2023 was transformative for accountants, most notably with the unstoppable rise of generative AI. Russell Gammon, chief solutions officer at Tax Systems looks at what trends will shape the year ahead
With 2024 expected to feature a good amount of political jostling and a general election, it is likely to be characterised by campaigns and election debates, which will inevitably have a massive impact on finance and accounting industries.
Tax is always front and centre during election campaigns, making it big news and bringing it back into the mainstream. With all eyes on the sector, we can expect much to change over the next 12 months, especially if 2023 is anything to go by.
Generative AI is here to stay
The most talked about topic of 2023 – generative artificial intelligence (AI) – will continue to transform the industry and alleviate some of these challenges over the year ahead.
Having spent the past year getting to grips with Bard, ChatGPT et al, 2024 will see more commercial applications coming to the fore. That could mean having an AI-enabled assistant to solve your queries in an instant or take over large parts of mundane admin tasks.
Without the burden of spending hours on data entry and analysis, tax professionals can simply review the outcomes and apply their tax knowledge to the data set. It could even mean that there is time to be spent doing deep dives into complex areas of tax.
In some cases, this has the potential to identify overpayments and has enabled organisations to recover more tax from HMRC. Generative AI can be responsible for actual cash savings.
Focusing on these higher value roles will not only increase efficiency and productivity, but improves job satisfaction. It allows junior team members to use the skills and knowledge that they have gained throughout years of studying and training, and subsequently makes tax a more enticing career for the graduates of today.
Battle for talent
This is essential for 2024 with the battle for talent being an ongoing struggle for firms of all sizes over the past decade or so. Swathes of experienced people have left the workforce, while attracting new people into the tax industry has become more of a challenge.
There’s simply less of an appetite for a career in tax than there was 15 years ago. That means the sector must make more of an effort in 2024 to attract new recruits, of which one method could be adopting the use of innovative new technologies.
Technology is not a nice-to-have for Generation Z entering the workforce, rather, it’s seen as non-negotiable; so generative AI and other technologies can be hugely beneficial to businesses in bridging skills gaps and attracting new talent.
The key challenge, however, is all around control because new technology is moving at such a fast pace that organisations are struggling to keep up. Working with trusted partners who understand the space will be key for industry professionals.
Another big part of attracting talent to the sector is providing flexibility. Covid-19 transformed how we work irrevocably, and 2024 will see the reverberations of that continue to echo. The debate over working from home and hybrid working is still playing out with a growing number of organisations calling time on remote working and encouraging a return to the office over the past 12 months.
This will apply just as much to tax professionals as any other sector. In 2024, we will see people spending more time in the office, both on their own accord and mandated, as business leaders start to prioritise collaboration and productivity.
Yet, it is important to remain aware of employee wellbeing and recognise that being in the office isn’t suitable for everyone. It was arguably the Covid-19 pandemic that exposed many issues around employee welfare in general, but it has only become more pronounced in the years since.
Uncertainty around the various global conflicts, high inflation and general unhappiness have all combined to pile on the mental pressure over the past 12 months. When this meets a high-pressure work environment, problems will doubtless start to build up.
Companies must invest in employee well-being and introduce proper oversight so they can spot issues before they become problems. Organisations in the past have often had a focus on physical wellbeing, but now mental health is at the top of the agenda, and this will, and should, remain for 2024 and the years beyond.
Another key topic for the tax industry over the next year will be the enforcement of Pillar Two, the global minimum tax rule, with organisations having to do full calculations for the first time in 2024. This is a new requirement for multinationals with €750 million or more in annual revenue to pay a global minimum tax of 15% on income received in each country in which they operate.
The rule was signed by 138 countries representing 90% of global economic activity to level the playing field between countries by discouraging them from reducing their corporate income taxes to attract foreign business investment.
This will require a new approach to data gathering, compliance, and fundamental business strategy, pushing it to the top of the agenda for big corporates. Over the next 12 months, we will see organisations going full steam ahead on preparations and a huge peak in demand for software that handles Pillar Two calculations.
If we have learnt anything from the past few years, it is that the future is impossible to predict – this time last year, we couldn’t have imagined the impact that ChatGPT, at just a few months old, would have on the world.
About the author
Russell Gammon, chief solutions officer at Tax Systems