TTX Work on COVID-19

On March 16, 2020 the City & County of San Francisco became one the first municipalities in the nation to issue a Shelter in Place order in response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. With our offices immediately shuttered and most employees working from makeshift home offices, the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector (TTX) had to continue the critical work of collecting tax revenue to fund essential services and conserving and overseeing the City's funds.  

With so much happening in a such short period of time, it's important that we celebrate our work and record it for posterity. This internal TTX COVID-19 page outlines our accomplishments, provides a timeline of events and lists information and resources for TTX employees. Thank you for your continuing work to serve the people of San Francisco. Whether you are serving as a DSW worker, an in-person essential worker, or telecommuting, I am very grateful for your commitment and sacrifices under these extraordinary circumstances.

-Treasurer Cisneros

Accomplishments

tax billDeferred and Waived Business Taxes and Fees. See more

calendarExtended Property Tax Deadline & Encouraged Penalty Waivers. See more. 

helping handProviding Financial Resources for Businesses & Workers. See more

people around a tableTreasurer Cisneros Appointed to Co-Chair Economic Recovery Task Force. See more.

peopleSeamlessly Continued Office Operations. See more.

handsStepping Up as Disaster Service Workers. See more.

person on headsetContinued Providing Timely Taxpayer Assistance. See more.

computerMade Online Form & TTX Process Improvements. See more. 

listOther Accomplishments. See more.

Elisa

"I met amazing people who are willing to contribute and support each other during a crisis."

-Elisa Rodriguez, DSW from K2C

 

Timeline

March 5

San Francisco announces first cases of COVID-19

March 11

TTX and Mayor’s office defer business taxes and license fees
Press Release

March 16

San Francisco issues first Shelter in Place Order

March 17

TTX staff begins working from home (Cashiering remains in office)

March 23

TTX Holds Virtual All Staff Meeting

March 31

San Francisco Issues Second Shelter in Place Order

April 2

Mayor Breed appoints Treasurer Cisneros to Co-Chair Economic Recovery Task Force 
Press Release

April 7

FJP releases Roundup of COVID-19 Fine and Fee Discounts

April 21

TTX and Mayor’s Office announce deferral of business registration and license fees to September 30
Press Release

April 29

San Francisco issues third Shelter In Place Order

May 11

TTX Holds Virtual All Staff Meeting

May 8

OFE hosts one of a series of Facebook Live conversations about financial assistance and security during COVID-19. 

May 13-15

TTX offices temporary open for property tax payments
Press Release

June 1

San Francisco begins reopening

June 22

Treasurer Cisneros presents at SF Small Business Commission re: COVID-19 Relief

June 24

Mayor Breed announces FJP SF Museum's for All Program, including online programming. Press Release

June 29

SF Pauses Reopening

July 14

Ordinance introduced to waive registration renewal fees for certain small businesses.
News Story

July 16

K2C Releases Report on the Impacts of COVID-19 on Saving for College.
Press Release

July 23

TTX announces on-time implementation of new property tax system.
Press Release

August 4

TTX and Mayor’s Office announce further deferral of business registration and license fees to March 1, 2021.
Press Release

August 5

OFE Releases Report on Banking Relief for Communities of Color During COVID-19.
Press Release

October 26

TTX and Mayor's Office Announce Tax Waivers to Support Entertainment and Nightlife Businesses
Press Release

October 30

San Francisco Pauses Business Re-openings
Press Release

 
November 16

San Francisco Moves into the State's Red Tier Due to Rapid Increase in COVID-19 Cases
Press Release

December 4

San Francisco Begins Regional Stay at Home Order Due to Surge in COVID-19 Cases.
Press Release

December 7

Mayor Announces Deferral of Regulatory License Fees to 
Press Release

December 15

San Francisco Begins Administering Vaccines to Healthcare Workers. 
Press Release

 

 

carla

"Go in with an open mind. The work is not hard and the people you work with are nice. Every day brings something new."

-Carla Guerrero, DSW from TPA

Office Operations

November 10 All Staff Meeting

Recording
Access Passcode: tc=ZEng8

TTX All Staff Email
Racial Equity Survey 

Transitioned to Remote Work

  • IT quickly set up almost ALL TTX staff on VPN and Remote Desktop in a matter of days. 
  • Increased use of Microsoft Teams, DocuSign, paperless workflow processing and automating letter production from OnBase. 

Major Initiatives Moving Forward

  • Property Tax System
  • Permit Center
  • Adding licenses to the Unified Bill

Continued Daily Operations Remotely

  • Taxpayer communications & third party tax collections
  • Managing licenses

  • Public information requests

  • Onboarding new staff
  • Provide expertise on tax related matters to Business Tax Reform efforts and other proposed tax initiatives
  • Flash Awards 
  • Smart Money Coaching
  • Kindergarten to College Outreach
  • Financial Justice Project issued a new report and rolled out Cities and Counties for Financial Justice

Cashiering

  • Continue going into the office daily.
  • Continue mail drop-off/pickups so that communication with other City offices and taxpayers can continue as normal.
  • Instituted strict cleaning procedures and have kept everyone safe and healthy while onsite, and shared procedures with SFMTA and SFPUC as they have considered bringing staff back into their offices.
  • Played an integral role in the collection of property tax cash payments. 
  • Keeping everyone’s plants alive! At 1155, 7th and 8th floor plants were resuscitated, are now getting liquid plant food and classical music during feeding/watering time. Meanwhile, Herb takes care of all the plants at City Hall.

Accounting and Budget

  • Worked on resubmitting TTX budget per Mayor’s Directive.  
  • Worked on 9-month forecast, which was challenging with work order billings reduced.  
  • In addition, the time table for end of Q3 billing was moved up as was the end of the year.
  • Kept contracts moving through quickly. 
  • All while managing the regular annual audit. 

Remote Work & Re-Opening 

Guidance from the Mayor and City Administrator reinforces that the City and TTX are in no rush to return more staff to City Hall/1155. The focus of our workplace planning is not “reopening” our department, but rather how do we provide critical governmental services through at least the next fiscal year while leveraging telecommuting where operationally feasible and other flexible work arrangements to the greatest extent possible. We are planning to maximize our remote work through the next fiscal year.

Should TTX seek to bring additional staff back into the office, we are required to submit a rigorous Site-Specific Health and Safety Plan that will be reviewed by the City Administrator and the Public Health Officer in coordination with the department to determine which services can move forward and under what timeline. An essential part of this planning is making sure employees are given ample notice so you can secure child/elder care and transportation.  

 

Deferred Business Taxes and Fees

See Treasurer Cisneros' presentation to the Small Business Commission on how TTX is supporting small businesses. Given the changes to all the tax dates, Account Services quickly re-worked existing communications and crafted new ones. View our video summarizing COVID-19 business tax relief. 

Tax Relief for Certain Businesses with Gross Receipts of Less Than $25 Million

The Board of Supervisors recently passed legislation that provides pandemic business tax relief to certain businesses that have gross receipts of less than $25 million. Learn more about the legislation and determine if your business qualifies for relief.  
 

Deferrals of Business Taxes and Fees


Given the pandemic’s continued impact on businesses, Mayor Breed and the Board of Supervisors have further extended deadlines of certain business taxes and fees. The Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector will send reminders to file before the deadlines approach. The following deadline extensions have been approved:

 

Original Deadline                                        

New Deadline                                         

Business Registration Renewal 2020-21

June 1, 2020

April 30, 2021

Annual Business Taxes 

March 1, 2021

April 30, 2021

2020-21 License Fees

March 31, 2020

November 1, 2021

2021-22 License Fees

March 30, 2021

November 1, 2021

Business Registration Renewal 2021-22 – $25 million or less in 2020 gross receipts

May 31, 2021

November 1, 2021

Business Registration Renewal 2021-22 – more than $25 million in 2020 gross receipts

May 31, 2021

June 30, 2021

Delinquency date for point of sale and weights and measures fees

Anything billed after March 2020

November 1, 2021

 

Deferral of 2020-21 Business Registration Fee
The 2020-21 Business Registration Fee deadline has been extended to April 30, 2021 instead of by June 1, 2020. There are currently 93,000 registered businesses who pay nearly $49 million in Business Registration Fees.

Deferral of 2021-22 Business Registration Fee
The 2021-22 Business Registration Fee deadline was originally May 31, 2021. Business with $25 million or less in San Francisco gross receipts will have the deadline deferred to November 1, 2021 while businesses with more than $25 million in gross receipts will have their deadline deferred to June 30, 2021. The yellow 2020-2021 certificate is valid through the deadlines above. 

Deferral of Regulatory License Fees
The City will provide further tax relief for small businesses by deferring regulatory license fees for 2020-21, which were originally due on March 31, 2020, will now be due on November 1, 2021. The license fees for 2021-22 which were originally due on March 30, 2021 will also be due on November 1, 2021. License Fees include charges collected on behalf of the Department of Public Health, Fire Department, Police Department, Entertainment Commission, and the Office of Cannabis. The Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector anticipates that the deferral will impact nearly $14 million billed to 11,000 businesses.

 

Waivers for Entertainment and Nightlife Venues 

The City will provide financial relief for approximately 300 businesses that have a Place of Entertainment permit and that have gross receipts of less than $20 million, representing a total of approximately $2.5 million in support for these businesses. Relief will be provided by waiving regulatory license fees and Business Registration Fees for two years and by waiving Payroll Expense Taxes for 2020. Businesses are not required to pay the waived taxes and fees, and businesses that already paid any of these taxes and fees will receive an automatic refund. Businesses will still be required to file all applicable business tax returns.

 

Waivers for Restaurants 

The City will provide financial relief for businesses with a Restaurant permit (restaurants permits include H24, H25 and H26 only) and that have gross receipts of less than $750,000. Relief will be provided by waiving the previously deferred regulatory license and Business Registration Fees due on April 30, 2021, and by waiving Payroll Expense Taxes for 2020. Businesses are not required to pay the waived taxes and fees, and businesses that already paid any of these taxes and fees will receive an automatic refund.  Businesses will still be required to file all applicable business tax returns.

 

Extended Property Tax Deadline & Encouraged Penalty Waivers

Property Tax Deadline

  • TTX worked with the Board of Supervisors on legislation to take the unprecedented step of extending the property tax deadline from April 10 to May 15.
  • San Francisco was one of only two California counties that provided additional time to pay property taxes and the only county to extend the deadline as far as May 15.
  • Property Tax staff partnered with TPA to send two multi-lingual mailings to all parcels not paid by the deadline, with one outlining in-person payment process. 
  • Re-opened offices May 13-15 for in-person cash payments. Reopened and again for the December 10, 2020 and April 10, 2021 deadline. These efforts were led by Property Tax, Cashiering and TPA staff. 
  • Developed a communications outreach plan to reach those older and non-English proficient taxpayers via in-language radio, print and social media with messages instructing them on the safety and convenience of paying online or via the mail.
  • The extra time and communication resulted in 99% ($3.3 billion) in property tax revenue being collected on time.  

Encouraged COVID-19 Penalty Waivers

  • Simultaneously created a solution for taxpayers who are unable to pay their property taxes by the deadline because of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • TTX encouraged taxpayers to submit a request for a penalty waiver and made the process as simple as a click of the button.
  • We then quickly implemented the Governor's Executive Order that provided a further extension to pay. If a small business was approved for a waiver and unable to pay property taxes because of the COVID-19 crisis, they now have until May 6, 2021 to pay their bill without incurring any late payment penalties.

 

Financial Resources for Businesses & Workers

  • Amplifying City Resources - Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) has been amplifying City, state and federal resources meant for small businesses and workers impacted by COVID-19 via social media, including hosting a series of Facebook Live conversations. One post about unemployment insurance that went viral (1 million engagements).
  • Kindergarten to College Report - K2C issued a report on saving for college during COVID-19. The report used K2C program data to show how COVID-19 exacerbates racial and economic inequalities. 
  • Bank Surveys and Report - OFE staff also surveyed banks about their participation in the Paycheck Protection Program, and about their response to COVID-19 related to consumer and small business relief.  Survey results were synthesized to create a report on how banks have responded and makes recommendations for the future.  This was done in conjunction with the California Reinvestment Coalition.
  • COVID-19 Resource Website - OFE is also developing a website with COVID-19 resources, including listing relief available from local and national banks and credit unions.
  • Emergency Prepaid Cards for Low-Income Residents - TTX Banking staff worked with Human Services Agency staff and US Bank to disburse emergency funding via prepaid cards to low-income San Franciscans who are experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic. TTX’s Office of Financial Empowerment provided guidance during this process, assuring that the cards were easy to use and non-predatory.
  • PUC Discounts - OFE staff assisted San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in their COVID-19 response plan to provide discounts for customers impacted by the downturn.

 

Economic Recovery Task Force

See Economic Recovery Task Force Meeting Information

  • Greg Kato served in a policy staff role with the Economic Recovery Task Force, focused on job and business support.
  • He completed policy research on problems and proposals identified by the task force.
  • His analysis was based on criteria identified  by the task force, including equity, feasibility, and cost/benefit.
  • His work was incorporated into the final task force report issued in September 2020.

 

Continued Timely Taxpayer Assistance

  • TPA staff are working remotely but continue answering customer calls within three business days, the standard window of time.
  • Developed and implemented a temporary PIN Reset Process for taxpayers.

  • Issued Temporary Business Registration Certificates via email.

  • Setting up phone appointments with taxpayers who have difficult cases or multiple questions.

  • Remotely training staff for the New Permit Center at 49 Van Ness using Microsoft Teams and screen sharing

  • Partnered with Cashiering to mail paper forms such as Penalty Waiver Requests.

 

Stepping Up as Disaster Service Workers

  • 50 DSW spots have been filled by TTX staff
  • 31 staff currently assigned
  • Assignments have ranged in duration from 1 day to 2 months
  • Bilingual staff have filled key assignments

Positions TTX Staff Have Filled:

  • Food Bank Pop-Up Customer Service Representatives (filled 10 spots)
  • Clerical Support
  • Administrative Support
  • Site Greeter
  • Site Monitor (filled 16 spots)
  • Site Lead
  • Contact Tracer
  • CERT Triage Coordinator
  • CERT Investigator (filled 4 spots)
  • Analyst at Emergency Operations Center (filled 3 spots)
  • and more!

Staff Spotlight

Elisa Rodriguez Furey from the Office of Financial Empowerment, Christopher Srichankij from Compliance, and Carla Guerrero from TPA have all worked as Disaster Service Workers in response to COVID-19. Elisa and Christopher worked with the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank to prepare and distribute food to City residents while Carla was a site monitor at a temporary homeless shelter.  If you’re curious about what a DSW experience might look like, read the short interview them.

How were you contacted for your DSW work assignment?

Elisa:  HR contacted me via email and invited me to participate as a DSW in the Food Bank pop-up food pantries. HR also sent an email with details and connecting me with the Food Bank Staff.

Chris: I volunteered for the opportunity, (I’m a logistics officer in the Army reserve) then Dianna Jou contacted me with an opening and I needed to reply ASAP, so if anyone volunteers be ready to go.

CarlaI received an email from Dianna Jou (TTX) regarding a DSW assignment request. I replied with my DSW number and shift preference. Then I received an email from an Employee Health & Safety Manager. It had orientation date, site location, and work schedule. 

What was/is your favorite part of the work?

Elisa: It was meeting so many amazing people that are willing to contribute and support each other during crisis like this.

Chris: It’s so rewarding to be making a direct impact on a person’s everyday life. I’ve also gotten to meet other City workers from other departments and volunteers from various organizations. It’s also really nice to get out of the house and with no traffic, I can be from Oakland to anywhere in the city in 20 min.

Carla: Meeting and working with great people. I also saw another side of homelessness. 

What about your experience was unexpected or was a surprise to you?

Elisa: I was very surprised about amount of people that signed up as a volunteer to drive their cars and bring food to seniors. San Franciscans really care about protecting and helping our seniors. It was amazing to see how many people are willing to help during this difficult time. Even with the rain, people were showing up and packing the trunks of their cars with 10 to 15 bags of groceries to distribute to seniors across San Francisco.

Chris: I hear about food banks and think about it in the abstract, but to see people waiting in line for over an hour for a bag of food really shows how much the food bank is needed, especially in times like this.  And just how many people need assistance, on a daily average we distributed about 1,200 25 lbs. bags of food.

CarlaMy first day while delivering breakfast a guest was found unconscious on the floor due to an overdose. Staff had to break the door down to get in the room. I had never experienced something like that and found it a little overwhelming. It made me realize that these guests have lots of issues and we need to adjust to that and just be there for them.

What advice would you give to someone who is being asked to go on a DSW assignment?

Elisa:  I understand that people may be scared given that Covid-19 is very contagious. We all have families and worry about bringing this to our kids, parents, friends or partners. But we need to think on the first responders, they are also risking their lives and their families. We all need to do our part to contribute.  If we join forces, we will get through this quicker and we will get through this together.

Chris:  I would remind people that nothing that they’re going to be asked to do is outside the scope of our abilities, so don’t worry it’ll be okay.  Also, be flexible and stay patient since the situation is changing everyday.  And get your supervisors cell phone number. 

Carla: Go in with an open mind. The work is not hard and the people you work with are nice. Every day brings something new.

Overall, how was the DSW experience for you?

Elisa: It was a great experience working for the Food Bank. As a public servant I know that we have a commitment to support our community, especially during emergencies like this one. I am hopeful that we will get through this together.

Chris: Great! Everyone is maintaining the 6ft distance and it’s a very controlled environment, I’ve been getting a lot of exercise and directly helping people. I’m really proud to be helping out in this time of need.

CarlaIt has changed my perspective on the homeless. We walk the streets of SF and just pass by the homeless and don’t take a second look. Now having seen them in a different environment, you realize these people have special needs and some want a better life. Some just need that little push to get them to do better. I’m glad I was able to be there for them.

 

Online Form & Process Improvements

With each declaration moving a deadline or requests for new solutions for the crisis, the Product Management and IT teams have been continually working to adapt TTX systems to best meet taxpayer and our needs. They have made a number of online form and TTX process improvements over the last few months, many of which support the department’s COVID response. These improvements were the result of collaboration and partnership of many TTX sections.  They are the most recent examples that we can improve experiences for taxpayers and each other when we work together.

This document includes more details about:

  1. PDF bundling of OnBase Letters: Sections now review digital copies of letters and send them via email to Repro rather than reviewing paper copies and inter-officing them to Repro (April 2020)
  2. Penalty Waiver Request COVID Updates: Updated all penalty waiver online forms with a checkbox for taxpayers to indicate COVID as a waiver reason (secured, unsecured and business tax) (April 2020)
  3. New Business Registration Renewal Ownership Changes: Added fields to support change of ownership data (org type/ownership change) (May 2020)
  4. Business Tax Payment Portal Payments Tab: Added a payments tab which displays payment details for taxpayers to review payments made over the last 24 months (May 2020)
  5. Property Penalty Waiver Form Updates to Support Governor’s Program: Added questions to the property online waiver forms to support processing of waiver requests related to Governor’s Program (May 2020)
  6. Account Update Business Closure Updates: Added a checkbox to indicate business closure for COVID reasons and added fields to support change of ownership data (org type/ownership change) (June 2020)

 

Other Accomplishments

Bureau of Delinquent Revenue

Suspended Certain Delinquent Collection Practices including stopped the following activities for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Post-judgment collections (for example, bank levy and wage garnishments)
  • Small courts claims filings
  • Summary judgments
  • Citation issuance
  • Property tax auctions
  • In conjunction with the San Francisco Department of Public Health and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), suspended the collection of certain obligations owed to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the SFMTA.

Banking

  • TTX Banking team worked with CityBase to reimagine and repurpose the City’s Give2SF payment platform so the City could receive donations for the San Francisco COVID-19 Emergency Response and Recovery Fund.

  • Has resulted in millions in donations that have gone to small businesses and non-profits, hunger relief, child care providers. 
  • Fielded requests for remote check capture devices.

  • Set up ghost accounts for ACH payments.

  • Issued emergency wire payments to procure critical PPE.

  • Made emergency payments to suppliers to ensure continuity of City operations.

Policy

  • Advised Board of Supervisors on several proposed pieces of legislation including business registration fee waiver and proposed small business loan program.