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Will robots do your tax?

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Advances in technology and digital automation are transforming the way in which businesses operate – and the tax process is not immune from these changes as robots that can perform repetitive tasks at super high speeds are making their way into the tax sphere.

The tax function of the future will look very different than it does today. This is according to PwC’s ‘Tax Function of the Future’ series – a spotlight on robotic process automation (RPA).

“Process robotics process large volumes of information and data over a shorter period freeing up tax professionals to do high-value activities. Although RPA is still in its infancy, it is expected that robots will ultimately take on higher-level tasks,” says Paul De Chalain, Head of Tax Services for PwC Africa.

Achieving the right mix of people and machines in the workplace and the implications for business is the critical talent issue facing organisations today. According to PwC’s annual ‘Global CEO survey’ 2017, 52% of CEOs (Africa: 53%) say they are considering exploring the benefits of humans and machines working together in the workplace.

Currently, the tax function has a lot of manual processes in place, is time consuming and costly. There is also much gathering of information and data, with an ever-increasing volume of transactions. Our focus on RPA explores the importance of technology in enabling tax function processes, focusing on emerging trends in RPA and its impact on the tax function.

RPA is the use of artificial intelligence and smart software to perform high-volume and repetitive tasks that are normally performed by people. The difference between process robotics and traditional robots is that these robots are trained by using machine learning capabilities. “Robotic processes bring a new dimension to the workplace in that they can perform relatively simple but nevertheless human functions – interpreting, deciding, acting and even learning,” adds Alistair Hofert, Intelligent Automation Lead for PwC South Africa.

How does RPA apply to the tax function?

Process robotics can apply in every area of the tax function where manual processes are still in effect. They can even be applied if tax has already implemented technology solutions for direct and indirect tax compliance and reporting.

Robotics will not replace tax professionals, but they will change what they do and the skills they’ll need.

What actions should tax functions be considering?

The route to RPA need not be a complicated exercise. The paper sets out a typical journey for an organisation. “Tax departments will need to start with an understanding of their underlying processes. The technology is an enabler and not a comprehensive solution in itself. RPA is one of the many digital tools that can be used to gain operational excellence,” Hofert comments.

Organisations will need to identify the manual processes that are suitable for automation. In addition they will need to assess whether RPA will bring benefits in terms of time, costs, and resources. They will also need to evaluate whether RPA is currently being used by other business processes.

“The time is now for tax functions to develop a roadmap for RPA working with finance, IT, HR, the supply chain and other functions that are likely to be impacted,” Hofert concludes.

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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