SAP S/4 HANA migration: The benefits and the costs of VAT management

Vertex Cloud VAT Compliance

Migrating to SAP S/4 HANA is often viewed as a transformative leap towards operational efficiency and data-driven decision-making. However, one crucial aspect that tends to be overshadowed in this transition is indirect tax determination. Organizations generally face a dilemma: either build the indirect tax determination logic natively within a SAP system or opt for a specialized solution, such as a tax engine. While the former might seem like a straightforward path, it comes with "hidden project costs" that most organizations fail to specifically budget for. This blog post aims to delve deep into why implementing a tax engine is not just a smart choice, but also a cost-effective one. We will explore this under three primary categories: process efficiency, project cost savings, and maintenance cost savings.  

Process Efficiency and Productivity Improvements; Process Efficiency in Accounts Payable  

In a native SAP system, the accounts payable (AP) process can be a series of manual tasks to calculate the correct tax code for VAT determination. While it may seem manageable initially, the hidden costs become apparent in the long run as these manual processes can be complex in their nature. Errors in manual indirect tax determination, delays in invoice processing, and the subsequent impact on supplier relationships are just the tip of the iceberg. A tax engine automates this process, bolstering the accuracy and speed, thereby improving the overall efficiency and reducing any unexpected expenditure related to manual errors and delays.  

Reduced Effort in Tax Audits  

Tax audits are a necessary but resource-intensive activity. In a native SAP system setup, preparing for these audits involves manual data extraction and validation, often requiring overtime and additional manpower—another budgetary expense that organizations seldom account for. With an integrated tax engine in SAP, reports can be generated – enabling quicker and more efficient audits.  

Compliance Assurance and Unauthorized Transaction Prevention  

Ensuring compliance with ever-changing tax laws is a significant task when done natively in SAP. The hidden costs here involve the continuous monitoring and updating required to stay compliant, not to mention the legal risks and penalties for non-compliance. A tax engine contains up to date indirect tax rules to help remain compliant, reducing the time needed for implementation, manual monitoring and mitigating risks.  

Hidden Project Costs and Legal Framework 

Building a legal framework for VAT management within SAP is a hidden project cost that many organizations fail to consider. It's not just about the initial setup involving significant time and resources from a tax and IT perspective; it's about the ongoing legal consultations and updates required to stay compliant. A tax engine comes with built-in legal frameworks that are regularly updated, saving both time and money. 

Default Services and Invoice Clauses  

Creating default service rules and designing VAT invoice clauses are tasks that require specialized skills adding to the project cost as the build is considered. These are additional expenses that organizations rarely budget for but can avoid by implementing a tax engine.  

Special Cases and Complex Scenarios  

Handling specific VAT management scenarios like EU triangulation, extended reverse charge rules, and VAT groups can be complex and time-consuming. Similarly, dealing with mixed goods/services taxation and movement of own goods ("WIA") are intricate scenarios that require effort. These are hidden project costs that can be significantly reduced with a tax engine, which offers easily customizable solutions to cater for the varying rules and regulations a business must abide to.  

Maintenance Cost Savings; Simple VAT Rate Changes  

What seems like a simple VAT rate change can become a drawn-out and cumbersome task in a native SAP environment, involving multiple table modifications and data validation. These are maintenance tasks that add to the overall budget in terms of IT manpower and potential downtime. A tax engine simplifies this process, allowing for centralized and quick updates.  

Ongoing Requests and MTC Maintenance  

The effort required to handle ongoing VAT change requests and maintain article or material tax classifications (MTC) in a native SAP setup can be overwhelming for tax teams. These are hidden maintenance costs that organizations rarely account for but can mitigate and account for by using a tax engine.  

Major Tax Reforms  

When significant changes in VAT/GST laws occur, updating a native SAP system could potentially be a monumental task depending on the scope of the regulatory change, which would involve extensive testing and potential system downtime. These are hidden costs that can be avoided as a tax engine can be updated much more quickly, freeing valuable hours for tax teams to focus on other business priorities.  

Maintaining Tax Logic Across Systems  

A tax engine's benefits extend beyond SAP. It can be integrated with other systems requiring transactional VAT/GST determination like e-commerce, e-procurement, and home-grown systems. This unified approach to tax management reduces any unaccounted additional costs associated with maintaining multiple, disparate tax logic systems. 

The decision to build tax logic natively in SAP S/4HANA may seem straightforward, but it comes laden with hidden project and maintenance costs that organizations often overlook. These unseen expenses manifest in various forms—be it the manual effort in AP processes, the specialized skills required for tax compliance technology, or the additional IT resources needed in order to build natively in SAP. On the other hand, implementing a tax engine offers a wealth of benefits that go beyond mere compliance. It improves process efficiency, reduces both visible and hidden project and maintenance costs, and allows your teams to focus on strategic, value-added activities. As you chart your migration journey to SAP S/4HANA, consider a tax engine as a strategic asset that will yield long-term dividends.

Blog Author

Roger Lindelauf, Vertex Inc.

Roger Lindelauf

Director, Professional Services

See All Resources by Roger

Roger has over 30 years of experience working as an SAP VAT architect and senior consultant to large multinational companies including Philips NV, Essent Trading International, Shell NV and Meridian Global VAT Services. Roger has acquired strong experience in international VAT, SAP, understanding business requirements and working with VAT automation solutions to translate highly complex business requirements into sustainable, future proof tax technology solutions.

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