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Deploying Tax Provision Software in the Classroom

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

Rekindled Interest in University Accounting Programs Grows

As technology transforms tax accounting, business schools are working hard to ensure the next generation of accountants are well-grounded in the digital tools and software that will be central to their professional lives.

The growing importance of tax technology is apparent in Deloitte’s recent global tax management survey in which more than half of the respondents said they had increased their focus on digital and tax technology in the past two years. “Tax leaders are facing unprecedented external forces, even as they’re often asked to ‘do more with less in their organizations,” the Deloitte report notes. “Increasingly, those leaders are finding solutions by employing new technologies that fuel tax innovation.”

Indeed, it was reported in 2020 that Deloitte and the other Big Four firms were investing billions of dollars in transformational technology.

Additional confirmation of this seismic shift arrived in a new Thomson Reuters study which found that technology adoption is corporate tax departments’ top strategy for accomplishing more with fewer resources. The study also demonstrated a clear rationale for this sentiment: corporate tax departments that spend more than average on technology ultimately spend less overall on their operations.  Companies and accounting firms are embracing technology because of its potential to make tax management more efficient and more effective.

Tax Technology to the Classroom

At the 2020 midyear meeting of the American Taxation Association, the Big Four firm KPMG and tax software provider Thomson Reuters unveiled an interactive, immersive case study developed to better prepare tax and accounting students with the tech skills they’ll need when they enter the workforce.

Professors at three universities—Bentley University, San Diego State University, and the University of Miami—helped develop the case study and successfully used it in their courses covering tax provisions.

Tax professionals from KPMG’s tech-focused Ignition centers helped implement the case study data and other materials into the Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE platform, a leading tax provision tool. With this revamped coursework, students prepared tax provisions in Excel-based models, created tax provisions in ONESOURCE, and developed a foundation of tax provision and compliance cycles—skills and knowledge that will serve them well when they enter the workforce.

“Students are really excited to apply cutting-edge technology to work on a challenging case study in the classroom,” Tracy Noga, professor of accountancy at Bentley University, said in a statement. “With the support of KPMG’s tax professionals, as well as Thomson Reuters’ ONESOURCE Tax Provision software, university courses will better align with the skills and competencies that are now expected of tax and accounting professionals in this era of technological disruption.”

Steven Fortier, KPMG tax principal and executive sponsor for the firm’s Thomson Reuters alliance, said: “Advances in software, automation, and artificial intelligence are enabling tax professionals to spend more time on higher-level problem-solving earlier in their careers. Professionals who have deep tax technical skills alongside strong technology and analytic skills are increasingly valuable to companies, and this initiative is all about accelerating the development of those skills.”

Emerging from the Shadow of the Pandemic

Universities’ interest in the provision case study was on the rise in early 2020—but then the coronavirus pandemic hit, said Warren Jagger, a ONESOURCE tax solution consultant. Business schools, focused on the safety of students and faculty, launched online and hybrid instruction models and were largely unable to take on new initiatives, such as integrating the new tax provision case study into their curriculum.

Now, that has started to change, Jagger said. Tax faculty from around the US are reaching out again to initiate discussions about adopting the KPMG/Thomson Reuters case study into their accounting programs.

Professors recognize that this type of hands-on instruction has significant benefits, Jagger said. It prepares students to use the type of technology they’ll find on the job and enables them to be better tax strategists. By completing the course work they receive a three-year ONESOURCE user certification that may help them land a job after graduation Jagger noted.

“It’s the real thing that they will experience at a firm or a corporation,” he said.

“With rapid advancements in technology, tax is being totally reimagined,” said Will Williams, National Managing Partner – Tax, at KPMG. “It’s no longer a back-office function where professionals are busy on their calculators from dusk ‘til dawn. Professionals armed with tax knowledge plus technology and business skills are going to have seats at the leadership table to advise on the strategy and future of the company.”

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