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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.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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