Survey Says: Tax Functions Lag in Adoption of Modern Technology

  • August 01, 2019

New research based on survey responses from more than 300 U.S.-based tax professionals sends a clear message to tax functions regarding the need to up their technology game:

Given the perfect storm of not enough tax talent, increasing regulatory complexity, and greater compliance burden, you would think that tax departments would be increasingly turning to technology to help address the challenges. Yet, it seems that tax departments are still lagging behind some of their counterparts in other parts of the enterprise.

Woah.

This get-it-in-gear message comes courtesy of a recent Bloomberg Tax survey report, which examines how tax functions are evolving and identifies the top challenges they encounter while doing so. We’ll take a closer look at those challenges in another post. Here, I want to zero in on the top impediments the survey identifies related to technology and how a lack of modern technology impacts the tax function.

Vertex Inc.

Most tax departments believe technology that enables them to automate compliance, manage legislative changes, minimize reliance on spreadsheets and improve management of tax data is beneficial and can help them address many of their “biggest tax challenges.” Yet, 55% of chief tax officers believe their function is not keeping pace with technological innovations. So, what’s holding them back? Well, technology can be challenging. Forty-five percent of survey respondents indicated that implementation of new technology or merely making better use of existing licensed technology is one of their biggest challenges.

Of the other issues, here are some notable findings from the survey:

  • 47 percent: The portion of respondents who identify the management of tax data as the function’s biggest challenge.
  • 48 percent: The portion of respondents who identify “reliance on spreadsheets or other manual work” as their function’s largest tax provision challenge (the most frequently cited response).
  • 57 percent: The portion of respondents who identify legislative tracking, tax reform, and staying up to date on changes as their biggest tax challenge.
  • 80 percent: The portion of respondents who feel that keeping up with tax reporting and control requirements is becoming more difficult.

These figures should persuade tax executives and their teams to 1) consider how tax technology improvements can help their functions; and 2) develop compelling business cases for new investments and improvements, including implementation and training of their staff. If additional motivation is needed, the Bloomberg report cites a persuasive message from a 2018 Deloitte report:

CFOs want to know that chief tax officers are efficiently and effectively using technology. While tax may have lagged other parts of the organization in terms of embracing newer technologies (think artificial intelligence, robotics, and digitization), that’s changing. And given the role of the tax team today, the changing regulatory environment, and the continued struggle to hire and retain tax talent, that’s a good thing.

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.


About this Contributor

Bernadette Pinamont Headshot
Bernadette Pinamont
Vice President, Tax Research

Bernadette Pinamont is Vice President of Tax Research responsible for leading a global team of 85 tax professionals who contribute subject matter and technical expertise to build and maintain content for all products, powering millions of effective tax rate determinations for customers in over 19,000 global jurisdictions.

Prior to joining Vertex, Bernadette was Vice President of Tax for Endo Pharmaceuticals. Bernadette's 30 plus year tax career also includes the corporate tax departments of AstraZeneca, DuPont, Syngenta, Tyco Toys, and, initially, EY. When Bernadette joined Vertex in 2013, she was a thought leader in the Chief Tax Office and engaged both industry and clients on the trends, patterns, and emerging solutions to address the global challenges associated with regulatory compliance and tax technology.

Bernadette regularly speaks at local and industry events about tax and the importance of technology, including the annual International Tax Review’s (ITR) Women in Tax Forum. She leads the Philadelphia Women’s Tax Network and is a graduate of Seton Hall University, from which she earned both a B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude, and her Juris Doctor. Bernadette is also a licensed attorney and a CPA.

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