Accountants need to brainstorm about making tax digital. Source: Shutterstock

Accountants need to brainstorm about making tax digital. Source: Shutterstock

Deloitte’s 4 steps to building an effective digital tax department

GOVERNMENTS are going digital, which means, they’re inviting businesses to file statutory paperwork, including tax returns, digitally.

For businesses, the ability to go digital with tax filings is a big deal — which is why it’s a significant component of the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business Index.

The Asia Pacific (APAC) region comprises of countries where doing business, and filing corporate taxes, is incredibly easy, and often digital.

Be it Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, or Australia, governments are going the extra mile to digitize the process, “end-to-end” as technology experts often say.

For companies, this means, there’s real value in not just auditing, reporting, and calculating taxes digitally but also integrating with government systems to remit online.

Deloitte recently drafted a whitepaper Teaming with Machines that aims to provide some direction to tax professionals looking to create teams that can support government-led ‘making tax digital’ initiatives from within.

The think tank’s analysts believes that there are four key steps that organizations must take in order to go digital with its tax function, seamlessly, effectively, and with confidence:

# 1 | Assemble multiskilled teams

On the surface, in order for companies to digitize their tax function, the need for data scientists, programmers, and other IT professionals isn’t apparent.

However, Deloitte points out that companies that want to do more with any kind of digital solutions need to balance their tax, finance, and accounting specialist hires with technology hires with new-age skills.

The think tank’s consultants also remind business leaders that in order for any digital transformation program, even in the tax function, soft skills will be crucial — not just to bring the cross-functional team together but to bridge any communication gaps and align individuals towards the team’s goals and company’s vision.

# 2 | Be purpose-driven and move fast

According to a Deloitte study, 84 percent of executives feel ’employee experience’ is important, and 28 percent identify it as one of the three most urgent issues facing their organizations this year.

Hence, the company’s consultants believe that while technology and automation are brought in, businesses seeking to digitize their tax functions must share a vision for the future state with the team and be swift in their move.

While nobody is saying that companies should go all-in with digital, all at once, short sprints that make changes, collect feedback, make improvements, and repeat are usually most effective.

# 3 | Challenge the norm

“Breakthroughs are often achieved when teams challenge yesterday’s—and even today’s—accepted practices to create the new approaches of tomorrow. This is especially important for teams tasked with automating tax processes and then working alongside the automations to elevate previous practices.”

The emphasis is on the fact that professionals are expected to work alongside the automations rather than oversee them — which entails a change in processes, mindset, and even culture.

Only when tax teams can confidently rely on automations to take care of certain operations will they be able to find new ways to do things and create efficiencies.

# 4 | Manage the hybrid workforce

When moving to a workflow that relies on automations on one hand and on human intelligence on the other, long-term alignment only comes when business leaders strike a balance.

Deloitte’s consultants believe that tax professionals, in the long run, will begin to rely on automations just as people rely on GPS and digital voice assistants — and that’s great.

However, in order to truly maximize returns, leaders need to estimate (correctly) how much time will be saved and find ways to use it productively.

Without direction, time saved might just end up being wasted on meaningless processes and improvements.

In the near future, taxes will be digital and tax functions will have to transform. Managing it proactively is what will help ensure businesses get the most bang for their buck.