The Internal Revenue Service’s cost basis reporting requirements remain a challenge for many financial services firms as the IRS continues to phase in the requirements, according to a new report.

The report, from the research firm Celent and financial technology provider Scivantage, examines the current state of the industry in terms of cost basis reporting readiness. The study analyzes firms’ evolving priorities for technology and operational processes for cost basis reporting, and how these have changed after the first two of three phases of regulations have been completed.

According to the study, financial services firms had challenges with the automation and transfer of data between their books and records, cost basis reporting systems, and tax reporting systems. In addition, accuracy of calculations for wash sales and corporate actions were also a high priority.

According to the report, now that financial firms have completed the 2012 tax reporting season and have been given until January 2014 by the IRS to implement fixed income regulations, they are taking the opportunity to assess their cost basis reporting systems to find areas of synergy with other business practices. While cost basis reporting systems are still mainly viewed as a compliance requirement, firms are exploring ways to use them to streamline processes, integrate technologies and improve communications between end-users, financial intermediaries and solution providers.

Celent conducted nearly 50 interviews with broker-dealers, mutual funds, transfer agents, custodians, prime brokers and technology providers for its report.

“As firms have been actively operating their CBR systems over the past two years, it has become obvious that they underestimated the amount of technology enhancements, tax knowledge and operational adjustments needed to successfully comply with IRS regulations,” said Celent wealth management analyst Alexander Camargo in a statement. “Through our research, we found that the industry wants cost basis solutions to be integrated with other internal systems, ultimately leading to consolidated, streamlined operations.”

The report found that firms using third-party vendors where overall more satisfied than those who were using a homegrown solution, with custodians being the most satisfied segment on average (3.75). The majority of the firms across all segments chose to buy versus build a CBR solution

Brokers and prime brokers expressed the least confidence in their system to be able to handle 1099 reporting; while mutual funds, transfer agents and custodians have the least confidence for transfers processing. Accurate 1099 reporting has become a high priority over the past two years for respondents and investors may need to get used to corrected 1099-B forms being the new norm.

“As we progress further into the regulation phases, firms are increasingly looking for ways to turn cost basis into a business differentiator,” said Scivantage senior vice president of investment reporting Greg Alves. “Automating complex tax calculations using sophisticated data processing to provide accurate reporting is becoming increasingly important as 1099 tax reporting volume continues to grow. As complexity and sheer number of trades present a considerable CBR challenge, firms must streamline their cost basis operations to deliver a superior service experience to their clients.”

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