To Teach Tax to ‘IT’​ or Teach ‘IT’​ to Tax, That is the Question. Or is it?

Our Response to This Age Old Question – Do Neither!

Twenty years ago, at the first tax & tax technology conference we ever attended, there was a presentation called …

Teach Tax to ‘IT’ or ‘IT’ to Tax – Which is better?

The same question came up in one of the spring conferences a month ago, which put in sharp relief this hamster wheel that industry leaders have been stuck on for a long time.

In the meantime, it occurred to us that it’s the wrong question in the first place. Here’s why:

Reason #1: It doesn’t really work for the learner

Let’s say for example, as a dedicated tax professional, you go away and start learning SQL (the language of data), relational data modelling (how the real-world of tax is represented in data), and XML or JSON (the languages used to communicate electronically with tax authorities). All really important topics, but here’s what will happen:

  1. You will learn just enough to be dangerous
  2. You will only learn what you think is relevant for your job and therefore interests you
  3. Anything beyond that you are likely to find utterly tedious and boring.

By the way, it’s the same for IT persons trying to learn the intricacies of tax law.

Reason #2: You will never truly get there

It takes years of training and experience to become either a good tax person or a good IT person, never mind a great one (and we only work with the best!).

You need to get a feel for it, a sixth sense, so that it becomes part of who you are and how you define yourself. It takes a lifetime of work & dedication to reach this uber-expert level in one arena, let alone two disparate ones.

And assuming that was even possible, how would you maintain that level in both when each changes so quickly? Not easy.

Reason #3: It’s the wrong question to start with

The problem is not a lack of skills. There are great tax people and great IT people – the real problem is getting them to work together. And yet, the way the question is worded, it implies that the only answer is to have both sets of skills in one person.

Even if this made sense in the first place (which it does not) there’s a better way …

… a much better way, and here’s how!

Borrowing heavily from the world of Agile

The Agile manifesto, created in 2001, was aimed at software development but the principles invoked were so powerful that they’ve pervaded almost the entire world of work, including tax. Here’s why:

  1. It assumes knowledge is one thing, but making it actually work in a digital world is another
  2. It believes that only teamwork across a wide range of skills leads to good solutions (no one person can know it all, nor should they)
  3. It accounts for skills from vastly different arenas, and effectively brings them together
  4. It knows that these days we’re all learning all the time anyway (no argument there!)
  5. It leaves no room for assumption, grandstanding, or guesswork, and strongly promotes innovation through people, process, technology & ‘data’.

So perhaps the real question should be:

How do we get two vastly different skillsets & viewpoints to work together
and create a whole far greater than the sum of its parts.

We consider this joined-up thinking for the digital world

join us to learn how you can make this work in your tax world.

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