What does the future hold for the tax profession?

Steve Healey, National Head of Tax and Private Advisory Services at Grant Thornton, and former President of The Tax Institute, CTA (Life), shares his insights on future trends in the profession.

TTI: What does the future look like for the profession?

SH: A new way of working is needed for all professionals, and I think the reason for that is because of the rapid change that's happening around us. Robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning; a lot of those things are going to make redundant what we've done historically as professionals. The rise of the peer-to-peer economy I believe is yet to have its full impact, and that in itself is really going to challenge the nature of all professions, including the tax profession.
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TTI: What are some challenges ahead?

SH: We've got a wonderful opportunity in front of us and we can either take a glass half empty approach or a glass half full approach. A number of years ago Geoffrey [Leeper], then as second commissioner, made a comment to say that $500 million was being taken out of the economy. A lot of that was in relation to work that would be taken away from tax agents.  There was uproar because of that. The other way to look at it is this $500 million in business is now available to spend on more value adding services. We just need to think differently. We've got a wonderful opportunity in front of us to embrace change, and actually embed that change in our business and become better advisors.

TTI: Do you have any advice for practitioners navigating the future?

The most critical thing to embrace as a future practitioner I think is the importance of asking good questions. It's the importance of asking great questions, rather than being the expert that has all of the answers from the onset. Our clients are going to have access to technologies as they never have before. We don't own all the knowledge anymore. We've now got additional technology at our fingertips, hence the concept of the trusted concierge. A concierge is one who can ask great questions, who can deliver the right solutions using the right tools and the right people at the right time. That I think is the thing that becomes critical for us as tax professionals into the future.

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