PwC Financial Services Perspectives: Indirect Tax Technology - bridging the gap
With an increased investment in technology by tax authorities, added complexity to global tax reporting obligations and a significant increase in transaction volumes, VAT managers are feeling overwhelmed writes PwC's Johnny Wickham.
Tax authorities are becoming more skilled in data extraction and analysis and there is a growing challenge to both understand and meet these increasingly onerous obligations. More demanding requirements have prompted a significant increase in the IT resource and software investment requirements of an organisation’s tax function.
Johnny Wickham
Johnny Wickham

What is your data saying?
Inherent errors such as incorrect taxing decisions, system configuration errors or irregular trending and anomalies can be significantly easier to identify with the efficient use of data analytics and visualisation.

Where managed efficiently, significant cost saving and risk identification opportunities can be derived from the indirect tax data being collected at transaction level which can also provide insights into several other areas of the organisation. Using technology based solutions to address a technology initiated challenge by tax authorities can contribute to a more robust compliance process and can help reduce the fear and pain increasingly associated with an indirect tax compliance function.

In considering data analytics and visualisation for tax we distinguish between the various stages of progression from the basic building blocks of easy access to robust data to a focus on harnessing insights and value from areas like visualisation, more automated tax reporting, predictive analytics and tax modelling.

From an indirect tax perspective, bridging the gap between tax and IT can be challenging. However, in line with a well-defined tax technology strategy and a clear set of objectives, and at the same time considering any ERP optimisation opportunities (i.e. making the most of the features and capability of your existing technology), data analytics and visualisation can provide an efficient and meaningful representation of data in a visually appealing manner, highlighting the key indicators of relevance.

PwC’s Indirect Tax Technology offerings seek to create sustainable indirect tax strategies, provide strong indirect tax processes as well as robust control frameworks, including the technology tools required to support, adapt to and manage this changing indirect tax compliance landscape.

These bespoke tools directly address indirect tax process objectives using a variety of technology platforms (e.g. Tableau, Qlik Sense, Power BI and Visual Basic), all of which support our indirect tax consulting offering. One such application is the PwC Indirect Tax Data Analytics application (VATVIEW) which provides detailed insights into an organisation’s VAT position. Based on the checks typically carried out by a tax authority as part of an audit, it highlights potential risks or process improvement opportunities that in turn can lead to significant risk-reduction and cost-saving opportunities.

In terms of PwC Ireland's approach to tax data and analytics, we are investing in both our people and our technology to help our clients address their challenges. The tax practice is made up of over 600 professionals and at this stage approximately 75% of our people have been trained in analytic techniques.

We firmly believe that the tax function and professional of the future will be more data aware and data skilled and from a recruitment and training perspective we are committed to responding to this.
Johnny Wickham is senior manager, Indirect Tax & Indirect Tax Technology at PwC.
This article appeared in the August 2018 edition.