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About In House Tax

About In House Tax

This weblog is a news and views site for tax professionals within the UK and international in-house tax community.  You will find information about appointments and people moves in and around the in-house tax market, issues affecting the in-house tax professional, opinions on the state of the tax job market, updates on tax technology, and other general thoughts of the day.

Hope you find it useful.

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Location: St Albans, United Kingdom

This site has been developed by Simon Godley, who also runs the niche tax recruitment company Talentpool Selection . Simon spends a lot of his time placing tax specialists into FTSE companies, large in-bound groups and some professional services organisations. He also recruits and is well networked around the UK tax technology and VAT markets.

Tax News

Where will we (and tax) be in 50 years?

Thursday, 6 December 2007

By Simon Godley

Reading through the paper this lunchtime, I had one of those 'What is happening to the world moments?'. This was mostly driven by the first article reporting a 19 year old boy in Nebraska who had been on a shooting rampage in a shopping mall, killing 8 people, and then shooting himself. Clearly this is the behaviour of a very disturbed person, however the comment that caused me to reflect the most was that his suicide note revealed that he 'just wanted to be famous'. Fame? I couldn't kill a fly without feeling tremendous guilt, but I can kind of see the logic here. The boy becomes obsessed with famous people, maybe he develops some sort of resentment and jealousy that they are famous, and the only way he can quickly have the perceived level of attention that you get when you are famous is to commit this atrocity. The fatal flaw in his plan - he never got chance to enjoy his very short lived 'fame'.

My thoughts then turned to the concept of fame. When did fame begin? My conclusion to this was when media started, when things were reported about people, when newspapers were written, and then fame possibly caught on a lot faster when people could go and see a moving picture - this is when you can really get to 'know' someone in terms of their looks and personality. Therefore, fame has evolved out of technology.

The next article was more revelations from HMRC and their breaches of security. The acting head of HMRC David Hartnett, being quizzed by the Treasury select committee, was putting the breaches down to 'systematic failure'. Sounds a bit like blaming technology to me.

Thirdly, how did the wife of the 'dead' man from the canoeing accident get exposed for potential fraud - someone had found a picture of him and her together in Panama, which had been posted on the internet, dated July 14 2006. His 'death' certificate is dated 21st March 2002. Once again, technology (ie the internet) playing a significant part in the process.

So the opening pages of today's newspaper reveal three articles where technology has played a significant role, two times in a very harmful way, and once in possibly a helpful way.

So what on earth has all this got to do with tax? Well, what about tax technology? Surely a good thing in the UK, for example, where tax and accounting rules become more and more complex. The idea of the tax compliance process being fully automated, with clever software that is coded into ERP systems, pulling out the relevant tax (and VAT) numbers and placing them in the correct fields of a tax computation. So where's the downside, is there one?

To digress slightly, I recently took a trip to France to buy some booze for Christmas, and decided to stay overnight in Boulogne. From the point of deciding to make this trip, the first time I actually spoke to another human being who was incidental to my trip was when I said bonjour to the receptionist of the hotel in Boulogne, after buying my booze. Everything I had to do up to that point, including buying a channel crossing and booking a hotel room was totally automated. So technology also removes chains of people, and hence removes jobs.

So I guess the big fear with tax technology is the impact on tax professionals' jobs. Going back to the troubles within HMRC, we have already seen 12,500 job cuts as a result of the Inland Revenue merging with HMC&E, and the plan is to cut another 12,000. This was highlighted recently in Taxation Magazine, with Mike Truman launching his 'Stop the Staff Cuts' campaign. As tax technology improves and becomes fully integrated into large PLC, are we going to see an evaporation of those working on tax compliance?

We have realised that we can't live without technology and computers, but hopefully we will realise that even though computers do clever things, and save us time, they have no common sense or imagination, something that only humans can possess.

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posted by Simon Godley


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