Cognitive - Aug 17, 2017

The #taxbot has landed

How tax robotic process automation (RPA) can significantly improve operational efficiency

RPA is probably the most disruptive innovation to impact finance departments since the introduction of the PC. Robots are no longer future oriented creatures or expensive toys. Today they are capable of performing many of the repetitive tasks that it takes to run and operate a finance team.

Of all the finance functions, tax is perhaps one of the most ‘robot friendly’ environments. Why? Significant elements of tax compliance and reporting typically involve many repetitive and sometimes menial tasks such as data extracting/gathering, running reports, calculating adjustments, populating work papers, uploading returns/reports and more. For example, approximately 80% of tax return preparation in Canada is really about data wrangling and a significant portion of indirect tax applications can be practically automated.

No, not those kinds of robots

Many tax organizations around the world are discovering that they can realize real efficiencies by identifying repetitive tasks, documenting the requisite and related processes and then, using RPA tools and technologies, automate those processes. These ‘bots’ don’t roll around on random wheels or have an R2D2 side profile…instead, they are sophisticated macros built using technology tools that are programmed to take over a user’s laptop and perform a series of repetitive duties. These robots are relatively easy to program and the efficiencies can be very material. Deloitte has helped and is helping many organizations implement these bots in tax departments and the scale of efficiencies realized has been awesome!

RPA for tax is delivered through software that can be configured to complete rules-based tasks such as: copy and paste, open email and attachments, move files and folders, connect to system interfaces, extract structured data from documents, log-in to web or enterprise applications, make calculations, collect statistics, scrape data from the web, fill in forms, read and write to databases and follow "if/then" rules. All of these tasks can be easily deployed and managed from a central controller to interact with a wide range of business applications.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) promise that we will soon see robotic cognitive automation (RCA) resulting in ‘thinking’ robots. Tax is complex and we strongly believe that there will always be a significant element of human judgement involved in doing the hard tax stuff (for example, planning, applying tax law and managing controversy). RPA and RCA can enhance a tax functions operational efficiency.

RPA is a great option to reduce many of the labor-intensive repetitive tasks that tax departments go through. With RPA, it is possible for tax departments to rely on technology to replicate routine, predictable tasks and free up tax professionals to focus on more high-value work.

Interested in learning more? Contact [email protected] to find out more about Deloitte’s sustainable automated tax solutions.