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.
How we use phones to avoid human contact
A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.
Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances.
Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?
The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.
In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.
Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.
Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”
To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:
· I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?
With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.
· Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?
Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.
· I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?
Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.
Five key biometric facts
Due to their uniqueness, fingerprints are being used more and more to quickly identify and ensure the security of customers. CLAUDE LANGLEY, Regional Sales Manager, for Africa at HID Global Biometrics, outlines five facts about the technology.
How many times in a day are you expected to identify yourself? From when you arrive at work you are required to sign in, visiting your bank, receiving healthcare services… The list is endless. When a system knows who you are, you are able to do any number common, everyday activities. Your identity is unique and precious. It is also easily stolen and the target of many hackers across the globe. Technology is constantly evolving alongside the criminal element, always looking for ways to protect data and identity. One such solution happens to be biometrics and it is rapidly gaining traction in our increasingly complex modern world.
Reliable, secure and fundamentally YOU, unique biometric traits such as fingerprints are being used by banks, enterprises and consumers to verify identity. Biometric solutions offer significant identity protection because they use unique biological details to ensure an account is only accessed by the account holder, a door only opened by the owner. Here are five things that are little known about this technology…
- The uncut identity. Your fingerprint is unique to you. Nobody can use a copy of it to impersonate you. Good technology is capable of scanning down into the layers of the fingertip to differentiate unique elements of a person’s fingerprint, this data is then encrypted and used as a key to unlocking whichever physical or virtual door that the biometric system protects.
- The living proof. No, there is nothing to the stories of fingerprints being used without their owner’s knowledge or permission. Biometric solutions can use specific variables to determine if the finger used to access the system is that of a present, living person. A copy or a fake cannot be used to access a cutting-edge biometric solution.
- Easy and convenient. Queues and documents and paperwork may well be a thing of the past should biometrics take a firmer grip of government and banking systems. The process of registering is easy, and access to identity documents and records is yours alone.
- Security blanket. A thousand passwords and a hundred post-it notes stuck on walls and drawers. An excel file with a list of sites and applications and their corresponding passwords, all a thing of the past. Nobody needs to remember their password with biometrics, they only need to show up.
- Anywhere is cool. Schools, airports, networks, offices, homes, toilets, banks, libraries, governments, border controls, immigration services, call centres, hospitals and even clubs and pubs – knowing “who” matters and biometrics can quickly and conveniently confirm your identity where needed.