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Thursday, July 24, 2008

City of Boston Does Not Make it Easy to Pay your Real Estate Taxes Online

The City of Boston does not make it easy to pay your Real Estate Taxes online.

I followed the link from the back page of my Real Estate Tax bill, and was then placed in a maze of web pages that all looked alike. It took me three pages to get to a tax payment screen, and then I had a hard time entering my Parcel ID. Poor documentation on the data entry screen.

When it came time to pay, the only option was to copy down hte information from my checking account. The City of Boston should look into accepting more payment options like Credit Cards and PayPal.

Join me now on a trip through the current state of poor user interface on the City of Boston website. We probably spent thousands to develop this from city hall worker specifications.

City of Boston Online Services

The only web address on the Tax Bill is :

www.cityofboston.gov/trac/

If you go to that page, you can't pay your taxes from it.

It's the "Taxpayer Referral and Assistance Center"

What do you click on to pay your taxes?

"Online Services"

Of course.

City of Boston Taxpayer Referral and Assistance Center

This is where you can pay your City of Boston Tax Bill:

www.cityofboston.gov/online_services/

Well, not yet. You still have to click on "Property Tax"

City of Boston Real Estate Tax payment page

This is the City of Boston Real Estate Tax payment page:

www.cityofboston.gov/realestate/

This Form asks for a "Parcel ID (10-digit number)"

But on the Tax Bill you have:

WARD (2 digits)
PARCEL NO. ( 8 digits with an embedded "-" ).

The form should ask for you to enter your Ward AND Parcel ID.

It should also programatically remove the "-" is people enter it.

Note: The helpful PARCEL ID description is no where near the data entry field.

What to do?

Put this URL on the Real Estate tax bill: www.cityofboston.gov/realestate/

Then you end up on the payment screen for Real Estate Taxes.

Clarify the data entry area for WARD and PARCEL and have the computer allow the "-". Just programatically strip it out.

Allow additional forms of payment.

Allow sign up for automatic deductions from checking or credit cards so you don't have to manually pay. ( The City of Boston Water Department should add this feature too )

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Why do you oppose electronic check as payment method? It's much cheaper for the city than accepting CC charges, and that keeps costs down, which should (in theory) keep taxes down.

    I certainly do concur that the process is far too complicated.

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  2. I was thinking that it's easier to enter a CC #, than deciphering the OCR at the bottom of the check.

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  3. Treemont1:45 PM

    While I understand its a citywebsite and sure - more option should be available -- I paid last night -- in about 5 minutes...not hard at all. And a site for property taxes should NOT have an option to pay by CC --- think about it with all the defaults going on right now --- a checking account either has the money or not --- a CC is not a safe way for the city to count on their $$

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  4. Oh, now I see what you mean about it being difficult - it is if you go to the http://cityofboston.gov/realestate page, but the best way to get to where you want to go is to go to http://cityofboston.gov/assessing, click on "Assessing Online" and simply type in your address or name. It's an easy couple of clicks, from there.

    I think credit cards should be accepted, too; they do for parking tickets!

    BTW, it doesn't seem as though the city is regularly updating payment history ... after you paid, did you check to see whether or not it's been applied?

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