Corporate tax pros turn to AI and bots to comply with Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of corporate tax professionals are dedicating extra time and technology resources, including artificial intelligence and bots, to help their companies comply with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to a new survey by Ernst & Young.

The 2017 tax overhaul has prompted the IRS, taxpayers and tax professionals to scramble to keep up to date with the far-reaching changes in the tax code. Among the changes was lowering the maximum corporate tax rate to 21 percent, while also introducing new tax regimes.

Nearly two thirds of the corporate tax pros surveyed by EY (62 percent) reported using new technologies in their tax function, primarily robotic process automation for administrative efficiency (39 percent) and advanced data analytics (38 percent). For the survey, EY polled 277 senior tax practitioners.

U.S. President Donald Trump sits next to a tax-overhaul bill after singing it into law in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. This week House Republicans passed the most extensive rewrite of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, hours after the Senate passed the legislation, handing Trump his first major legislative victory providing a permanent tax cut for corporations and shorter-term relief for individuals. Photographer: Mike Theiler/Pool via Bloomberg
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law.

“In this transformative age, disruptive technologies such as AI and RPA have already changed the face of tax functions,” said EY Americas vice chair of tax services Marna Ricker in a statement. “This technology enables tax professionals to spend more time on higher level strategy and decision making and less time on repetitive tasks.” One-third of those who added resources (34 percent) significantly added to the team for strategic planning thanks to changes in their tax profile. In the future, 25 percent of the survey respondents said they would continue to allocate additional resources to implement the changes needed through 2019.

M&A deals have helped spur tax technology investments at companies, with 13 percent of the survey respondents indicating they have completely transformed the tax process to include more digital support because of the scope and complexities created by one or more deals.

Beyond the U.S. government, states have made big changes to their own tax policies, adjusting for the impact of federal tax reform, including the international provisions and changes to the state and local tax deduction.

The vast majority of companies surveyed (97 percent) indicated they’re not yet considering relocation to move to a more favorable tax environment, but many are enlisting help in monitoring each state’s tax policy plans.

“Relocation decisions are not based on the loss of a single tax deduction,” said Ricker. “There are many moving parts to state tax policies, and other business implications such as proximity, trade, and available talent, which are important factors with any organization’s relocation decision. Each company will have their own matrix for strategic decision making when it comes to state tax policy changes.”

More than half the survey respondents (56 percent) believe state legislatures should conform closely with the federal base-broadening provisions while keeping state corporate tax rates the same. Twenty-nine percent of the respondents would like to see state corporate tax rates go down, but only 9 percent of the respondents believe states should completely decouple from the federal corporate tax regime and levy new types of business taxes, such as a gross receipts tax.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has heavily affected organizations with business abroad. Nearly half (42 percent) of the companies surveyed with significant international activity claim to be facing significant global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) taxes that are raising their overall tax rate.

The federal, international and state tax implications of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act can influence a tax professional’s view of the economy at large. More than half (56 percent) of the survey respondents who offered predictions about the economy expect it will stagnate under pressure from trade, deficits, rising interest rates or even a start of increasing unemployment. The rest of the survey respondents anticipate the economy will grow. Fewer of the respondents predicted stock market moves, but nearly three-quarters of those surveyed (71 percent) contended the stock market cannot sustain its high level this year.

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