Throughout my career, I’ve heard a number of indirect tax professionals express regret they were not at the table when strategic decisions were being made. These pangs of remorse are not only personal, they also impact the business. Companies benefit when decision makers understand and consider relevant tax implications before finalizing major decisions.
While tax professionals need to earn their “seat at the table,” the methods of doing so are not overly complicated. In most cases, all it takes is a slight shift in perspective concerning what it means for indirect tax to serve the business. The following steps can help tax folks get that seat at the table – for the benefit of their own careers, as well as for the benefit of the organization and its stakeholders:
- See the company through your business partners’ eyes: As tax people we have to gather information and file the tax returns. At the end of the day, however, our mission is to work with the rest of the business to create the best possible outcomes for our end customers and the company’s bottom line. We can more effectively execute that mission when we are informed about our company and “alert” to its competitive environment (as I’ve mentioned in a previous post). It also helps to step out of the tax function and meet with the controller, the head of shared services, the accounts payables manager, the CIO and other business functions and process owners. Grabbing an occasional coffee with your business partners helps you communicate to them that you care about their functional area, as well as their success as a professional, and this, in turn will help the company overall. It is important you understand their piece of the business from their perspective. And that point of view will likely help you spot new ways to help them address tax-related challenges.
- Solve your partners’ problems: Effective tax planning really does affect just about every area of the business. When you feel tax should be an important consideration, step in and help your business partner address it. In credit and collections, for example, tax can contribute negatively to day sales outstanding (DSO), a metric that collections professionals work diligently to keep low. When I was a tax executive in a multinational conglomerate earlier in my career, I made sure my team understood how tax could positively reduce DSOs by lowering the number of tax invoicing errors and short payments. Working directly with our credit and collections colleagues helped to increase operating cash flow. This is merely one of many examples.
- Speak the language of the business: When we as tax professionals help the business, we should express what we’ve accomplished in business terminology. If a savvy tax-planning shift saved the company a significant amount of money, I always shared how much those savings improved profit margins in a particular line of business. Every professional knew I was working as their partner to make sure they were fully informed as to the tax implications for any strategic business decision.
First you need to earn a seat at the table, which requires you to demonstrate how your knowledge of the business and your tax expertise combine in ways to improve the company’s bottom line. Once you prove your value to the business, you will have earned a permanent seat at the table. What have you done to earn your seat at the table?
Please remember that the Tax Matters provides information for educational purposes, not specific tax or legal advice. Always consult a qualified tax or legal advisor before taking any action based on this information.