The Seven Deadly Sins of Tax Technology

How to avoid them and beseech virtues instead!

COVID-19 has been a watershed for technology and so it will prove to be for the digitalization of tax. Until now, the standard approach to IT in tax was tolerated despite being not good enough, cheap enough, or quick enough to deliver. That ended when tax was swept over the edge of the digital divide during the pandemic along with many others walks of life such as ways of working and shopping habits.

Yet today, the very notion of “7 Deadly Sins in Tax Technology” can still ring hollow because tax professionals are not held fully accountable for the digital metamorphosis engulfing their domain, but soon technology will be the business and ‘data’ will be the lifeblood in that domain. When that day arrives, many of today’s tax-tech norms will suddenly become the sins of the past. Here is our pick for the top ‘seven’:

  1. Treating digital technologies as not core to tax
  2. Allowing responsibility for tax technology to reside outside of tax
  3. Permitting lower standards for technology than those for tax itself
  4. Putting business process before ‘data’ in a tax digitalization project
  5. Promoting 100% automation as the primary objective
  6. Placing project management ahead of digital skills in delivering a project
  7. Having little or no “connection” or touch ‘n’ feel for technology.

We believe that hidden in the sins of tomorrow are the essentials of digital transformation today. Upskilling for technology awareness & competency in the specific area of tax will be key at all levels, so much so that we believe without it, tax professionals will be unable to fully succeed in the fundamentally altered landscape underpinning their careers post-pandemic.

Note that this challenge is not solved by tax professionals learning IT. The secret is for them to gain an understanding of technology & transformation, what it means, what it can and cannot do for tax, and how to get the best out of it while avoiding the pitfalls. We call it tax technology awareness training, or ‘taxology’.

We have been developing and honing this material for five years, and the passionate band of newly-armed tax professionals and certified taxologists continues to grow. Shortly, our flagship training program will be completely updated and available via e-learning, and the early bird offer of lifetime membership and 1-to-1 coaching will come to an end.

Learn more today about the Smart Tax Technology certification program and contact us to speak to one of our successful students. Start today, and give your career the gift of being “in tune” with technology and the vision to navigate with confidence the choppy digital waters of modern tax.

Coming Soon: The New Tax Function

How far are you on your digital transformation journey? The scale below may offer some guidance.

Starting at the top, which is the last statement that accurately describes your tax function today (be honest)?

5% – the word “transformation” has entered the lexicon but plans are non-existent or lack coherence

7% – a tax or IT professional is put in charge of tax technology without any proper training

10% – the company is digitalizing and tax is tagging along, but transformation initiatives have little or no transformation in them

20% – a significant, corporate data initiative is in progress but not yet effective

30% – hiring of taxologists has begun, but the company is unsure what to do with them even if they can be identified and found

40% – a major mindset shift at the top, not just in tax; a true break with the past is acknowledged

50% – a reorg brings tax business and tax IT personnel under the same delivery structure

60% – a truly transformative vision is articulated, along with realistic mechanisms for fulfilment, governance, and control. For the most part after the reorg, everyone left now “gets it”

70% – momentum builds, successes mount up, a critical mass is reached. Fixed SOWs are pushed aside in favor of more agile co-sourcing, upskilling, “gig” consultants, collections, online communities, and tools

80% – tax professionals are genuinely becoming digitally aware, tech-savvy, and data literate. Patience with static, over-engineered, complex point solutions and tax applications is wearing thin. Continuous innovation is taking hold

90% – tax data is under holistic control and fully “trusted”. Tax are no longer just subject matter experts but full business partners to the rest of the business

100% – tax technology is a core competency of a new, fully digitally-enabled tax function.  Modern tax professionals define themselves by their prowess with enterprise data and the advanced tools they use.

Notice that automation does not appear anywhere in this list. That’s because business process automation is not digital transformation. They’re both relevant, but quite different. Automation brings efficiencies to your current tax function ecosystem, whereas transformation questions every part of that ecosystem, ransacks it, and then rebuilds it according to the new rules of digital tax. As a result, one rarely leads to the other.

Neither does hiring a big name consultancy appear in the list. While they have their place, commercial imperatives demand they play to your current mindset, not a transformed one outside your comfort zone. Real change must come from within.

Also, forget running RFPs to solve the problem. New technology itself will not cause transformation. In the digital world, “technology” needs re-orchestrated people, process and technology to bring anything more than incremental value at best.

So, think differently and explore first, if you want your tax function to truly perform and transform in the digital-era.

The Five Laws of Tax Data

Hundreds watched the insightful tax ‘data’ video from the last post and loved it, but thousands felt 13 minutes was too long and bypassed it. I sympathize – I would bypass it too if I’m busy, even for a snippet so central to the future of tax. So, here’s a short, sharp, incisive lead-in:

The Five Laws of Data for the Digitally-Enabled Tax Function:

Law #1: ‘Data’ is at the heart of digital-enablement

Strategy: Be clear that enterprise ‘data’ is the absolute cornerstone of digital capability.

Law #2: Digital ‘data’ changes the rules of the game

Strategy: Acknowledge that new ways of thinking and working are inherent to being data-driven.

Law #3: ‘Data’ is a strategic asset in its own right

Strategy: Recognise that ‘data’ has intrinsic value and requires a data first approach.

Law #4: ‘Data’ outranks automation

Strategy: Set automation strategies to first and foremost support the data model.

Law #5: ‘Data’ only exists in a transformed space

Strategy: Learn to navigate the transformation journey and transition to data-centric operations over time.

Narrative

‘Data’ thrives within the context of people, process & technology  where ‘technology’ is platform-based and ‘people’ are digitally-enabled, tech-savvy, and data literate. This is the opposite of business process automation with labour cost-arbitration as its yardstick. ‘Data’ requires upskilling and can only take centre-stage once it is fully “trusted”.

For a vital piece of information on how to make this happen using “real-world” tax data modelling, here is the video again https://vimeo.com/434443089. It is well worth the small time investment. Enjoy.

Tax Data – Secrets Revealed

‘Data’ is the key to digitally enabling your tax function, and this is well understood. But few know how to make this actually happen. What’s more, it’s easy to get off on the wrong foot.

So, how have some companies made tax data a true strategic asset? Watch this 13 min video to reveal their secret.