Just how much should businesses be saving by automating business processes? According to the French government, a figure of €20 per complex transaction is realistic. That is the discount it is offering citizens who complete their income tax returns online.
It is impossible to be too specific about absolute savings, as this will inevitably depend on the complexity of the transaction. But the French figures are instructive. In 2004, some 1.2 million French taxpayers used the online system for tax returns – double the 2003 figure. A similar number this year would make for €24 million in rebates and if the growth continues, the amount the French government is prepared to wipe off tax collections begins to look significant.
Implicit in the self-service offer is the assumption that the French tax payer has been paying more than €24 for the processing of their physical tax return (albeit, indirectly).
The move also shows the differing attitudes across Europe towards e-government and in particular automating processes. Back in 2000, it was anticipated that the British government would give £50 discounts for taxpayers submitting selfassessment forms via the Inland Revenue's online system. As it turned out, only £10 was offered, and the scheme failed to generate interest from the public.