PwC has a clear vision of the Tax Function of the Future. It’ll have fast, flexible and responsive tax reporting processes characterised by increased automation, better integrated data and processes, more analytic capabilities and technology-savvy tax professionals. And it will deliver better quality output in less time, freeing up people from routine, mundane work to tackle more value-creating activities.
To move towards this vision, tax functions are implementing various layers of automation technology. One layer is ‘digital labour’, handling repetitive rules-based tasks, fast and accurately through robotic process automation (RPA). Other layers include technologies like sophisticated data analytics, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI). Over the coming years, these layers will evolve and interact, transforming the tax department from a back-office function into a critical capability.
"SL Green has a culture of innovation and quality. We're continually looking to embed impactful technologies that streamline our operations and drive value for our shareholders. The unique technology solutions that PwC brought to our organisation will be transformative in the way we work and the results we deliver."
PwC is helping tax departments across the world navigate this journey – as demonstrated by three recent projects delivered by PwC US. The first was for a leading medical products and solutions company, whose data collection process for Sales-by-State tax was labour-intensive and error-prone and unwanted time was being spent by senior tax professionals in the tax department. By applying RPA, the PwC team reduced the time spent on the process from 200 hours to 20 hours, while also making the information available monthly rather than annually.
The head of tax at a major pharmaceuticals company saw a presentation on this project, and asked PwC to solve a different problem. He was faced with recruiting seven new employees to the tax department, and instead wanted to find a way to maintain the current headcount and redeploy the existing staff. PwC used RPA-enabled ‘digital labour’ to do just that, by cutting the process time from 900 person hours to 580. The aim now is to roll out RPA across the whole finance function.
SL Green Realty Corp. is New York City's largest office landlord, and is a fully integrated real estate investment trust, or REIT, that is focused primarily on acquiring, managing and maximising value of Manhattan commercial properties. PwC's Tax Reporting & Strategy practice recently partnered with the Senior Vice President of Tax, Mike Barber, to implement a customised workflow and document management solution to streamline their tax department’s operations.
In addition, the Senior VP of Tax was looking for opportunities to use leading technologies to automate what are typically highly manual and time consuming processes for REITs. For example, to qualify as a REIT, a number of annual and quarterly tests must be met to ensure that the majority of the REIT’s income and assets are derived from real estate sources.
The key ask from SL Green was to automate the entire process from end to end, reducing risk and allowing for real-time execution of the REIT tests. PwC worked closely with both the SL Green tax and IT teams to design and construct an application to automate the process, pulling data directly from the general ledger and other sources, enabling a repeatable process that performs the analysis and provides analytics instantly.
“The PwC team understood our issues immediately, and developed a solution in days. The speed and efficiency gains are amazing, and we’re now working with PwC to replicate them elsewhere in the tax department.”