure property tax bills weren’t missed, incorrectly assigned, or duplicated.
As many challenges as there are when it comes to paper tax bills, state and local tax authorities still rely on paper documents for property tax bills and notices. Clearly, the need for tools to support the automation of this process are needed.
Our team recognized the need to streamline these processes. Ultimately, this lead us to launch Capture in 2012. Not only was this a major milestone for us, but also the commercial property tax industry: we were the first to market in the property tax area with a comprehensive, end-to-end solution for data capture. Until that point, no other tax technology company offered data capture and extraction tools for digitizing property tax bills - and certainly not one that was fully integrated.
Capture allowed our customers to bypass a number of the issues they had previously been experiencing. With our OCR tool, property tax teams had more confidence in their data, as they weren’t inputting tax bills one at a time. The tool also associated a PDF version of the scanned tax bill right in itamlink Docs, where property tax managers were able to attach it to the appropriate parcel or property. In the case they forgot, the electronic document was easy to find in the system – they no longer had to flip through 100s of paper tax bills.
In the eight years since we launched Capture, we’ve been working hard to improve it on a continuous basis for our customers. But in 2021, we felt that it was time to give it a more comprehensive update.
We’re excited to introduce an upgraded, more intuitive itamlink Capture, the industry’s leading tool for converting paper documents into searchable, editable electronic data.
While we've kept the tools and experience our customers love, we’ve enhanced Capture to provide a more intuitive and integrated experience. Instead of logging into a separate portal, customers can now access it directly from itamlink using their existing login credentials. We’ve also redesigned the user interface to provide a more intuitive experience.
We’ve also added new features based on customer feedback to help ensure nothing slips through the cracks. This includes email notifications, both when a batch of property tax bills are processing, and also when the process is complete. You’ll also see on-screen statuses for the documents you’re uploading. Perhaps best of all is that Capture is faster than ever, taking even less time to convert your documents into indexed, electronic data.
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest property tax management tips, tools, and resources right to your inbox