As companies become ever more global in reach, with cross-border business becoming a norm (or even an aspiration) rather than the province of only a few enterprises of size and scale, taxes become a key concern.
Not just paying them — tracking them, calculating them and keeping a watchful eye on ever-changing regulations and compliance issues that can turn the bottom line into a mess if proper care is not taken.
Against that backdrop, media and information firm Thomson Reuters has introduced the latest iteration of its ONESOURCE business software, focused on tax preparation that takes into account a number of factors that can complicate tax planning, estimation and payments, ranging from statutory rates to currencies.
In an interview with PYMNTS, Stephen McGerty, vice president and head of ONESOURCE Tax Provision and WorkFlow at Thomson Reuters, said the newest iteration of the software is geared toward simplifying the actual process of visualizing and tracking tax-related data through the software itself. The executive offered an example: Simply visualizing data on a year-over-year basis — say, in comparing taxes paid over certain periods — can be done on a “one-click” basis, where previously the data had been “a few clicks back” in the process, said McGerty.
“All of these little things,” he said, “such as the ability to integrate data from ONESOURCE in and out of Excel … simplifies the lives of tax preparers; what was once ‘nice to have’ becomes a ‘must have.’”
“Business software has been feeling the effects of some winds of change,” said McGerty, “and those winds have been driven by consumer software, where consumer technology has become easier to use, and now people expect whatever applications they are working with to have software that is intuitive and which has an attractive interface.”
For Thomson Reuters, added McGerty, the key to the new form of ONESOURCE, its second iteration, was to bring on board professionals who were not necessarily from technology backgrounds but from creative backgrounds as well, in order to focus on ease of use with the new design.
Ease of use becomes paramount when firms must navigate what McGerty termed the “blossoming complexity of taxes, across supply chains and jurisdictions, and also the sheer number of different taxes that must be paid in general,” ranging from sales to VAT to BEPS (base erosion and profit shifting). And for some of the largest corporations — among them, McGerty noted, key clients and ONESOURCE users — the taxable impact of certain business events, taking place across continents and languages.
Whereas many observers of B2B may focus on transactions between separate companies, McGerty stated that tax complexities can come at their thorniest in the case of cross-border transactions that take place within the same company and arise as the result of transfer pricing. The challenge here is to track “fair and reasonable” payments across borders, pre-tax profits in certain locales and the implications of taxes on those profits, which can eventually affect the bottom lines of both entities.
Turning back to the customer experience, McGerty stated that ensuring the safety of such sensitive corporate financial data has been a strong point of focus and that separate data centers (feeding information from several databases maintained by Thomson Reuters) have strong verification, physical security and consistent audit trails done externally.