Connecting the Dots: Get Tax Right the First Time
Taxes are complex, in the financial landscape as much as in the business landscape. But understanding the complexities shouldn’t be difficult.
If you run operations across multiple jurisdictions you may need to invest in the support of an experienced tech companies that can help you connect the dots.
Steven Smith, Europe Proposition Lead, Corporates, at Thomson Reuters, looks at the challenges that businesses face in being tax compliant across indirect tax, corporate tax returns and year-end accounts across multiple jurisdictions.
Governments around the world are rapidly moving away from the established ‘old’ standard of gathering taxpayers’ information. These changes are not uniform and vary from country to country, with, for example, Spain requesting invoice details every four days, Hungary demanding them at the point of invoicing, and Italy adopting a clearance model (with Greece following suit in 2020).
Fraud and tax avoidance are the driving forces behind governments refining tax processes. By adding transparency to the invoicing process, tax authorities can quickly identify where one party or another may be cheating the system. In countries, such as India, goods and services taxes (GST) have been introduced, which enable authorities to see both sides of a transaction. China has also introduced a very similar process. It really boils down to compliance and data. If a multinational organisation is striving to comply across different jurisdictions, it must be sure that its data is correct, even before an invoice is raised. Are the buyer details correct? Does the invoice meet the criteria to calculate the correct VAT liability? All of this data needs to be present before the finance department starts raising invoices.
Tax avoidance in the UK is not on the same scale when compared to countries like Brazil and Poland. Indeed, HMRC believes that UK corporate taxpayers are far more compliant and as a result it is very unlikely to introduce intrusive reporting such as Security Industry Association (SIA), however, there is still a gap that needs to be filled so initiatives such as Making Tax Digital (MTD) are only the start of more detailed information requests.
But meeting MTD in the UK is just one thing. It’s a very different story for multinationals. Many are firefighting and taking a ‘sticking plaster’ approach to help meet the myriad of tax requirements across different territories. They tend to focus on one particular country at a time, and that focus is driven by audits. And then once that requirement has been met, they simply switch their ‘firefighting’ mode to the next country and wherever the greater risk for non-compliance rests. However, they’re missing a huge opportunity by taking this case-by-case approach rather than looking at the entire organisation’s global footprint.
Meeting MTD in the UK is just one thing. It’s a very different story for multinationals. Many are firefighting and taking a ‘sticking plaster’ approach to help meet the myriad of tax requirements across different territories.
The sticking plaster approach of hopping from one country audit to the next has left a huge mess and many organisations are now in the position where they could be much smarter in the way they store and utilise their tax data. Organisations need to review how much business they’re doing country by country and prioritise by compliance risks. Now is the time to clean up and identify and rectify problem areas before the authorities come calling.
No company is the same and so it is difficult for businesses to know which country to concentrate their efforts on at a particular time. What they can do though is connect the tax dots. By working with a technology partner that operates across multiple jurisdictions and by prioritising countries, organisations can work to meet immediate requirements and add other countries as they come onboard. Working with one partner to meet these requirements means there’s no need to repeatedly hire new people, partners or add different processes as all the tools are available in one place.
Connecting the dots isn’t just about working more effectively across multiple countries though. It’s also about how invoices and indirect tax relates to the company’s corporate tax position, about corporate pricing arrangements and corporate income tax. And it’s about connecting all that internal information and driving greater collaboration across the tax and finance departments so that all parties have a clearer view of the organisation’s financial position.
MTD is just a tiny piece of the indirect tax puzzle, yet keeping records digitally will not only help to ensure a business is compliant but will also provide far greater insight into operations. Global businesses will always have more important, more urgent things to focus on, but they’d be mistaken to ignore the opportunity digital tax has to offer the business, as well as the tax authorities.