By: Ryan Lynch, Director, Tax Automation Services
In today’s world of increased scrutiny around the tax numbers, both from an external audit and internal planning perspective, resources are strained. Not surprising, tax departments are turning to technology to help meet these new demands. And, as technology becomes more prevalent in the tax arena, auditors are demanding more flexibility around reporting and analysis, specifically presentations surrounding various footnotes and period over period flux analysis.
Whether it is by decreasing time spent manually manipulating calculations or by increasing accessibility of data, technology can accelerate the ability for the tax department to meet the mounting demands of increased reporting requirements, data transparency, and scenario analytics. To do so, however, requires that an overall tax technology strategy be developed and effectively applied. Otherwise, requirements and solutions can be misaligned, leading to ineffective technology spending and wasted effort. More often than not, tax technology is implemented in haphazard or antiquated methods and is significantly underutilized as a result.
An implementation that was rushed to remedy a problem, lack of end user training, or using older versions of software can leave available functionality unused. Lack of understanding about the full capabilities of certain tools (i.e. reports from GL systems) can lead to ineffective use of many tax automation software systems.
Often, tax teams charge headlong into a new technology implementation project without fully consulting with their internal Finance Information Technology team. While these individuals may not have the in-depth understanding of how the corporate tax director or staff will use tax systems and may not be required due to the hosted nature of so many tax software programs, they are still valuable resources when talking about tax software implementations. Finance IT will consider aspects of technology that are critical regardless of where used – things like the upgrade process, integration considerations with other internal systems, risks surrounding the use of the software, data requirements, and more. Sometimes they may even be able to suggest an alternative route by implementing existing unused functionality in their systems to resolve an issue rather than purchasing a brand new solution.
The point is this: while the use of tax automation software and other tax technology is growing rapidly, it is still in its relative infancy compared with other business systems in use today. In order to succeed, it’s critical to make collaboration with internal technology experts a part of the process…and early on in the process. Schedule a meeting with these experts before developing your tax technology strategy, and certainly before you finalize any purchase decisions.
The IT resources dedicated to Financial Systems may help you uncover hidden gems that will improve overall operational efficiency, ease audit burdens and a greater return on your technology investment.