In a difficult economy, most businesses have neither time nor money to spare. So it’s not surprising that more and more companies that do business in Tennessee are choosing to file their registration paperwork and annual reports online with the Office of the Secretary of State.
About 185,000 businesses and other corporate entities are expected to file annual reports in Tennessee this year. Since most of them close out their books at the end of each calendar year, their annual reports are due April 1. The office’s Division of Business Services switched to a “true” online filing system last fall. For about a year prior to the transition, companies could transmit their reports via the internet, but that information still had to be manually keyed into the old computer system by employees.
Now when companies submit their information, it is automatically entered into the database system. In addition to saving businesses time and the expense of mailing the reports, the Office of the Secretary of State will spend less staff time transcribing those records.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the new online filing system has helped move the office closer toward his goal of reducing the volume of paper records it processes and maintains.
“Particularly in these challenging financial times in which we live, I think people expect government to look for ways not only for government to operate more efficiently, but also for ways to make doing business with the government more efficient,” Secretary Hargett said. “This new system does that while also providing better service to our customers - the citizens of Tennessee.”
Lori McPherson, a senior paralegal for Nissan North America Inc., described Tennessee’s system as one of the best in the country.
“(I) am responsible for filing annual reports for Nissan and subsidiaries in all 50 states,” Ms. McPherson said. “I prefer to file as many reports as possible online for time-saving reasons and this year I realized that Tennessee’s online annual report filing system is probably one of the best I have encountered. It is easy to navigate, the instructions are clear and the report generated at the end of the filing process looks quite nice.”
The online filing method is gaining in popularity: Between the launch of the new system last fall and early March, about 34,000 businesses prepared their paperwork online.
Nathan Burton, director of the Division of Business Services, estimates the new system will save the state about $25,000 in overtime costs. This is in addition to approximately $50,000 saved on printing and postage costs this year by sending out reminder postcards instead of annual report forms.
“Online filing allows us to provide exceptional service to our customers and operate more efficiently on a daily basis,” Mr. Burton said.