Pickerington residents will have the option of filing and paying taxes online next year.

Pickerington residents will have the option of filing and paying taxes online next year.

Pickerington City Council voted 6-1 Aug. 18 in favor of spending $18,775 to buy new software from InSource Solutions Group to allow for online income tax preparation.

"The hope in the end is to eliminate, as much as possible, paper forms," Pickerington tax administrator Jan Eichner said. "This could save (the city) some money, as well, because we would not be printing as many tax returns.

"It also will reduce our processing time, and we can spend additional time on collections. The time involved of not opening envelopes and processing checks will be saved."

For several years, the city has offered InSource software through its Web site to help individuals calculate taxes. By February, the city hopes to have the new software implemented so people can file income taxes or make tax payments online.

Eichner said taxpayers will be able to download necessary tax forms from the city's Web site, www.pickerington.net.

Information to be mailed to local taxpayers will include personal code numbers they'll need to file online, as well as a telephone number to call for tax questions.

Those who prefer more traditional means of filing and paying taxes still could file through the mail, however.

"It's getting very expensive to have those forms printed and when we're sending them out and they're not being used, it's kind of a waste," Eichner said. "We've been asked by the public a number of times, 'Why can't you have online filing?'"

City council's lone opponent to the move was Brian Sauer, who believes Pickerington could save more money by joining the Regional Council of Governments and using its Regional Income Tax Agency, also known as RITA.

Council last December began exploring the use of RITA for Pickerington's tax services. Currently, the agency provides income tax collections for 162 Ohio municipalities, according to its Web site.

Based on information from the agency and the city's tax department, Sauer said, Pickerington could save up to $209,000 by outsourcing its tax collections.

"By passing this legislation (to contract with InSource), those savings would be gone," he said.

Some council members disputed RITA's savings projections. They also said using the InSource software would allow the city to maintain tax department personnel and the level of personal customer service residents expect.

"I would hate to give that (customer service) up in favor of saving money that may or may not be a savings," Councilwoman Cristie Hammond said.

The software purchase from InSource was recommended by Eichner and Linda Fersch, Pickerington's finance director.

"(Council's) big goal is to keep the customer service so people don't have to go through a big switchboard to have questions answered," Fersch said. "It was doing something that RITA had available, but it was bringing the technology to us and keeping the customer service."

Following the initial investment for the InSource software, the city expects to annually pay about $5,000 to the company for maintenance and updates, including providing new tax forms and keeping pace with changing tax laws and procedures, Eichner said.

nellis@thisweeknews.com