Why Tax Should Give a Rip about RPA

Robotic process automation (RPA)—an application of technology aimed at streamlining enterprise operations and automating mundane tasks—is poised to make huge inroads into corporate processes across the board – and tax is no exception.

RPA offers a consistent value proposition to many different types of software: let the technology take care of the repetitive heavy lifting, freeing up your experts for higher-value – and more fulfilling – activities. RPA bridges different systems and apps to perform what would otherwise be arduous and manual data-entry and data-transfer tasks quickly, accurately and at a low cost. This explains why Vertex Executive Vice President John Viglione describes RPA as “the duct tape of the digital age.”

Why Tax Should Give a Rip about RPA

RPA has more than one application within the corporate tax realm. Danny Vermeiren, director of VAT in the Vertex Chief Tax Office, sheds light on one of those applications, value-added tax (VAT) management, in a forthcoming white paper. Danny explains that RPA can “bring about significant productivity, quality and cost-reduction improvements in tax functions,” while helping “VAT managers and professionals currently overwhelmed with heavy doses of manual, repeatable and time-consuming work reallocate much more attention to more strategic activities.”

While RPA projects are usually relatively straightforward, they do call for some careful planning. Danny identifies five keys to success in leveraging RPA to improve VAT management processes:

1. Human oversight and intervention: RPA augments human expertise; it doesn’t replace it. Human input is needed to structure data and handle exceptions.

2. IT support: While your tax process experts should lead the initiative, you’ll also need the help of experienced IT resources to set up the architecture and scripts.

3. Solid governance, risk and compliance: Bots may be more accurate than humans, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your grip on governance, risk and compliance. Keep a close eye on your internal controls and GRC requirements, policies and standards.

4. A cast-iron business case: Calculating the returns on an RPA implementation can be challenging. Triple-check your assumptions.

5. Effective change management: RPA impacts job roles and workflows; make sure your employees get the help they need to adjust successfully.

The tax function has only just scratched the surface of RPA. My colleagues and I will keep you updated as new benefits continue to be discovered.

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John Wilson

Director, Global Compliance Technologies

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John H. Wilson is Director, Global Compliance Technologies. He has more than 20 years of experience in software and services industries. John is responsible for leading client engagement and co-innovations, supporting multinational tax leaders and professionals to address global taxation challenges. He holds a B.S. in marketing from Messiah College, an M.B.A. from The Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in organizational leadership from Regent University.

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