A pioneering electronic service enables people to set up companies electronically, with information transferred instantly.
Keilalahdentie 2-4 FI-02150 Espoo Finland
Electronic services can be used to set up limited liability companies online, with all legal documentation generated in one session. Business IDs are granted immediately and it is no longer necessary to deliver documentation by post. They also enable customers to provide addresses and contact details electronically.
'We fetch data from the basic system and compare it with the information that the customer has submitted online. This enables us to guarantee a high level of automation, as the data is compared with the information in the trade register as soon as it is submitted,' says Esa Kosonen, Senior Officer, Finnish Patent and Registration Office.
As forms are filled in they pass inspection points, which enable the system to ensure that applications are correctly filled in first time. According to Kosonen, when company establishment forms were submitted on paper there were a lot of errors. These have now been eliminated.
Agile methods ensure usability
Citizens have welcomed the ability to set up companies electronically. Substantial effort was made to ensure good usability and the service was tested by several different user groups at different stages in its development.
'The service has been well received. In fact, the feedback from end users has surprised us - there have been very few requests for further development. We have received very few queries via our electronic service channel or over the phone,' says Kosonen.
Tietokarhu, our joint venture with the Finnish state, used agile working methods to implement the customer-facing service.
'This was a good way to work. We have been involved since the testing phase and we have been able to react to any changes that were required as soon as they became apparent. This working methodology also ensures that the finished system really is fit for purpose. We had no trouble going through the acceptance test,' says Paula Väliverronen, Senior Officer, Finnish Tax Administration.
Väliverronen advises others who are developing electronic services to consider what is implemented in each phase:
'It may not be necessary to include everything in the online service. It is worth investigating which data your own basic systems can verify and what can be verified at a later stage. It is important to think about the system as a whole and the benefits for customers.'
Higher-quality information and more automation
The aim of the electronic service was not just to provide citizens with better service, but also to reduce the volume of manual work required at the Finnish Patent and Registration Office and the Finnish Tax Administration. According to Kosonen, the Patent and Registration Office will only be able to provide a reliable estimate of the efficiency improvements when the basic system, which is currently undergoing redevelopment, is brought into production.
'Of course, we have calculated break-even points, but it is difficult to forecast the exact moment these will be reached as the environment is constantly changing. As manual processing is reduced, we will be able to improve our operations in other ways, such as adding more real-time monitoring by verifying data accuracy,' says Kosonen.
It will also take some time before the Finnish Tax Administration can measure the large-scale benefits of automation - first it must implement integrations to off-the-shelf software, which is currently at the project stage. However, the data received via electronic services is already of higher quality and it has been possible to directly automate some phases.
'When we receive different data about new companies, we can direct it to our other systems. We use this basic information for purposes such as analysis, determining pre-payments and matters related to the reporting periods for self-reported taxes,' Väliverronen says.
Steps towards an entirely electronic service
More and more limited liability companies are being set up electronically. Electronic applications are cheaper, providing a clear incentive to use them.
'Now the groundwork is complete and limited liability companies can be set up electronically, things will become easier for us when changes are implemented in the autumn. We will be able to use the work we have already done and apply it to private sole traders,' says Kosonen.
There is significant potential for efficiency gains when change notifications become electronic.
'There are Tax Offices all over Finland. As customers increasingly access our services electronically and the services are the same regardless of where they are accessed from and we are becoming a genuinely national organisation,' says Väliverronen.
The Finnish Patent and Registration Office and the Finnish Tax Administration both aim to make as many of their services as possible available electronically. Electronic solutions will be implemented for all of the most common company types.
'People should be able to carry out business electronically, whatever they are doing. Digital services are in demand and citizens are willing to use them. Although we may not yet be able to handle certain matters digitally, we should provide our customers with the opportunity to submit information electronically.
'The electronic service offered by the business information system is an example of a genuine partnership between official agencies for the benefit of customers. As digital services are developed, it is right that the authorities involve their customers in the process.' says Kosonen.
Setting up a limited liability company required a considerable amount of paperwork to be completed by the applicant, the Finnish Patent and Registration Office and the Finnish Tax Administration. The information supplied on paper often contained errors and omissions, resulting in resources being consumed in verifying and correcting information.
Digital services offered by the business information system make life easier for citizens and meet the demand for online services. It is possible to set up a limited liability company in a single session using any computer and receive a business ID immediately. The system sends data directly to the Finnish Patent and Registration Office and the Finnish Tax Administration.
The decrease in the volume of manual work, such as scanning and data inputting, enables personnel to spend their time advising customers, improving monitoring and performing other value-added tasks. Plus the number of errors on applications decreases when they are submitted electronically.
The Finnish Patent and Registration Office
The Finnish Patent and Registration Office registers companies, foundations and associations. It also researches and grants patents, utility models, trademarks and design protection. The Finnish Patent and Registration Office offers a wide range of services including advice, information and training. It belongs to the administrative sector of the Ministry for Employment and the Economy and it negotiates its operational objectives with the Ministry annually.
The Finnish Tax Administration
The Finnish Tax Administration operates under the Ministry of Finance. It is tasked with collecting taxation in the correct amounts and at the correct time to finance the operation of society. The Finnish Tax Administration collects approximately two thirds of all taxes and tax-like payments. In addition to the Finnish Tax Administration, taxes are collected by Finnish Customs (excise duty and import duty) and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (taxes related to vehicles).
The business information system has been in use since 2001. It handles 19 million searches annually.
Tietokarhu is a joint venture between us and the Finnish state. It develops and maintains information systems for taxation in partnership with the Finnish Tax Administration. Tietokarhu employs approximately 280 IT professionals.