Strategic Plan 2017-2020 Accomplishments Report Key accomplishments and projects completed

We have completed the final year of our Strategic Plan 2017-2020. This report looks back at the projects and efforts completed by the California Franchise Tax Board, and recounts our numerous efforts in providing direct assistance to taxpayers and other government organizations.

Our strategic goals, foundational principles, and organizational values set the foundation upon which the Franchise Tax board operates.

Foundational Principles

Our Foundational Principles provide the basis on which we conduct business. These principles support our mission and guide our work to achieve the goals and implement the strategies in our strategic plan. Our Foundational Principles guide us in everything we do by safeguarding our systems, protecting taxpayer information and making sure our employees are safe.

  • Protect taxpayer information and privacy
  • Carry out our fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers by managing their accounts with accuracy and financial integrity
  • Operate with transparency to maintain public trust and confidence
  • Conduct our business in accordance with the Statement of Principles of Tax Administration, Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, and our organizational values

Projects Completed by Goal

Following are the accomplishments and projects we completed during the four years of Strategic Plan 2017-2020.

Goal 1: Taxpayer Centric Service

Enhance our services to help taxpayers fulfill their tax obligations.

  • Evaluate customer experience needs across all service channels; develop and implement a roadmap to meet those needs.
  • Champion an organizational culture to achieve positive customer experiences.
  • Promote the use of self-service tools to improve service to our customers.

Enhanced the customer experience

  • Created the Customer Service Dashboard which offers accurate timeframes and wait times so our customers can decide which service channel to use.
  • Improved the amended return process by eliminating the Form 540X and creating the Schedule X allowing our customers to e-file amended returns.
  • Enhanced the current mobile application so customers can makes payments and utilize text messaging capabilities.
  • Incorporated Customer Experience principles and processes in several enterprise-wide projects and programs.
  • Implemented Power of Attorney 2.0, which provides secure services to authorized taxpayer representatives. Expanded the use and awareness of MyFTB by researching and analyzing marketing options to develop new marketing strategies and increase the use of MyFTB, allowing taxpayers to self-serve.
  • Implemented legislative changes to streamline the administrative process to dissolve a business.
  • Improved taxpayer notices increasing compliance and allowing call center agents to focus on more complex contacts.
  • Implemented self-service options on FTB’s public website and interactive voice response applications to include court-ordered debt installment agreements that allow taxpayers to initiate installment agreements for skipping payments and bill payment delays.
  • Implemented an accessibility program that provides access to and use of Electronic Information Technology (EIT) for employees and members of the public with disabilities that is comparable to the access or use afforded to individuals without disabilities.
  • Implemented a process that sends notification of estimate payments and credit data to business entity taxpayers who made estimate payments prior to filing a return. This process improved the customer experience for business entity tax payments and increased taxpayer compliance.

Goal 2: Effective Compliance

Fairly administer the law to ensure taxpayers file and pay the correct amount.

  • Identify noncompliant taxpayer segments and customize our actions to improve compliance.
  • Discover and implement new approaches to increase compliance in the most egregious areas of abuse.
  • Improve data, information, and knowledge sharing with the tax community and government partners.
  • Improve case selection in all compliance programs.
  • Improve timeliness in all compliance programs.

Furthered our compliance efforts

  • Researched the digital economy to identify how income is or is not reported to improve outreach and compliance efforts.
  • Built upon our successful partnership with EDD to identify new opportunities to improve the accuracy of return processing and the service we provide to wage-earning taxpayers such as timely refunds. This effort includes developing a partnership with the payroll industry whose services for employers and their employees is critical for accurate return processing.
  • Published an external CA Cannabis Portal dedicated to the business of adult-use marijuana and worked in partnership with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to create tools to assist with compliance.
  • Increased the efficiency of the Business Entity Delinquency Notice Process by creating more effective notices to taxpayers, reducing backlogs, and decreasing response time to taxpayers. Explored nudging techniques and the use of behavioral techniques to influence positive decision making that improves compliance.
  • Identified segments of noncompliant taxpayers and developed strategies to continue to bring taxpayers into compliance at the least burden and cost.
  • Implemented FTB system-functionality to continue cross-department programs and processes aligned with the CDTFA’s new CROS project.
  • Formed a task force comprised of individuals from FTB and the Employment Development Department to identify opportunities to share data and improve compliance.
  • FTB modified its legacy systems in order to talk to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration’s system to maximize effective staff operations, generate additional revenue, and provide efficiencies that will benefit the State of California.
  • Completed a data analytics initiative to document current processes, tools, and data used by the department in modeling and data analytics, developing and publishing a process for future offers, inquiries, and requests from data analytics software vendors.
  • Researched alternative electronic methods for receiving and capturing data from stand-alone forms to increase revenue, improve business processes, and contribute to taxpayer compliance.

Goal 3: Strong Organization

Invest in our employees, challenge and empower them to be experts in their field, and help them achieve their full potential.

  • Prioritize and implement the Talent Management Program services to help us recruit, train, and retain our employees.
  • Support an environment where decisions are made at all levels by those who have both the expertise and best information.
  • Increase employee engagement and job satisfaction by assessing and enhancing culture, workplace environment, and employee recognition.

Continued to Invest in Our Employees

  • Hosted the first Career Awareness & Resources Event which offered insight into the many career possibilities at FTB and highlighted resources and tools available to assist in career development.
  • Surveyed FTB staff and used the results to develop a baseline of employee satisfaction allowing the identification of areas needing improvement.
  • Enhanced our onboarding process by using successful best practices, developing a presence in our Talent Management web portal, and producing a comprehensive onboarding service video.
  • Identified critical knowledge throughout the department to focus and prioritize knowledge transfer activities. Established a universal definition of employee engagement and empowerment for FTB and provided recommendations to promote employee engagement as a cultural norm. This effort provided recommendations on tools, resources, training and best practices to enhance transparency and trust, improve morale and productivity, and propose innovative methods for boosting motivation. A follow-up survey of staff was completed to determine whether new programs were addressing the results of a prior survey, and made adjustments as necessary.
  • Developed the LEARN platform, a structured, online, collaborative process for employees and managers to use in planning and monitoring their personal career development, and which connects all employees to available training and training records.
  • Improved workforce planning by researching and providing recommendations for the type of classifications and skillsets required to best utilize data and tools developed for EDR2.
  • Developed an enterprise team for managing development and operations of our Analyst Development Program.
  • Strengthened tools and resources used by department analysts by offering instructor-led training classes, self-learning, and mentoring sessions and evaluated feedback to propose refinements to the program.
  • FTB continued to provide all employees with training in workplace diversity, inclusion, equity, disability awareness, our employee assistance program, career development, upward mobility, and many administrative courses.

Goal 4: Operational Excellence

Optimize processes, products, services, and resources to better serve our customers

  • Manage budgeted resources at the enterprise level and use performance metrics to meet short- and long-term business needs
  • Use data modeling and analytics to enhance operations
  • Leverage and modernize IT systems and processes to support enterprise business activities, including financial, human resources, and nontax programs
  • Mitigate emerging and evolving threats and manage risks to maintain taxpayer privacy and security
  • Standardize our hardware and software to optimize operations

Accomplishments and projects completed

  • Established the ability to submit liens and releases electronically to several California counties, using a secure government-to-government web portal.
  • Implemented the Enterprise Intake process which prioritized IT efforts.
  • Determined the root cause of incoming correspondence and recommended changes to the least effective notices to reduce unnecessary customer contacts.
  • Identified segments of the population that filed, paid, or corresponded using paper and identified strategies to move this population to available e-services.
  • Sought legislative remedy via Assembly Bill 2503 to improve the dissolution/cancellation of businesses and established a process in partnership with the Secretary of State’s Office. FTB reduced its reporting footprint and increased its capabilities for data exchange with outside agencies. These efforts included the development of a single enterprise application portfolio, and the installation and configuration of the Microsoft Team Foundation Server, which transitioned the department from using various tracking, reporting, and code repository tools into a single toolset that support the full service lifecycle.
  • Replaced the existing telephone system which was reaching end of life, with a new centrally located and scalable system that meets current and future telecommunications requirements.
  • Established a data governance strategy that identifies the people, processes, and technology to ensure data meets its intended business purpose. This strategy includes evaluation criteria for the ongoing use of data and established roles and responsibilities.
  • Replaced the existing enterprise server (mainframe) with an upgradeable box/platform, upgraded software licenses, and provided training for hardware and emerging technologies.
  • Improved service and processing of single payments from multiple non-tax debt taxpayers providing form and manner for payment for both electronic and paper methods. This project also implemented a more efficient way to receive and process single payments for multiple non-tax debt taxpayers.
  • Instituted a legacy system purge moratorium, revised data retention legacy system guidelines, and redefined Open and Closed cases at the enterprise level. This project also created new archive guidelines and business/technical requirements for the design of a new archive solution.
  • Implemented new policy that requires all administrative, system and service account passwords be changed to a passphrase with a minimum of 15 characters. This effort also assigns an expiration period and requires passphrases to be changed at least annually.
  • Refreshed existing LAN infrastructure hardware and reduced the risk that components will fail or be compromised. This effort also assure the necessary bandwidth to continue to conduct successful operations.
  • Decommissioned our Wage and Withholding Verification System legacy application as its capabilities are now offered through our Return Analysis Case Management System. This retirement frees up a small percentage of support staff time.
  • Decommissioned our Tandem System before the current hardware and software reached end of Life.
  • Implemented a secured management infrastructure for external facing Representational State Transfer, Web Application Programming interfaces and built and deployed an API for Lottery data exchange. This infrastructure provides the foundation for future business-to-business or business-to-consumer web APIs.
  • Implemented an enterprise backup solution that includes offsite replication of FTB’s virtual and physical servers and integrates with the existing data protection hardware infrastructure.
  • Upgraded all FTB desktops from Microsoft Windows 7 to Microsoft Windows 10.
  • Decommissioned the Employment Information Database legacy application as the application’s capabilities are now offered through the Taxpayer Folder and enterprise data stores.
  • Migrated FTB’s Microsoft Exchange Server and mailboxes from an on premise solution into the Microsoft Government Cloud pursuant to California Department of Technology’s requirement to move IT services into the cloud.
  • Mainframe Enterprise Tape Library Refresh. FTB Refreshed and upgraded the existing mainframe enterprise tape library (MF ETL), guaranteeing storage capacity for FTB data, moving FTB away from magnetic tape technology that was no longer adequate to meet the ongoing needs of the department, and increased security through an electronic backup and restore process.
  • PST Replacement Project. FTB increased the amount of email storage for individual and shared mailboxes and removed the need for personal folders in Outlook.
  • Implemented User Behavior Analytics which allow early detection of threats and misuse of FTB’s information systems. This tool provides more accurate intelligence and threat identification to prevent or greatly reduce the impact of a security incident.
  • Redefined network borders at FTB which is a key security strategy in protecting FTB and its clients from malicious attacks. These newly established zones are based on value and trust levels and lower’s FTB’s overall security risk.
  • Created an enterprise performance measurement tool (Metric Book) that reflects key performance indicators at an enterprise level. These indicators measure and identify key metrics that allow for operational decisions at the enterprise level.

Partnership, Community, and Outreach Efforts (2017-2020)

FTB is not only about completing projects, we also strive to make a difference by aiding others in our community and in government through numerous partnerships and outreach efforts. Following are a few of the efforts we were involved in during Strategic Plan 2017-2020.

Assisted the Employment Development Department and other departments

In March 2020, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, and state departments were tasked with various response and recovery activities. As a result, FTB entered into a contract agreement with the Employment Development Department and loaned 115 employees to address ongoing critical work and backlogs. This essential work included unemployment claims processing, mail operations, call center assistance, human resource and IT support. In addition, FTB staff stepped into many support roles, including the Sleep Train Arena hospital site, where volunteers assisted the various agencies working there to ensure that the workers were being paid accurately and timely. Additionally, FTB members became contact tracers, providing support to public health departments in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. These are just two of the many stories of staff stepping up to help others within and outside of FTB.

California Disaster Relief and Local Assistance Centers for Wildfire States of Emergency

The Governor of California and the President successively declared both State of Emergency and Major Disaster Area proclamations, providing for relief efforts in support of citizens affected by California’s wildfires. This included a 30-day suspension of bills and notices, and an additional 60 days to file tax returns. In addition, FTB loaned its employees to local assistance centers in several counties. At a minimum, FTB’s assistance included replacing lost tax records, providing needed tax forms, answering account questions, and guidance toward claiming loss deductions.

California Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

FTB continues to reach out to California taxpayers who are eligible for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). This credit provides needed funds to less fortunate Californians. FTB contracts with the California Department of Community Services and Development to administer grants to promote CalEITC. Promotion plans include updated brochures, posters, postcards, media interviews, short videos aimed at social media audiences, and a CalEITC e-bus tour during tax season. FTB also administers the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that assists low-income individuals, senior citizens, and military personnel throughout the state of California in filing personal income tax returns. As an additional highlight, in January 2020, Controller and FTB Chair, Betty Yee, and First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, visited FTB’s studio to record videos to promote the EITC and the Young Child Tax Credit. These credits help low income families and program materials were shipped out to hundreds of government partners. The materials were offered in seven different languages including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong and Russian.

Cannabis activities

FTB continued cannabis implementation efforts with education as the primary focus. Activities included completing a pilot mailing of welcome letters to a group of 50 newly licensed cannabis business which provided helpful information on meeting income tax obligations. FTB also participated in several other efforts whose aim was to assist cannabis business meet their income tax obligations, including the development of a new FTB form which will allow cannabis businesses to more easily file their 2020 tax returns.

DMV Strike Teams Partnership

In August 2018, growing wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles attracted media attention as the full impact of the Real ID Act was realized. In response to a callout for assistance from the Governor’s Office and Government Operations Agency Secretary, Marybel Batjer, FTB activated 63 seasonal employees and redirected them to DMV Sacramento area locations within 24 hours. This partnership continued in July 2019 with the loan of 20 seasonal employees through March 2020.

First Virtual Board Meeting

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, FTB held its first ever virtual board meeting in June 2020. The live event was streamed to more than 140 viewers.

FTB Selected for MIT’s J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative

In September 2018, FTB entered into a partnership with two non-government entities to study “Nudging,” a behavioral science concept that uses influence and reinforcement to encourage positive decision making. This study will examine efforts to increase personal income tax compliance specifically in regard to return accuracy, gig economy workers, and claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Over the course of one year, the State and Local Innovation Initiative will provide $100,000 in grant funding, project and training support to FTB’s local academic partner, the California Policy Lab. This new partnership allowed FTB to analyze the data being collected from last year’s CalEITC efforts to increase participation in future years.

Gig Economy Board Meeting

In October 2019, FTB hosted a public meeting about the gig economy and California’s tax landscape. Attendees heard from gig workers and experts in the areas of taxation, business and academia. Topics included tax compliance in an evolving economy and the challenges and opportunities of meeting those obligations. The meeting was successful and well attended.

“Get Ready” Campaign on Federal Tax Reform

In response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2018, FTB launched a proactive “Get Ready” campaign to bring awareness and education to California taxpayers of the recent Federal Tax Reform changes and California’s non-conformity. The campaign included a new Tax Reform Webpage on FTB’s website where information and videos were posted. The “Get Ready” campaign also used social media sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and informative videos on FTB’s YouTube page. This campaign was a great success and received positive feedback from taxpayers.

Interagency Agreement with CalTrans

In November 2017, FTB entered into an interagency agreement with the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) to assist them in meeting their data processing deadlines and eliminating their backlog. FTB staff processed nearly 200,000 documents from the years 2015 through 2018. This accomplishment came six months earlier than anticipated and, according to CalTrans, was the first time in 28 years they were caught up. In August of 2018, approximately 50 FTB employees who had participated in this effort were recognized at a celebration and received a “Certificate of Partnering Excellence” from CalTrans Director and Deputy Director.

Minimum Essential Coverage Individual Mandate

FTB and Covered California worked together to administer the new Minimum Essential Coverage Individual Mandate, otherwise known as the individual health care mandate, which took effect January 1, 2020. Research findings showed that many Californians were still unaware of the mandate and the resulting penalty for noncompliance. FTB helped increased awareness by assisting with a Covered California media teleconference which included FTB Chair and State Controller Better T. Yee. This partnership between Covered California and FTB also reached out to Californians not likely to have health coverage by mailing 2.1 million letters, using social media, and conducting media interviews to provide education about the new requirements, financial assistance available, and the tax penalty. The individual health care mandate, patterned after the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires Californians to obtain and maintain qualifying health insurance coverage.

Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate’s Office Presentations

Our Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate’s Office gave numerous informative presentations. These included small business events, tax workshops, outreach to various business groups, and a presence at several conferences of professional organizations. The office is independent of FTB’s audit and collections areas and its goal is to protect taxpayers’ rights and ensure that taxpayers’ problems are handled promptly and fairly.

Top 500 Program Surpassed $1 Billion in Collections

As of August 2019, the Top 500 Program has collected over $1 Billion in revenue for the State of California. This program has been in existence since 2007. The Top 500 List incentivizes taxpayers with delinquent tax liabilities to pay by publishing their name and the name of their business (if applicable) on FTB’s website. Taxpayers are notified of their potential inclusion on the list and then given a reasonable amount of time to pay their tax liability.