Great West Life and Annuity

Great-West Automates Tax Information Reporting, Cuts Workload in Half

Key Benefits

  • Improved B-Notice process by saving over 10 business days of work
  • Reallocated four full-time employees to other activities
  • Eliminated the need for additional seasonal staffing of two and a half full-time IT employees

“Overall, my experience with Sovos Compliance is very positive, infinitely positive. Sovos Compliance’s staff demonstrates a commitment to excellence; a commitment to treating each customer as their only priority, and an overall sense that they care about the job they’re doing and doing it right. I use Sovos Compliance as a model for my own staff and only hope that people are as impressed with our customer service as we are with Sovos Compliance’s.”  – Scott Wilkens, Manager Tax and Information Reporting, Compliance Great-West

Business Challenge

Outdated system led to dissatisfied clientsAs a leader in the annuity industry, Great-West manages transactions that are associated with complex withholding stipulations based on federal, state and locality requirements. In the fall of 2005, the organization began searching for a new tax information solution for their annual tax information filing. Their previous solution consisted of an in-house system with a 15-year-old interface that didn’t handle the variety and number of forms that Great-West processed and only received file imports on an annual basis. On top of this, the tax department had to manage the process of withholding reconciliation manually. With over a million tax forms, one month wasn’t enough time to efficiently proof, correct, reconcile and prepare their tax detail information for output before transmitting and mailing to recipients. The process inefficiency eventually spilled over into customer service; errors were represented on recipient forms and incorrect data was transmitted to the IRS. Great-West began getting a surge of phone calls from dissatisfied clients and realized they needed to act quickly. With 12 source systems, Great-West needed a solution that:

  • Efficiently imported and form bulk data from multiple source systems in multiple formats on a monthly basis
  • Processed uncommon forms used in the financial services industry
  • Efficiently streamlined the complexity of annuity withholding processes

Sovos Compliance’s Solution

Expert staff with comprehensive offerings

Scott Wilkens, Great-West’s manager of tax and information reporting compliance, said that after investigating several possible solutions, Sovos Compliance Managed Services was the obvious choice based on both flexibility and capabilities. “We sent out requests for proposals to five or six companies,” Wilkens said. “I looked at what features each had to offer, and the way some of them answered questions, there was no clue they knew what I needed. Their answers were not saying what they could do. With Sovos Compliance, however, we had 25 people asking all sorts of questions, and they were able to answer all of the questions responsibly.”

Once the organization decided that Sovos Compliance’s solution was the right choice, they began investigating Sovos Compliance’s other services and saw greater value in also leveraging Sovos Compliance’s Print and TIN Compliance Services instead of handling the processes internally. “TIN Comp was a no brainer,” Wilkens said. “It saves my team time mailing out B-Notices and processing responses and does a much better job at tracking TIN compliance data than we could do manually.” For their printing needs, Great West’s internal solution didn’t have the flexibility Sovos Compliance could offer. “Our internal print shop would print batches in increments of 10,000 forms per batch. The cost of figuring out how to extract data in 10,000 form increments was not conducive to meeting other business needs.” But a deciding factor for Great West, according to Wilkens, was the exclusivity of Sovos Compliance’s Withholding Management solution. “That feature was something no one else was offering,” he said. “It was the final piece that sold it.”

The Results

Delivering promises without exception

Once Great-West decided to take advantage of Sovos Compliance’s services, Wilkens said he was impressed with Sovos Compliance from the very beginning of implementation. “Everything that was said to us through the presentation about being able to accept data in any format in any condition was absolutely true,” Wilkens said.

“We have 12 feeder systems delivering data in 12 formats and Sovos Compliance had no problem accepting all this disparate information – we were able to back up old systems and map with no problem regarding daily work. They were able to deliver on the promises they made without exception.”

Every service that Great-West has leveraged has freed up capital, time and resources in the tax information reporting process, even while the company’s tax information reporting needs have grow year after year. “In terms of cost savings, the number of transactions and forms that my division produces has probably increased 30 to 33 percent since we made a change while the staff devoted to tax reporting is the same size,” Wilkens said. “And then when I added full service Withholding Management, we were able to reallocate four full time employees to other activities.” Great West noticed additional cost reductions as well.  They saw a sixty percent reduction in return mail since subscribing to Print Services. Over ten business days of work were saved during the B-notice season by utilizing TIN Compliance Services. In addition, there was an elimination of an annual workload which would require an additional staffing of two and a half full time employees.

Along with the savings, Great-West has seen through leveraging Sovos Compliance’s services, Wilkens said that it is Sovos Compliance’s customer-centric approach to business that has distinguished them and made them a gold standard partner. “Every time I have to speak to someone I am made to feel like I am the only priority the person has that day,” Wilkens said. “It’s obvious when I speak to people that they like what they do and they believe in the product. I can honestly say that I have never dealt with any organization as committed to its customer as Sovos Compliance.”