Industry officials are charging that recently proposed rules for banks that electronically process federal tax payments would be needlessly burdensome.
"We believe some of the recommendations are unnecessary and would add significant incremental costs to our operation if implemented," Marianne G. Doan, vice president of The Northern Trust Co., said in comments filed with the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service.
During the next five years, the electronic federal tax payment system is expected to replace the slower, more expensive paper-based system now used by most businesses.
Starting in July, any company with more than $50,000 a year in payroll and other taxes must transmit its payments electronically. The change is expected to affect more than 1.2 million companies. All companies, regardless of size, must file electronically by 1999. Currently, companies with more than $47 million a year in federal taxes must pay electronically.
Banking groups said the Treasury Department's tax payment rules should closely follow the National Automated Clearing House Association guidelines, which are widely accepted throughout the industry.
"We are adamant that government rules mirror industry rules," said Ian Macoy, the clearing house group's senior director of government relations.
Specifically, industry officials complained that Treasury's rules would prevent banks from charging customers for the service, require them to ensure customers follow the electronic tax payment process, and force them to get Treasury's permission before fixing data processing mistakes.
Banks must be allowed to charge for the service, said Leland M. Stenehjem Jr., Independent Bankers Association of America president and CEO of First International Bank and Trust, Fargo, N.D.
"We believe financial institutions should have the ability to charge a fee for ACH debits and credits to defray processing costs," Mr. Stenehjem said.
Also, the proposal would require new corporate taxpayers to send the Internal Revenue Service their tax information before making their first electronic tax payments.
Treasury argues that this policy would ensure that the IRS credits the correct company's account, but bankers complained that they will have no way of knowing whether a corporation has complied.
The proposal also would require the IRS to give banks permission to reverse erroneous or duplicative automated clearing house credit entries. National Automated Clearing House Association rules, however, do not require prior authorization to fix mistakes.
"We are not confident that the IRS would respond in a timely manner," Mr. Stenehjem wrote."This could create confusion for both the taxpayer and the financial institution."