by Cheryl Goh, FTI *
It is an interesting time to be a tax practitioner. The tax world is at the cusp of something quite revolutionary. With technology, digitalisation, globalisation and artificial intelligence converging to disrupt the entire industry, there is no doubt that we really are at the fulcrum of change. Cheryl Goh, FTI, takes a closer look at the program and some of the presenters at The Tax Institute’s 32nd National Convention that will arm you with the knowledge to navigate what is still a very uncertain future.
Tax practitioners are no strangers to change. Tax laws, rulings and policies are constantly in flux – we learn, we adapt, we even get creative when there is a lack of guidance. However, what is happening to the tax and accounting industry at the moment is completely unprecedented. When talk of robots and artificial intelligence become a serious topic of conversation , that’s when you know some serious change is about to happen.
The digital economy: our new normal
For the future generation of tax practitioners, this brave new world of tax will be their new normal – but what about tax practitioners of the current generation? For those of us who have lived and breathed the old order of things, how do we prepare ourselves for what is to come?
Without diminishing the importance of understanding the ins and outs of our incredibly complex tax system, we can no longer rest solely on our tax technical laurels to be effective advisers. Technology, innovation and globalisation are shaking things up. The digital economy is now becoming the new order of things.
The future of the tax professional
According to PwC’s report, The STEM Imperative: Future Proofing Australia’s Workforce, 44% or 5.1 million current Australian jobs are at risk from digital disruption over the next 20 years  . Tax and accounting roles are up there as high risk roles due to developments in artificial intelligence and automation. Whilst it is anticipated that repetitive tasks and certain compliance work are likely to be taken over by computers and robots in the future, a more interesting question arises. What new issues and new markets should we be looking at as a result of these technological improvements?
In their session, Kirsten Deards (NSW Bar) and Craig Jackson, CTA (EY) share their insights into the new sharing economy and how it is disrupting traditional industries and challenging current tax laws. The session will cover crowdfunding and other types of sharing economy transactions, compliance issues and the Federal Court’s Uber GST decision. Issues and markets that did not exist only a decade ago are now becoming key points of concern for tax practitioners.
With the rise of the digital economy and globalisation, traditional tax laws and business models are about to be redefined and reinvented. Cloud-based transactions and technological advancements have meant that firms and regulatory bodies are now making use of innovative strategies to minimise cost, simplify processes and increase efficiency in a globalised world.
In ‘The Future of the Tax Professional’ session, speaker Steve Healey, CTA-Life (Grant Thornton) acknowledges the pressures that the tax profession is coming under with technological changes and will speak on what the ATO’s attitudes are towards compliance simplification. The burning question of what we need to do as advisers to cope with these changes are answered as Steve shares his thoughts on what a good tax adviser needs to be in times of rapid change.
Looking outwardly, speaker John Preston (Deputy President of the Institute of Taxation UK) also taps into this discussion and will speak on what qualities are needed for the future tax professional. His observations will be shared from a global perspective and challenges that tax professionals face in Australia will be highlighted against global tax policy trends.
Creating borders in a borderless tax world
Globalisation has made the tax world smaller, more agile and increasingly more transparent. Transactions across countries are on the rise, which leaves tax practitioners grappling with the multitude of different tax laws in order to best service clients.
Karen Payne, CTA (Board of Taxation) sheds light on the new anti-hybrid rules that have been proposed in Australia. Following the report issued by the OECD as part of the BEPS project, this session considers how the rules would operate and when they could be effective.
The need to draw up borders and boundaries to regulate the increase in global tax activity is high on the agenda for taxpayers, large corporations and SMEs alike. Mark Konza (ATO) and Jerome Tse, CTA (King & Wood Mallesons) explore how, when and why global revenue authorities are increasingly using their information-gathering powers to ensure that taxpayers are paying their fair share of tax in their jurisdiction.
For corporates, Angela Wood, CTA (KPMG) and Jonathan Woodger (ATO) will speak on multinational anti-avoidance law (MAAL) and the diverted profits tax (DPT). The OECD's BEPS action plan is tackling tax avoidance on a global scale and putting companies under the microscope to stay compliant in a stricter regulatory framework.
Smaller enterprises are not excluded from this either. While transfer pricing has been the key focus in the multinational tax debate, the application of transfer pricing to SMEs has created significant compliance and technical issues that have largely gone under the radar. In his session, Chris Bowman, CTA (ConsultTPAustralia) looks at how transfer pricing and related documentation rules apply to SMEs and how to deal with self-assessment, transfer pricing audits and disputes arising from current law.
With globalisation continuing to serve as an enabler for SMEs looking to expand offshore, Denise Honey (Pitcher Partners) discusses foreign investment by successful growing businesses and will cover the challenges faced by SMEs, the impact on ultimate Australian owners, appropriate structures and dividend exemptions.
Are we fighting robots, or just fighting change?
There is no doubt the tax world is changing. The current generation of tax practitioners are facing a pivotal moment where everything old meets everything new. As unnerving as technology, digitalisation, globalisation and artificial intelligence may be, the key to tackling the new order of things is to keep changing, adapting and collaborating.
This year’s sessions have been developed to be both reactive and proactive in nature, to provide you with a holistic view of current and emerging trends. We hope that you find this year’s event insightful, inspiring and thought-provoking.
Join us to hear from the presenters above and other high calibre speakers at The Tax Institute’s 32nd National Convention in Adelaide, 15-17 March 2017.
Ranked by Lonely Planet's Best of Travel 2017 in the top five regions in the world , the Convention's networking and social activity program has also been designed to bring you some of the best South Australia has to offer. Incorporating the gala dinner and Tax Adviser of the Year Awards, make sure you don't miss this opportunity.
* Cheryl Goh, FTI, is The Tax Institute’s Tax Content Consultant.
 PwC report, The STEM Imperative: Future Proofing Australia’s Workforce