The Art of the Possible: How Analytics is Driving New Value for Tax

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Michael Shehab PwC Labs & Tax Technology Leader, PwC US April 20, 2017

If you’re still on the fence on whether or not this type of investment will benefit your tax function, consider the benefits.

Take a second to reflect on just how much technology has improved our personal efficiency and productivity. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen the explosion of smartphones, the proliferation of Wi-Fi, the advent of cloud-based platforms, and exponential expansion in how our world is networked. If you’re like me, these examples alone have seismically shifted the way you live your life.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are no longer futuristic concepts from sci-fi movies. Gone are the days when the only tools available to explore data were spreadsheets and pivot tables. The reality is artificial intelligence is here – it’s now.  The tax function of today leverages the same advancements fueling other high profile innovations.  This includes data visualization, dashboards, dynamic scorecards, predictive and prescriptive analytics, process automation, natural language processing and even machine learning. But don’t worry if your tax department isn’t there yet. You’re not alone.  Still, that doesn’t mean you should remain complacent.

A majority of respondents (51 percent) to a polling question in a recent PwC webcast on tax analytics reported that their companies have only made a minimal investment into data analytics / artificial intelligence tools. They quantified that investment at less than five percent of annual tax function budget. And only eight percent reported their companies have made an investment in tax analytics and tools of greater than 10 percent.

If you’re still on the fence on whether or not this type of investment will benefit your tax function, consider the benefits. They are compelling and analytics drive new value for Tax by unlocking efficiencies, enhancing reporting, enabling collaboration, improving agility and shining a new light on tax spend:

  • Efficiency – These teams spend significantly less time and money on tax compliance and are able to instead use those resources to drive real enterprise value. They automate decision-making for research credit classifications, Internal Revenue Code Sections 199 and 263A, fixed assets and transfer pricing.
  • Enhanced reporting – Teams can provide access to centralized data in a simplified and flexible fashion, allowing for near immediate creation of ad-hoc reports and queries. They are able to view and review multiple years, periods and scenarios of data at the touch of a button. They immediately review “what if” scenarios for potential legislation or regulatory implications that would otherwise take weeks to prepare.
  • Increased collaboration – These teams share centralized data in a standard format that enables cross functional teams to find new and exciting ways to collaborate and shorten decision timeframes. They quickly evaluate all information needed for repatriation strategies and track customized key performance indicators to drive smarter, more informed strategic decisions across an entire organization.
  • Improved understanding of tax spend – Visualizations like the ones pictured above show tax operations and global tax liabilities in a new light and improve decision making. The teams that fully leverage them are able to quickly interpret global changes to legal entity structure, trading partners and tax return filings.

The tax function of yesteryear required a separate technology professional or specialized informatics expert to do all of that. The tax function of the today empowers all tax professionals to leverage the power of technology themselves – with no additional help needed from IT.

At PwC, we faced the same challenge many tax leaders face with their teams. How could we empower our professionals to move away from the spreadsheets and slide decks to exploring data through value enhancing tools? We tried a lot of different things, but the solution that has made the most impact is a two-day Tax Data Academy we’re now offering to clients. The training consists of demonstrations and hands-on exercises designed to show the art of the possible with dashboards, visualizations and data automation. It’s the most efficient, cost effective and immediate way to transform your tax department today to the tax function of the future.

An old adage said that accounting is the language of business. Today, that language is analytics. The more we can do to help tax professionals speak that language, the more non-tax executives will understand the value tax can bring to an organization.

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Michael Shehab

PwC Labs & Tax Technology Leader, PwC US

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