Earlier in the summer, I was delighted to be invited to speak at the IOTA’s General Assembly held in Bucharest. The theme of this year’s event, the data-driven tax administration, was especially resonant as revenue agencies around the world embrace the challenges and opportunities of operating in a new, digital world.
There’s a Chinese curse that roughly translates as, “may you live in interesting times.” And it’s a sentiment that I think all revenue agencies would agree reflects the context in which they operate today. Becoming truly data-driven, digital revenue agencies is probably the single biggest transformation that any agency has yet had to address.
Technology has, of course, had a significant impact on the way that agencies have operated over the last couple of decades. But most of the changes have been directed at achieving greater internal efficiencies, supported by redesigned processes and new IT platforms. The big difference today is that attention is turning dramatically to how agencies interact with and support taxpayers. Just as it’s the case with every area of life, the expectations that digital sets for personal, relevant and trusted service is now a trend that all agencies must respond to.
And my sense is that agencies are both keen and willing to embrace this changing world. But they are also trying to work out how to adapt in an environment of tightening budgets. So what are some of the steps they should take to move forward? One key realisation is that the requirement to engage with taxpayers via digital is a fundamental break from the past. This is more than simply giving taxpayers another channel. Digital fundamentally reconfigures relationships. We move from executing a series of one-off transactions to a very different way of sharing data and operating within extended ecosystems.
Being agile and responsive becomes increasingly important to operate effectively in this new environment. That means workforce changes and interactions with taxpayers based around trusted systems and data. The scale of this change should not be underestimated. As much as technology is an enabler, people are really at the heart of the transformation required. But we’re already seeing some agencies making progress towards new approaches. For example, the Netherlands’ revenue agency has created a dedicated unit that’s exploring the new workforce requirements that a revenue agency of the future needs to possess. Rather than personnel dedicated to specific functions, what we’ll see increasingly is the formation of teams with a mix of skills and know-how that coalesce around particular projects in what we call a ‘liquid workforce.’
But it’s just one of the many different steps that agencies need to take on their journeys to becoming data-driven, digital organisations that can meet the future needs of taxpayers, achieve high levels of compliance and operate effectively within tighter financial means. Interesting times indeed. But fascinating, too.
The themes explored in my IOTA presentation back in July are also covered by an article I contributed to a new eBook just published by the IOTA. The publication includes some great articles from different contributors covering many of the challenges and opportunities facing the Revenue industry. For anyone charged with leading or playing a role in that transformation, it’s excellent reading.
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See this post on LinkedIn: Revenue agencies living in "interesting" times.