Technology trends in tax compliance | Vertex Exchange Europe 2019

Tax automation is helping customers shift from 15 hours to 15 seconds of work, says David Deputy

September 9, 2019

Tax technology specialists Vertex brought together tax professionals, solution experts, and its customers in Munich for its Vertex Exchange Europe event. World Finance interviewed half a dozen delegates for an update on Europe’s latest tax compliant challenges and technological advancements: you can watch them all in our Tax Automation with Vertex playlist on Youtube.

David Deputy: I think we’re seeing an increasing trend towards automation.

When new technologies like RPA, or artificial intelligence, machine learning, come out – there’s always an immediate reaction to uptake them. And the way that happens is, we copy what the humans do. So we replicate the human actions by mimicking it through automation. Which is great! You know, customers are receiving a lot of benefits. We’re working with customers who are going from 15 hours to 15 seconds type of benefits. But that’s only the first stage.

The next stage is always to reimagine why are we doing it this way? Because it was human based. The process was designed to accommodate humans. So we think the next wave of technology is to reimagine how things could be done. And that takes creativity. So we’re collaborating with our customers, we’ve got multiple projects going on, and machine learning, and robotics process automation. But always in conjunction with the customers, to understand how we could reimagine the process, and step beyond replicating inefficient human processes designed for humans with technology, and move to the next level of automation. Which is to streamline and really reimagine the whole process.

The way that Vertex is bringing this technology into the tax realm is, we’re working with both machine learning and robotic process automation in two different areas. One, we’re using robotic process automation to look into automating the process of filing returns. So currently the work’s being done in the US at the state level. So there are state websites where you go, and you have to click through and upload your return. That’s manual labour, it’s designed for humans, these interfaces. So we’re looking to put robotics behind it, to remove the drudgery work of humans going through these websites, clicking, uploading, all that.

Another one we’re doing is, we’re looking at the categorisation of products; for taxability, but more broadly for customs, even for search engine placement. So we’re working with large product catalogues and the mapping to tax categories. And working with multiple clients to build up a machine learning library, that understands how to take a product and make a recommendation on what the appropriate tax categorisation will be.

We’re seeing tax authorities use the technologies as well. For example, last month we hosted a delegation from the Korea tax administration. And in a couple of weeks we’ll be hosting the China tax administration. So they’re doing tours, the Asian countries specifically are doing tours, to understand the best practices in use of analytics for fraud detection and audits. So we’re working with them to explain that our customers would never conduct fraud, because they’re paying a lot of money for a high quality determination engine, and compliance and reporting. So we’re trying to make sure that there’s not a lot of false positives in the efforts. But we’re also educating them on the use of big data, and how analytics can help spot anomalies.

But the key thing is to make sure that the industry collaborates with the governments, so that we’re not stuck with analytics programs that kick out just a tonne of false positives, and we spend the next 10 years of our career responding to government requests for information that are perhaps ill-informed. So that’s our goal.


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