• Tom Maughan

WTF is a Taxologist and do I really need one?

Depending on who you are, where you work and what exactly your role is, the enigmatic tax title – “The Taxologist”-  could mean something very different to you. Like a mixologist mixing cocktails, a taxologist blends accountancy and tech to make the mojito of the tax industry. They then drink that mojito and make up stupid job titles. Only kidding. The reality is, for most of you, it probably doesn’t mean a thing. However, what if we told you, your tax technology strategy will fail without one.

“What tax technology strategy?” I hear you say. [Alarm bells ring!!]

If you are adopting tax technology software for your firm: (1) you need a strategy, and (2) you need to read this.

As providers of tax diagnostic software, when we first heard the term “Taxologist”, we were very excited! Did we know what it meant? No, but it sounded impressive and exactly who we needed to be speaking to. In fact, I’m pretty sure our marketing team thought they had invented it at one point.

Turns out, Thomson Reuters had beaten them to it:

“A Taxologist is a tax professional that excels in the use of technology to maximize tax function effectiveness.”

That was easy enough to understand, it’s just not what I was imagining though.

Then I met a Mr Geoff Peck, Chief Taxologist at PawPaw Taxology, specialists in the harmonization of tax technology (there’s the clue), which took my understanding to a whole new place.  PawPaw consider the Taxologist in a very different light. It is not a tax professional who has learnt some tax technology. No, it was something entirely different to Geoff and his team.

“A Taxologist, is someone who knows how to put together the entire structure of a corporate-wide tax solution such that it offers best capability and value to the company overall, while avoiding pitfalls.”

Upon a first read – if you are an accountant – you might think “this isn’t relevant to me, it’s for in-house tax people”. This is where you are wrong. Although the market that PawPaw has historically served (large corporates) has very different practical experience, there are commonalities at the level of “principles”.

For you, software adoption and the transformation of the tax return preparation process has now begun – with the integration of cloud-based accounting packages such as Xero, which some tax return software can access via APIs – data flows in this space are commonly fragmented, rather than being part of a more uniform ecosystem. This creates gaps and missing links.

You can’t simply buy new software and hope that it will magically integrate into business as usual. If you believe this, your strategy will have holes, big holes.

Enter the Taxologist.

The appointment of an in-house Taxologist – as an owner of the area, an architect who transforms business processes in the context of new tax technology, and the driver of change within the organisation – is fundamental to a successful tax technology strategy.

This role does not necessarily need to be the overall tax lead in your organisation. But it does need to be someone who is forward thinking, who can take strategic ownership and manage resources to achieve your firms tax technology goals.

From our experiences, we recommend such a person to work with two “super users” or “champions” – one would be a Tax Technologist (someone with tax expertise and an awareness of the technology), whilst the other would be a client-facing relationship-based role (the skillset that is more important for the conducting of a tax diagnostic on clients).

Still thinking, do I really need one?

You might have read this article and still found yourself thinking, “meh, this doesn’t concern me”.

But the hard facts are there, many of the top 10 have now appointed this role within their organisation. Any firm who wants to run a successful tax advisory function should do as well and not hang about in doing so. The one thing you simply cannot hide from is that our industry is changing at a rapid rate and it’s up to you to stay ahead of the game.

For those who get organised early and ensure areas are properly owned, you’ll be feeling smugger than a smug thing on national smug day, as you observe your tax function seamlessly deliver, whilst you sip your perfectly mixed, cool and minty, mojito.

If you would like to read more, we recently sat down with Geoff Peck, to discuss the role of a taxologist, read it here.

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