Based in Germany, ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the optics and optoelectronics industries. The ZEISS Group emerged from a workshop for precision mechanics and optics established by company founder ZEISS in Jena (Thuringia) in 1846. Today, ZEISS is headquartered in Oberkochen (Baden-Württemberg). More than 90% of ZEISS’s revenue comes from outside Germany, so a transparent, secure and seamless cross-border tax compliance service is crucial to the company’s success. ZEISS has been a client of PwC Germany’s tax and legal services team since 2013. In September 2020, PwC started using the firm’s newly-launched Engagement Center (EC) compliance platform to help ZEISS simplify its global compliance obligations. With multiple business units in different countries, the company needed a clearer line of sight into local compliance issues in a rapidly evolving global regulatory landscape. EC has already proved its worth for ZEISS, delivering a more collaborative service, accelerated data collection, increased transparency and greater insight in managing the engagement for both sides.
Our Role: EC supported ZEISS’s in-house accounting team by creating a shared working environment with advanced analytical functionality. The digital platform uses automation to improve the performance of tasks, delivering a better experience to ZEISS’s compliance team.
EC enabled faster, more efficient data collection, eliminated manual tasks, and delivered sharper insights into complex issues that arose during the engagement. All interactions were conducted through a single web-based platform, offering a transparent, secure and seamless tax compliance service covering many of ZEISS’s obligations globally, including corporate income tax returns, tax accounting, and statutory financial statements in all its business units worldwide.
Services: Tax compliance
ZEISS operates in almost 50 countries and has more than 30 production sites worldwide. Founded in 1846, the company has close to 32,000 employees, including 18,000 outside Germany. ZEISS is a world leader in industrial metrology and quality assurance, microscopy devices for scientific and materials research, and medical technology for diagnostics, surgery and ophthalmology. In addition, the company makes lithography optics that are used to manufacture semiconductor components, while its branded spectacle and photo lenses and binoculars are in demand worldwide.
As a multi-sector, international company, ZEISS’s compliance responsibilities require its headquarters in Germany to have a clear global overview and insight into the processes for many tax compliance areas.
Since 2013, PwC Germany has worked with ZEISS to deliver this objective in a consistent, transparent way across our global tax compliance network.
“With Engagement Center, we have been able to conduct corporate tax compliance in different European countries in less time and with more efficiency. This has enabled ZEISS to commit more resources to value-creating operations.”
PwC’s tax coordination team trained ZEISS’s compliance teams on how to use the EC platform, and was available throughout the engagement to answer their questions. Using EC, ZEISS teams were able to collaborate virtually across borders with us to deliver uniform results and meet deadlines, eliminating email traffic and reducing the risk of data breaches. Throughout the engagement, the company could see for itself that all the relevant data and documents were stored securely.
Our overall goal was to give ZEISS enhanced security and consistency regarding tax compliance across Europe. EC’s dashboard provided the client with immediate access to all the data analytics for the tax jurisdictions where ZEISS operates. For example, there are different legal due dates for filing corporate tax returns in different countries, and EC automatically stores these deadlines and generates a project plan, starting from planning and scope, and including a timeline for data collection, a first draft of the corporate tax return, and the final tax return and submission to the relevant tax authority.
ZEISS’s head office can also use EC to see when each step in the process has been completed. If the corporate tax return is not filed within the deadline, the local team can add an explanation to the system, for example if the delay is due to a legal question, or a requested extension of the deadline.
The web-based EC platform also facilitated collaboration between PwC and ZEISS and significantly accelerated data collection, by eliminating unnecessary requests and duplicated effort.
Throughout the engagement, the two teams were able to exchange documents more efficiently, monitor progress, and access all queries and responses, removing the need to search through emails for information retrieval. Using data analytics, PwC also provides ZEISS with an overview of all critical tax risks and tax planning opportunities.
Going forward, EC has the potential to deliver two long-term benefits for ZEISS. Firstly, the platform’s swift, more efficient reporting process means ZEISS can reduce the time spent on compliance, releasing time and resources which the company can devote to strategic, value-creating activities. Secondly, EC’s embedded analytics are designed to help ZEISS identify future risks and opportunities more quickly. Overall, EC offers a digital one-stop shop, delivering a simpler, more transparent experience for both ZEISS and PwC.
“With the Engagement Center tool, we can give ZEISS enhanced security regarding the company’s tax compliance all over Europe. We can also reduce our data collection workload, because Engagement Center allows us to exchange information with the client in real time.”
Partner Tax & Legal, Tax Reporting & Strategy, PwC Germany