Thanks to digitalisation, not to mention regulatory changes, the global tax ecosystem is changing – fast and now.

Technology offers tax administrators plenty of promised benefits. The likes of cloud computing, machine learning, AI, robotics and automation promise to make compliance yields better and close tax gaps.

However, at the same time technology changes are driving pressures on tax professionals – if they aim for a more strategic position within the corporate finance department, the accountancy firm or, ultimately, the organisation, they will have to actively leverage digital technologies, change the way they operate and work out how the latest digital solutions mitigate risk and aid compliance.

Tax professionals will have to start thinking carefully about how their changing landscape feeds into the wider organisation. Digitalisation presents food for thought about how the tax professionals want to drive value for the business.

So, what does the future hold for tax professionals?

New skills for emerging technologies

Emerging technologies like cloud computing, machine learning, AI and robotics are no longer a piece of science fiction. Enterprising fintechs are rolling out an increasingly wide range of technology solutions poised to redefine the way accountants work.

When asked by Digitalist Magazine how these emerging technologies are going to impact tax departments, Lisa Fitzpatrick, president of Bloomberg Tax, replied: “When applied correctly, these technologies represent opportunities to drive efficiencies. In the survey, we found that applying robotic processes to repetitive tasks can free up time, make existing processes significantly more efficient, and ultimately provide opportunities to shift their focus to strategic planning.”

Tax professionals’ roles are predictably process driven and this is perhaps where the true benefits exist. Organisations that invest in emerging tech will be able to automate resource-heavy, repetitive tax work. Automation will let tax professionals to do away with the more mundane tasks that are carried out repetitively in a day. In exchange, more challenging and fulfilling, added value work for tax professionals should be the outcome.

Tax professionals will therefore need to develop new skills and an understanding of how to apply new cutting-edge technologies. And recruiters will be seeking to headhunt individuals from non-traditional backgrounds. Indeed, an increasing number of the next generation of tax professionals will come from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

Finding a niche

Edwin Abl, CMO at Modulr, feels tax professionals must engage early with new automating technology to differentiate against the market, or risk isolating themselves in the long run from the fledgling fintech ecosystem.

He adds: “Some 40.5% of accountants fear job replacement by automation, while 30% fear keeping up with new technology, according to GovGrant. Couple that with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggesting that 25% of chartered and certified accountants could lose their jobs, and it makes for grim reading.

“However, this may be why some accountants have moved to position themselves as consultants for a specific subsector, with some even dictating the software their clients must use rather than accommodate the wide range of current software providers.”

Tax technologist

Not long ago, tax professionals depended on understanding the rules to guide organisations on the tax consequences in the jurisdictions where business was conducted. Going forward, as the world will become more digital, and as tax collection will automate, introducing almost real-time assessment, organisations will be investing in technology to digitise their reporting processes.

Owing to these changes in creating real-time data, the coming out of the “tax technologist” will be witnessed by the industry. This tax technologist will have to understand data analytics as well as the tax rules and will have to support the development of real-time tax dashboards and visualisation techniques. By becoming a tax technologist, tax professionals will offer leading-edge prospects adding value to the organisation. Technology will drive a paradigm shift for tax professionals globally. Ultimately, it will reform the talent dynamic across the tax function.

Remote working

The introduction of cloud computing has taken the reigns off the tax professional.

Previously bound to the place of work or client’s offices, cloud will work to exchange the cubicle lifestyle for more flexible working, with such roles able to be carried out anywhere.

The enhanced security of cloud systems will allow tax professionals to unlock and share insights wherever they are, without having to worry about the traditional repercussions associated with handling sensitive data outside of the confines of the office.

Plus, a rise in organisations opting for a single online system, with all data in one place, creates simplicity without the need for multiple bulky applications.

Soon tax professionals will be able to share their analysis with their team at a click of a button and have a real-time view of what’s going on in their business whether they’re at home or on the go.

As the new class of tax professional becomes apparent in this digital world, the tax function will carry on with the progression. The executive position of the tax professionals will remain vital to the success of finance function.

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