Date posted: 2/01/2019 2 min read

The brave new world of tax

Anna Curzon, Chief Partner Officer at Xero gives her view on the impact of technology on tax

In brief

  • Technology offers huge opportunities for accountants as strategic advisors
  • Digital tax increases the need for communication skills
  • Tax compliance has become more efficient and accurate

Anna Curzon believes that accounting is being transformed by technology in a number of ways, making the future look particularly bright for accountants who embrace digital innovation.

Anna Curxon
Anna Curzon, Chief Partner Officer at Xero

How tax compliance is impacted by digital disruption

Cloud accounting is now mainstream, providing greater efficiency, convenience and reliability for accountants and clients. The availability of real time data, on which accountants base decisions, means the waiting game until year end is a thing of the past.

Auto filling data into returns saves time and removes human transposition errors. Accountants will soon be able to file with the click of a button - in fact, in many respects, this is already the case.

With digital tax, there is some risk that clients may file returns without seeking advice or completing a review. Depending on the return type, this can have significant consequences if they incorrectly take a tax position on something, which is why the partnership between businesses and their accountant is critical. Curzon says, "Thanks to cloud accounting software, tax compliance is becoming much less about mundane tasks such as data entry and more about providing compliance advice."

"Tax advice is becoming more real time than just talking to a client at year end. It gives accountants a valuable chance to use their years of accounting experience," says Curzon. Taking the busywork out of compliance will offer huge opportunities to advisors to use their heads to help their clients navigate the complexities of tax systems.

"Digital tax actually increases the need for ongoing communications, so there is a far greater requirement for great communication and coaching skills," says Curzon.

Data analytics creates peace of mind

Curzon believes that data analytics - and, more specifically, machine learning and AI - play a huge role in identifying risk and opportunities, and will transform accounting even further in the future.

We can now use machine learning to alert accountants to unusual transactions and/or unusual coding. Importantly, these anomalies are identified as they happen, not 12 months after the event, and can be corrected almost immediately, providing greater assurance and reliability on data.

"Accountants gain the peace of mind that any issues can be identified by a machine - that previously would have needed time-intensive but unrewarding work by humans," says Curzon.

What the future holds for accountants

Curzon believes the future belongs to accountants as advisors and she says there'll be a huge demand for virtual CFO services.

"More and more we see accountants moving into strategic advisory, which is more valuable for clients, and generates more revenue for accountants and bookkeepers than going through a box of receipts at tax time."

In many ways, Curzon says, we're going to see a lot of the advantages previously only enjoyed by big corporates open up to small business, and vice versa, and this also gives accountants across the board the opportunity to start to specialise.

"We can already see people moving from corporate accounting roles back into public practice, and bringing in corporate strategic thinking to small and medium businesses."

The move into strategic advisory services will be a challenge for many, Curzon says, as it's unfamiliar territory. There is an opportunity to embrace a team from diverse working backgrounds to ensure clients' needs are met.

"So accountants shouldn't worry about their jobs being taken over by automation - the industry is evolving but this presents opportunities for accountants to be the growth consultants for small business," Curzon adds.

Upskilling is essential

Curzon believes staying up to date on the cloud and associated app ecosystems is essential. She advises "putting time aside each week to complete some of the new education courses and think broadly. For employers to become the employer of choice they need to actively support every team member on this journey."