We hear a lot about tax technology roles, but what exactly do they entail?
The response to that question can vary, according to who you ask. There is no single, agreed definition of the term – but for software firms in Tax, a tax technologist is someone who invites changes, uses data for a greater purpose, keeps up with technology, adds value outside of their department, and has a holistic vision and understanding of the business. That’s a good start to explaining what’s involved.
So is a tax technologist essentially an IT role?
No, this is a popular misconception. Tax candidates often think that a role in tax technology is an IT role, which will entail coding. In fact, when the candidate has a tax background, the role usually involves close contacts with the IT team which does the coding. The tax person will translate to IT the requirements of the business. It is important that the candidate has had sufficient IT exposure (SAP, Oracle and/or other systems) to explain these requirements to IT.
The field of tax technology is fast evolving. What skills are needed?
There is a variety of skills in demand, especially skills combining the knowledge of tax and IT; but there is also a need for mathematicians, data scientists, data architects, computer scientists, business intelligence, and people with technology and business operations knowledge.
There is strong demand for VAT candidates with SAP or Oracle skills; i.e. candidates who have configured indirect tax in SAP or Oracle. There is also demand for candidates to be involved with tax engines roll out, from gathering requirements to testing phase. Candidates who have exposure in VAT at the EU level will have a strong advantage as projects are often EMEA focused.
Why is recruitment in tax technology on the rise?
Around the globe, legislators are increasing the pressure on firms to be more transparent and to be compliant. Recent examples of this include: the drive for ‘making tax digital’ in the UK; the recent introduction of near real time reporting in Spain; the introduction of VAT in the Gulf Cooperation Council member states; and, of course, the new country by country reporting rules.
The enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems were not designed for these new requirements. As a result, tax departments often need someone who is going to be able to communicate well with both IT and the business, and then translate their requirements into the system. This means that the role of the tax technologist is a holistic one, often involving project management skills.
The world of tax has seen more changes in the last five years than in the last 30 years, and more changes will follow. The field of tax technology is fast evolving. It is of increasing importance too, as the tax department is no longer working in a separate silo of the organisation, but at its centre.
(First published in Tax Journal, October 2017)