“After the tax reports for Q4 2015 we concluded that we did not want to repeat the tax process the same way. It was more labor intensive than could be justified, which made it more time consuming than necessary,” says Najib Damghi from W.P. Carey.
“The most important issue was the process; by optimizing the process, the quality improved as well,” states Patrick van Gerven. As a tax automation consultant, Patrick has been involved with the tax process at W.P. Carey for a number of years. “With more than 250 Excel-spreadsheets you’ll find yourself in the classic spreadsheet situation; as soon as someone makes a change, you’ll have to redo everything. The back and forth mailing of various versions disturbs the process as well, just like the fact that everyone fills out the sheets in a different way,” says tax automation consultant Jethro van der Veer.
W.P. Carey has decided to implement the Corporate Tax Reporting App that has been developed by Patrick and Jethro in Anaplan. A striking choice, as the organization uses a different Performance Management solution for its financial processes. “We wanted a fast implementation; with the Anaplan Tax App this is feasible, because many models are already built in based on best practices,” explains Najib.
“Anaplan aggregates the data in such a way that you can look at them properly; it takes away any discrepancies first.”
“Also, we were looking for a flexible solution. We wanted to be able to implement requirements that are specific to our company,” continues Najib. “For instance, in Anaplan it is fairly easy to build in an extra reporting option, like US GAAP. Anaplan gives us that flexibility; it’s not a ready-made tool, but a platform.” “Everything is possible, but you have to be careful not to make it too complex,” says tax automation consultant Stef Jansen in de Wal.
The implementation of the Tax App proved to be fast indeed. Najib: “We actually implemented the new tool quickly and within the timeframe that we wanted. The implementation was completed within two months, after which we received the required internal approval by internal audit within three months.” “Despite the short implementation time, we still managed to include many specific wishes from W.P. Carey,” says Patrick.
By now, additional tax reports are also being added to the App. “First, we completed the existing tax processes. Now we are extending to new processes, like Country-by-Country Reporting,” says Stef.
Najib is positive about the new tax solution: “It is very user friendly. I expected that technical knowledge would be required, but that is not the case at all. It’s almost as simple as adjusting formulas in Excel.”
The user friendliness of the App has given the results the company hoped for. “Anaplan aggregates the data in such a way that you can look at them properly; it takes away any discrepancies first,” says Najib. “Also, we don’t waste as much time to version control and chasing the Excel-sheets, it’s much easier to coordinate.”
When implementing such a flexible system, it’s important to make deliberate choices. For example, with regards to refreshing the data. “We chose to refresh semi-automated,” says Najib. “The upload enters automatically, after which I can decide whether the data and calculations will be adjusted.” “We can’t create the tax reports for all 250 entities at once, so refreshing midway means restarting the report for some entities. We’ve decided to do all the entities first, then we refresh and update where needed,” explains Patrick.
The collaboration between Jethro, Stef and Patrick suits Najib well. “The combination is very powerful; on one hand in-depth technical knowhow, on the other hand someone who advises us about the full tax accounting process. That combination enables us to implement the solution in such a way that it fulfills our company specific demands, while looking at what’s needed for tax accounting in the future as well.”
“Instead of having to deal with so many details that we lost sight of the whole picture, the solution has brought us to a point where we can put the focus were needed.”
The new solution makes the tax process faster and more secure. This starts at the automated data-entry. “Previously, I had to trust someone else’s formulas, which I then had to copy by hand into 250 Excel-sheets,” says Najib. “Now, first it’s tested, then it’s repeated exactly the same way and finally it has automated checks. This means we can trust it.”
The App provides built-in data quality assurance. Jethro: “All entered data is checked with the available master data. Built-in checks present the anomalies directly in a dashboard. It even gives solutions to solve the anomaly.”
The optimized taxproces is faster and less labor intensive. “During the quarterly closure this saves six FTE,” says Najib. “The new process saves a lot of time as; previously, closing the quarter took us six weeks, now only two.”
In the shortened period, more work is done as well. “Now, we’re working with live data, which adds a lot value. Previously, this was impossible. Instead of having to deal with so many details that we lost sight of the whole picture, the solution has brought us to a point where we can put the focus were needed,” concludes Najib.
Text: Danielle Gruijs