The state Tax Department is getting ready to enter the 21st century.

The five-phase Tax System Modernization project kicked off with an announcement Thursday promising a wide range of improvements, including faster refunds on tax returns, better customer service and fraud protection.

Not to mention enhanced revenue collection.

Maria Zielinski

Maria Zielinski, state tax director, says she’s eager to modernize the state tax system.

Office of the Governor

Gov. David Ige made modernizing the tax system a campaign promise last year. He has said there’s an estimated $450 million in back taxes that should be collected to help fund state programs.

The overhaul of the state’s tax system has been in the works for years and sought after for much longer.

In 2013, the Legislature provided $32 million to fund the five-phase project through fiscal 2018. The project is scheduled to be completed by the middle of 2019.

“Tax System Modernization will transform how we work and will enable us to better serve our customers — the taxpayers of the State of Hawaii,” Tax Director Maria Zielinski said in a news release Thursday.

“Converting a paper-focused manual process to a technologically-driven process will giver our employees the tools they need to do their jobs faster and more efficiently,” she said.

The state has tapped FAST Enterprises to handle the project. The software and consulting company has implemented tax systems for 21 other states and the District of Columbia, according to the release.

“We’re eager to finally get this project on its way,” Zielinksi said.

The first of five phases is to be completed by the end of 2015. It will provide the strategic replacement of problematic systems that hurt the department’s performance last tax season, the release says.

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