Read any overview of how the finance and accounting function is changing, and you will notice several common themes. Three of the most important of these are: cloud migration, data standardization, and interoperability.
The aim of technology in finance is to remove friction. With cloud migration that means making upgrades, licensing, procurement and maintenance simpler with software-as-a-service (SaaS) models. In the case of data standardization, silos of information held by different teams are being replaced by single common datasets that underpin every process and are updated in real-time.
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And with interoperability, technology enables this data to be shared seamlessly between stakeholders, whether they are senior leaders, heads of finance, corporate communications specialists, line of business managers or tax and transfer pricing professionals.
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The drivers behind these lines of travel are clear. Technology is getting more powerful, so it can deliver the number-crunching capabilities needed to eliminate friction from financial workflows. Digital transformation has accelerated as organizations have been forced to adopt new operational models. This has been driven by the recent need to work remotely, and the increased tendency for regulatory bodies to either encourage or mandate digital reporting across the board.
As a result, sub-trends such as real-time reporting, robotics and AI, more regular forecasting, and self-service reporting via dashboards, have all gathered pace. As the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) writes in its report Technology trends: their impact on the global accountancy profession, a “new normal” is emerging. With it, technologies are converging to change the ways in which finance and accounting teams consume IT resources, share knowledge and experiences, and access products and services.
“Accountants in practice and in the finance function are part of that connected world,” the ACCA report says. “This is changing the ways in which they communicate and collaborate with those in the businesses they work with and for, and shaping new working patterns. It is providing accountants with the opportunity to automate and de-skill time-consuming and repetitive work and focus on higher value work, so that they can consolidate their role as advisers on finance and business.”
Implications for Tax Teams
While finance teams have long had a seat at the technology strategy table, tax professionals have not always had the same influence. As a result, many tax departments have been unable to take full advantage of cloud migration, data standardization, and interoperability. They continue having to deal with friction in the way they collect data, prepare for year end, and monitor processes throughout the year.
This is beginning to change, especially in light of changes in tax regulatory regimes and the need to demonstrate transparency in tax reporting. The reason is simple, says Deloitte: “New data modeling tools make it possible to deliver valuable tax insights about different financial scenarios—in real-time. This means business leaders get the benefits of those insights before they must make their decisions. A modernized tax function has the digital tools and talent to churn through scores or even hundreds of scenario models to determine their after-tax financial implications.”
Business leaders can now seek answers to questions based on the state of financial data at the time, not on the state that it was three months ago. The pace of change and complexity will only continue to grow, so working with aged data is no longer an option.
Transfer Pricing at an Inflexion Point
One of the most important elements of corporate tax management and reporting is transfer pricing, which determines operations’ contribution to the overall picture, as well as to the final profitability of each business unit at year-end. Unstable supply chains and uncertainty about future domestic tax rates have added to the challenges faced by transfer pricing teams in recent times. Those without modern tools have struggled to provide the accurate, timely data needed by the business.
Yet operational transfer pricing is one of the biggest custodians, users and consumers of trade related financial data in a multinational enterprise, says EY. “Business models are rapidly evolving, and the associated regulatory landscape presents challenges within transfer pricing that did not exist historically. It is, therefore, not surprising that the 2021 EY Tax Risk and Controversy Survey across 1,265 respondents in 60 countries and 20 sectors, identified Transfer Pricing to be the # 1 tax risk.”
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Harnessing technology in transfer pricing can be a powerful force to address various inefficiencies, adds EY. These can range from disparate data sources, lack of controls and automated transfer pricing documentation, to manual calculations separated from the organization’s ERP, inconsistent outcomes across countries, year-end adjustments, and difficulty in generating segmented financial results.
As one of the industry’s leading providers of tax and transfer pricing software, insightsoftware works to continuously deliver new functionality that brings greater value to existing and future customers. In the 22.1 release of our software, we have built improvements across three broad categories: cloud maturity, new product features, and connecting solutions.
Under the heading of cloud maturity, we have made our software easier to deploy and upgrade within the SaaS model, although we continue to support companies that wish to continue with an on-premise platform. We have also enhanced our HTML compliant Dashboard Designer with usability features and out-of-the box cards.
New product features for Longview Tax include classification and netting enhancements, as well as Tax Account Roll Forward (TARF) performance improvements. Longview Transfer Pricing now includes productization for modelling and target setting for counterparties.
Finally, connecting solutions encompasses two main elements. The first is integration with other products in the insightsoftware family, such as our reporting tool for finance, CXO Software. The second involves investments in application programming interfaces (APIs).
Through our program of customer voice activities, such as focus groups and webinars, we will continue to gather priorities for further development of our tax and transfer products in the years ahead. With this in mind, we have introduced a special ‘Aha’ ideas portal where our customers can make their suggestions for future capabilities, playing their part in eliminating friction from finance.