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Selvi Stanislaus confirmed as FTB executive officer

Selvi Stanislaus addressed the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, August 9, 2006, during the first part of her confirmation process. The committee voted unanimously to forward their recommendation for confirmation to the Senate, which also voted unanimously for confirmation.

On August 31, the California Senate confirmed Stanislaus as FTB's fourth executive officer, by a vote of 40-0.

In her August 9 speech to the Senate Rules Committee, Stanislaus summarized her accomplishments during her tenure as Executive Officer of the Franchise Tax Board. Here is the text of her August 9 speech to the Committee:

Thank you Chairman Perata, and members of the committee.

This past January, I was honored to be appointed by the three-member Franchise Tax Board as its fourth executive officer. I was humbled by the Board's unanimous confidence in me.

I want to thank Board of Equalization Chair John Chiang for his mentoring, support, and encouragement during my career at the BOE, and I want to thank Gerald H. Goldberg for his 25 years of steady leadership. He has provided me a strong foundation that I can build upon for the future.

My ultimate goal is to build a Franchise Tax Board that is even more responsive and effective to the needs of the Legislature, tax professionals, and, most importantly, responsive to the needs of California's taxpayers.

I believe one step forward in this process is through transparency in government, which I define as the ability of ordinary citizens to hold their government officials accountable for their actions. My husband and I immigrated to the United States because of the opportunities America offers. One reason we have such opportunities is that we have a more open government here. The fact that ordinary citizens have access to meetings, can request and receive government documents, and have input into government decisions is critical to my vision of a transparent FTB.

I have already directed staff to make more information available online. For example, we have posted legal rulings, senior management names and phone numbers, and more information about tax administration on the Web, which is a step in the right direction.

The FTB already has a well-deserved reputation for using technology to make our jobs easier, which makes the job of the taxpayers easier. But as we move forward with new technologies, we must do so with an ever-vigilant eye on protecting taxpayer's sensitive data.

Security is a great concern of mine. Lately it seems you can't pick up a newspaper or turn on a television without hearing about privacy, security, and lost or stolen data. I'm proud that the FTB follows a "defense in depth" security strategy, which is basically layers upon layers of security, with adherence to best practices from the government and private industry. We will continue to maintain our safeguards to protect the privacy of taxpayer records.

I will also continue to seek out program efficiencies and improve our customer service. Public trust is vital to the continued success of our voluntary self-assessed tax system, and I will strive to strengthen that trust. For example, "Tax News," our publication for tax professionals, is now available online, and updated as issues or changes emerge.

I am also committed to streamlining our processes and improving workflow to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete audits, protests, and appeals. This benefits the taxpayer, the tax professional, and the state.

I will continue to place a premium on customer service, and serving your constituents. When taxpayers contact us with their issues or concerns, it is imperative we get them the information they need or make the adjustments required to help them comply with their tax obligations in a fair, impartial, efficient, and complete fashion. Although I cannot promise that everyone will like the tax board, I do want to reduce the frustration people sometimes feel when dealing with us.

As I stated earlier, increasing the amount and quality of information on our Website plays a big role. Internally, we will continue to provide legislators and state departments with fast, accurate, and complete information. Because the sooner the Legislature has the needed data, the faster you can introduce your bill, or respond to a constituent concern.

In conclusion, let me just highlight a few of my accomplishments during my short time as executive officer. I have:

  • Increased our outreach and education programs to the underserved communities. This includes providing tax information in other languages to better meet the needs of our non-English speaking taxpayers. I am proud to announce that we have recently translated the Homeowner and Renter Assistance Booklet into Chinese, Korean, and Spanish.
  • Increased our Speakers' Bureau presentations to small businesses, and newly formed tax-exempt organizations to educate them on their tax filing responsibilities.
  • Completed one of the most successful filing seasons in FTB history. In the month of April, personal income tax deposits were $11.3 billion - a 40 percent increase over 2005. Personal income tax payments, excluding wage withholding, were $27 billion for the period of January 1 through the end of June. And as of last week, we had issued more than 9 million refunds for an average of $709 per refund.
  • Begun the process of reviewing and rewriting some of the most common billing and information notices we mail to taxpayers, to ensure that taxpayers will find them easy to read and understand.
  • Looked at innovative ways to help taxpayers self-audit through various pilot programs.
  • And, I am currently reviewing our collection practices to make them more responsive.

I'd like to add a "thank you" to the tremendous staff of the Franchise Tax Board. I have been warmly embraced in my new role. The employees have consistently welcomed me with eagerness, kindness, and an enthusiasm for what we can accomplish together.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with such an extraordinary organization as the FTB, and I look forward to a future filled with challenges and successes.

Thank you.