Round table: navigating tax in challenging times

March 28, 2024
Round table: navigating tax in challenging times

Under discussion during the network meeting for corporate tax consultants ‘Navigating tax in challenging times’ were the many tax challenges they face every day. From the rise of artificial intelligence, ever-expanding globalization, new forms of non-financial reporting, continually changing legislation to the constant shifts in public opinion. How do you overcome these challenges? And above all: how do other corporate tax consultants do that?

These and other challenges were discussed during the round table sessions. It was not about the specifics of the profession, but the other issues facing corporate tax consultants.

The main outcomes:

1. Ensure that you have a back-up plan for unforeseen circumstances

As the adventurer Mark Slats noted during the plenary session: “I always make very detailed plans for unforeseen circumstances. I not only have a plan A and B, but also a C, D, E and F. That ensures you’re always prepared, no matter what.”

As the corporate tax consultants present noted after hearing Slats’ speech: “Risk management plays an almost similar, important role in tax. Slats shows that a detailed risk analysis enables you to move forward. That also applies to the organizations where we work: robust tax risk management as a condition for progress.”

 2. Interconnection strengthens the profession

Tax consultants often have a solitary position at the organization they work for. Therefore, corporate tax consultants often miss the connection with like-minded individuals. Being able to connect with each other during the network meeting strengthens the position of the corporate tax consultant in the organization.

To quote a corporate tax consultant: “I immediately struck up a conversation with my fellow tax consultants about how they had tackled the challenges I’m now facing in the past. It’s really helpful to be able to hold these conversations, because the profession of corporate tax consultant can sometimes be a lonely one. There aren’t many places where you can bounce ideas off each other and discuss things in depth.”

Another attendee confirmed that: “Discovering that your experience will also help others, both at the personal and strategic level, is an invaluable experience.”

A third person commented: “These meetings help us create a strong tax community and this enables us to move forward with confidence in a changing society.”

3. Tax moves forward by working together

The corporate tax consultants present concluded that tax challenges may require some navigation to overcome them, but working together enables them to move forward. For example, younger colleagues can teach experienced tax consultants how to apply AI, while senior colleagues can teach the younger generation how to tackle challenges. Then there’s also understanding how to master the art of properly navigating the political environment, where one-liners predominate although tax requires more complex explanations. A corporate tax consultant had the following to say about this: “I consider it the task of the tax sector to explain what tax involves. It’s certainly a challenge to provide a large section of society with a story that does justice to the reality and complexity of tax. In that sense, the tax field is increasingly becoming an interpersonal challenge. That’s a noteworthy development and these types of meetings offer help with that.”

4. The transition from advisor to general strategist

The broader focus on ESG and the introduction of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, has changed the position of the tax consultant. Where before the corporate tax consultant was above all an internal advisor, they are now increasingly becoming a strategist within the organization. The corporate tax consultant is more often allowed/required to give their opinion on transparency and compliance - asked or unasked. This means that the corporate tax consultant also contributes to the implementation of corporate social responsibility. Mutual sparring sessions can help corporate tax consultants to strengthen this role within the organization.

To conclude with a person who regularly attends these meetings: “I also attended this inspirational session last year. I still know exactly who the guest speaker was. And I have repeatedly applied his inspiration in my work. That’s not something I can say about each event I attend. I already know that I am going to apply many of the insights I gained today in the coming years. And that’s exactly what makes this meeting so valuable.”

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