By Bruce Martin, CEO at Tax Systems
Yet, within this important movement, a key aspect of finance – tax – can often be neglected, with many organisations missing significant opportunities to boost effectiveness as a result.
In reality, this is not surprising. As a constituent part of the overall finance function, tax may not be viewed as a priority area when organisations come to implement digital transformation projects. Moreover, tax is ultimately driven by compliance, so the effects of any changes implemented here are felt much less widely than those in other key areas of finance – which are more likely to have a significant impact across the business. As a result, the percentage of the overall finance budget dedicated to digital tax projects typically pales in comparison to other finance functions.
Think of it this way: in getting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) planning and implementation initiatives off the ground, for instance, businesses tend to do the bare minimum until regulations or other pressures force more urgent change. The same idea can be applied to allocating time and resources to tax transformation. What’s more, the unique needs of each business, its position in the finance and tax lifecycle and the proficiency of the finance team play important roles in the budget allocation relating to digital transformation projects.
In this context, and with many CFOs coming from an accountancy rather than a tax background, it’s simply more likely that they will focus on areas more aligned with their roles and experiences.
And herein lies a growing problem and an important opportunity for positive change. By overlooking tax transformation, many businesses are missing out on valuable insights and efficiencies. Often seen as a compliance box-ticking exercise, businesses do what’s needed to remain tax efficient and compliant. Yet, beyond these core objectives, tax transformation holds immense potential.
In practical terms, what does this mean? Implementing tax transformation is all about enabling tax professionals to focus on their areas of expertise: evaluating tax positions and maximising efficiency, while automation assumes the role of handling repetitive tasks. While this could be unsettling for some, the objective is to use advanced tech tools to boost efficiency and productivity. It’s certainly not – as some people fear – about using AI to replace jobs, and for those people at the sharp end, tax transformation frees them to do the jobs that fit their expertise, not the jobs that automation can replace.
In this situation, tax professionals are empowered to focus on more value-add tasks that can make a material impact on business performance.
These are crucial considerations given that the general direction of travel is clearly in favour of greater digitalisation of the tax function at all levels. This includes HMRC, which is gradually integrating technology more deeply into its capabilities and processes. As they work towards building a “trusted, modern tax administration system,” changes they bring forward will inevitably be reflected in the way organisations interact with them.
Ultimately, using technology to deliver tax transformation can undoubtedly contribute positively to a company’s cash flow and overall financial strategy. Organisations can only reap these benefits, however, if they adopt a mindset which sees the tax function as being driven by more than just regulatory compliance.
By viewing it as an integral part of a wider digital transformation strategy, it becomes possible to leverage the capabilities of both tax professionals and emerging technologies for maximum impact. In the future, those organisations that give tax transformation the investment and strategic insight it requires will be ideally placed to deliver on the capabilities and efficiencies that have become synonymous with the digital age.