We are already well established on this journey…
The Tax Professional of 2030 will need to be educated differently: what tools exist, what tools should I use, what information is relevant, what information should I be connected to, what information is relevant for this business to be connected to? When will I know if I need a different tool or different analysis? What tax knowledge do I need to ensure that the tool has performed the correct allocation and analysis? Arguably the TP will need the same tax knowledge; the same analysis skills but performed using different techniques.
In the past, the skill to provide high level analysis of data, or reports on data, has been developed through experience; creating data, doing the reconciliations, the verification, the validation and creating the reports. By being involved in the “doing” of these tasks, human intuition develops and anomaly detection becomes “normal” part of thinking while doing. Supervisors then apply analysis of commonly seen or applied knowledge to the next set of circumstances.
In the future, these tools will have been developed to automate the checklists and procedures that have been developed by the human initiators of those checklists and procedures. The tool will perform the procedures more quickly and consistently.
The TP assessment of the output of the tools includes: Will they have performed the procedure appropriately for each different set of circumstances? (e.g. Will the tool have applied the customised version B of procedure “A2” to this business because they do things differently?)
The TP of the future must be educated in the use of the developed tools. The future TP will need to be able to review the results of a digitally enabled world.
A digitally enabled world where results are provided without preparation by the TP is different, not necessarily drastically different, however the development of the skills to be able to apply TP knowledge will be born from this different background. Generational change is required – rapid development and acceptance of the new set of skills.
The Technology of 2030
A significant component of the future of the TP into 2030 is the regulation and administration around the tools that are being utilized by the TP. Whose responsibility is it to ensure the tool is appropriate and correctly providing its output? Does the provider of the tool have to meet a standard or process and due diligence in order to be accepted into the tax ecosphere? Is it the role of the TP to ensure tools that enable tax interaction are doing so correctly? Is it the role of the ATO to ensure such tools that are being given access to submit or interact with the ATO are doing so correctly?
It is not appropriate to state that because of Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning or ‘because the computer can” changes the impact of the role of tax advice. Somebody has prescribed the process for the computer to provide its result. Who is regulating the technology of 2030?
The 2030 environment of the TP will be:
- Different technology
- Tools that detect and advise the anomalies for the TP to then correct or provide advice
- Tools that may provide recommendation on what advice relates to those anomalies
- One platform (dashboard) access to all tools for Client management and ATO interaction
The Regulation of the TP
A tax professional (TP) of the future will still need to be registered and therefore regulated by a strong TPB. There must be regulation over who the ATO is willing to collaborate with in the ATO's administration of the tax ecosphere. There must be regulation and oversight over who a taxpayer is able to rely on in their application of the tax law to their circumstances.
The TPB, as protector of the tax community, through the regulation framework must enhance its role in prescribing the skills and expertise required in order to maintain registration as a TP. The TP of the future must upskill!
It should not be acceptable to have been educated once (in some cases many years previously) and permitted to retain registered Agent status based on just maintaining Insurance, doing what you do (relevant experience) and attending CPE. These factors alone do not ensure that the TP is applying current law competently to a business's circumstances.
A regime of periodic re-accreditation should be considered. It may be appropriate that such re-accreditation would leverage off existing software skill training and assessments. Re-accreditation of tax knowledge would also bring certainty to the ability to rely on the TP. A concept similar to that embraced by the legal profession in acknowledging specific skill certification. It is not reasonable to expect any TP to be an expert in all areas of tax nor the application of tax to all business. It is reasonable to expect a taxpayer to be able to observe how recently a TP has been certified in respective skills.
Updated: 30th August, 2017