Posted on November 14, 2019

The sheer speed, scope and impact of technological change is challenging businesses and society at large in fundamental ways. In fact, our research tells us that 60% of us* believe technology will improve our job prospects as upskilling becomes an imperative across disciplines. And tax is no exception. Our latest report examines what the tax function of the future looks like, and identifies six key areas for businesses in the region to address.

The report - “Six priorities for your tax agenda: Tax function of the future 2019/20” - has been launched at a series of digital breakfast seminars across the Middle East, where the firm’s digital tax experts showcased cutting edge and emerging technologies such as Robotic Process Automation, data analytics and visualisation tools, as well as data management and compliance-enabling technologies. These tools and solutions are available to businesses right now, whatever their size, to enable them to improve, streamline and ultimately strengthen their tax management.

A survey conducted at these events revealed that every business who came along believe their tax management activities will be impacted by the ongoing digital tax changes and requirements, with 72% strongly agreeing that they can see the benefit in upskilling and investing in the capabilities of their people to meet these needs, and 56% considering technology solutions to respond to new tax requirements.

Speaking at the Qatar event, PwC Qatar Tax Leader Sajid Khan said: "Data is at the heart of tax and business strategic decision making. The purpose of launching this report and hosting these events has been to showcase the opportunities that data analytics can bring to managing tax, including optimising data assets and capitalising on untapped business intelligence. “The tax and shadow tax function and professional of the future will have to be more data savvy. There is a fantastic opportunity to further leverage data analytics within tax functions for greater contributions to the bottom line and we are so excited to be bringing these opportunities to our clients right now.”

New PwC ME report identifies 2 [].jpgThe value of data analytics and automation in tax functions

New data analytics and extraction tools designed to automate repetitive tasks such as VAT exception testing, invoice processing, and fulfill reporting requirements, show the power that embracing small automation has to increase financial and cost savings for any business - at a relatively low cost. With the increasing amount of time being spent by tax functions on data extraction to meet tax or financial reporting requirements, there is a real drive to automate processes so more time can be spent on value-adding work.

Tax functions also deal with increasing amounts of valuable data - and this data can provide insights into how the company can manage the tax costs of people mobility, supply chains as well as maximising the tax benefits in areas such as mergers and acquisitions. There are currently a number of key drivers for companies to investigate how data analytics can assist their tax function - and the increasing trend nationally is towards real-time reporting in areas such as payroll and VAT, requiring companies to have a better handle on their data.

The Qatar tax landscape

“The continuously developing tax landscape in Qatar (i.e. transformation of tax authority and the introduction of new taxes) and internationally (e.g. G20/OECD BEPS initiative) - demonstrates the need for organisations to have a strong tax function that is in tune with, and well-connected to the broader business,” Khan adds. “This is critical for the long-term success of companies to ensure that they are agile and able to respond to any tax developments or requirements imposed upon them. The provision of data to any tax authority and the preparedness to respond to complex tax audits has historically been a key challenge even for large organisations - hence adapting internal systems and processes using the latest in technology is going to be key to achieving a degree of agility.”

“Now, more than ever, companies will need to be able to quickly access data and models for decision making and planning for potentially complex and overlapping rules, as well as meeting multiple compliance obligations,” Khan continues. “Going forward, tax and shadow tax functions need to be connected with their businesses from a governance, legal, strategic and technology perspective. These are critical touch points that demand a collaborative - rather than reactive - approach, so that organisations can achieve an optimal and efficient tax function that is fit for tomorrow, today.”