Decommissioning of Telefile Hurts Small Business
Author: Chris Berleth, President, Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce
As the Chamber remains laser-focused on our five focus areas, we've had the wonderful opportunity to travel across the Chamber's two-county service area to meet with members of all kinds. In the first quarter, we heard overwhelmingly how important the Chamber's continued focus on advocacy is, and that members view the Chamber as a resource for issues that impact the entire business community. We're excited to meet this need, and recently, one surprising issue that has reached our ears is concern over the decommissioning of the telefile tax filing services at the end of 2023 by the PA Department of Revenue.
If you're unfamiliar with tele-file, it's a service of the Department of Revenue designed to make it easier for taxpayers and tax professionals to file taxes over the phone. Now, the department is asking all taxpayers to transition to myPATH, the department’s online filing system available at mypath.pa.gov. On the surface, this seems like a streamlining process designed to cut costs and make the government more efficient. The problem is, we're not ready.
While we ache for efficiencies and ease of services from the Commonwealth, and applaud such measures as Governor Shapiro's development of the Office of Transformation & Opportunity, which exists to solve problems and address bottlenecks that impact the business communities' interaction with the Commonwealth, provide for a coordinated effort to develop the Commonwealth's economic development and innovation strategy, the elimination of tele-file services is a step backward in the short-term.
The infrastructure does not yet exist in rural communities for all businesses - including and especially home-based, small businesses, and family farms - to make use of high-speed, broadband internet. That won't happen until we meet the Governor's goals for "broadband for all", and see the expansion of internet access and affordability across our region. Most alarming to us though is the short-sightedness of the proposed answer to those tax filers who are concerned about the decommissioning coming too early. The response from the state has been, "Well, if you don't have internet, you'll just have to go to the local library to file online."
There's nobody that we're more happy to promote than our local libraries, but solutions like these are not solutions at all, and we should be making it easier, not more difficult, for businesses to file. We shouldn't be adding barriers to the process such as library business hours, or transportation.
To this end, and based on the concern we've heard from businesses and members, like the Columbia County Farm Bureau, we're hoping that Governor Shapiro will see an easy solution: let's align the goals of the Governor's PA Broadband Redevelopment Authority and the billions of dollars invested therein which will see soon translate to near-universal broadband in Pennsylvania, with the decommissioning of tools like telefile.
Let's not make it harder to do business in Pennsylvania.
To this end, the Board of Directors of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce endorsed this letter to Governor Shapiro this morning.