ONESOURCE Indirect Tax: The API Difference
When customers use the Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE tax and accounting suite, they are normally unaware of the many hidden or back-engine functions that make the software’s capabilities possible – and that is as it should be.
Incorporating Application Program Interface (API) architecture across the ONESOURCE suite is one of the many ways Thomson Reuters provides indirect tax customers with greater efficiency and effectiveness. To understand more about the value of APIs, it’s worth looking under the hood to understand what APIs are and how they are transforming the ONESOURCE user experience.
Simply put, an API is a specialized application that functions as a communication gateway between different elements of a network (e.g., software programs, databases, servers). Like a translator who facilitates communication between two people who don’t speak the same language, APIs allow different software programs and systems to talk to each other by automatically executing a set of repeatable, machine-based rules.
In practice, APIs allow applications on different platforms to exchange data that would otherwise be siloed or inaccessible, and they enable users working in multiple computer ecosystems to create customized, integrated workflows that operate seamlessly as a single, unified system.
APIs are a game-changer for corporate indirect tax departments
There is nothing mysterious about APIs.
On the internet, for example, APIs make possible everything from PayPal and Amazon transactions to Facebook posts and Twitter rants. They operate in the background and work automatically to make the everyday internet experience possible. But APIs also allow Thomson Reuters software developers to build, connect, integrate, and scale applications that can push and pull data between multiple software platforms and programs.
APIs are a complete game-changer because many legacy systems have an elaborate series of workarounds created to thwart an aging system’s inherent limitations. These workarounds are not only time-consuming and difficult for IT teams to create and maintain, but also ineffective for indirect tax teams.
With APIs, workarounds aren’t necessary because APIs allow data to flow freely and securely from one repository to another. And by allowing previously incompatible programs to work together, APIs exponentially multiply the flexibility and power of an enterprise’s overall business management systems, the tax function included.
For ONESOURCE customers, API integration provides a vastly expanded palette of possibilities for data analytics and reporting. For example, APIs allow data to be pulled from anywhere on an enterprise’s network, even if different parts of the company are running on different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms, such as Oracle, SAP, or Microsoft.
This type of universal integration makes tax and compliance work faster and easier. It can also help transform the traditional corporate indirect tax function into a powerful strategic asset by giving tax departments access to data they can use for scenario planning, forecasting, risk assessment, and other drivers of future value.
ONESOURCE Indirect Tax software – APIs in action
Users don’t need to know anything about APIs to benefit from them. But in a robust software solution such as ONESOURCE Indirect Tax, the capabilities enabled by APIs can dramatically alter the contours of a company’s workflow and produce previously unattainable forms of business intelligence.
For instance, Adobe saved $1 million when it merged multiple tax solutions onto a single determination engine with ONESOURCE Determination, part of the ONESOURCE Indirect Tax suite. The company also reduced its processing time for consolidating data and preparing sales tax returns from two weeks to just 30 minutes – a feat made possible by feature-rich integrations and APIs that eliminated inefficiencies and obstacles in Adobe’s existing system.
Likewise, many tax advisors discover the true value of APIs through ONESOURCE’s more robust compliance and reporting capabilities.
One U.S.-based Fortune 1000 company identified hundreds of thousands of potential overpayments by recalculating taxes charged by vendors to quickly identify and amend errors. Another large manufacturer in the tech sector used indirect tax data to institute supply chain changes that minimized the bite of VAT laws on its global business operations. And yet another ONESOURCE customer used ONESOURCE Indirect Tax reporting data to identify and segregate transactions that could be used to pursue R&D income tax credit incentives.
More power and flexibility for indirect tax professionals
In each of these cases, the companies involved saved a great deal of time and money by utilizing functionalities and data sets that would not have been available without the help of APIs working in the background to provide a smooth, seamless inter-system workflow. And in each case, the calculations used – and the insights derived from them – were a direct result of users who took advantage of the flexibility and power of API-enabled solutions and analytics.
Notice, too, that these customers didn’t just identify savings through run-of-the-mill tax calculations. Rather, they found creative ways to apply the ONESOURCE expanded, API-enhanced toolbox to their own company’s specific tax situation, allowing them to improve tax compliance and productivity, reduce audit exposure, and make more informed, proactive decisions for the company’s overall tax strategy.
When corporate indirect tax professionals say they want to automate manual processes to free up time for analyses that add value to the enterprise, these are the kinds of activities they are talking about – ones made possible by eliminating the time-wasting friction of incompatible technologies.
Is all of your tax data accessible?
From an enterprise standpoint, the added value that API-based platforms such as the ONESOURCE suite provide is difficult to calculate, but only because the potential impacts can easily spread throughout the entire enterprise.
All organizations have reams of data, but not all organizations make the best possible use of their data. Most don’t even come close. But in today’s rapidly evolving digital marketplace, companies that want to remain competitive need to be asking themselves: Is all of our data accessible, and are we using it to inform and support our organization’s strategies and tactics?
If the answer is no, the next logical question is: Why not?
Often, it’s because organizations simply do not have the tools or processes in place to use their tax data more effectively, and changing systems is deemed prohibitively expensive.
The advantage of products such as ONESOURCE Indirect Tax is that they do not require a complete system change – they integrate directly and seamlessly with existing systems through the adaptive genius of targeted APIs. And when used with a self-service data-analytics tool like Alteryx, there are virtually no limits to what users can do with their data. ONESOURCE is building a full library of Alteryx workflows that can be leveraged by customers – all without having to write a single line of code themselves.
APIs result in better indirect tax performance
As ONESOURCE evolves, Thomson Reuters will be incorporating more API capabilities throughout the product suite, adding even more versatility to the platform. Elsewhere in the suite, APIs are being developed to send and receive raw data, add Excel formulas to templates, organize journal entries, and much more.
The beauty of APIs is that they are typically written to execute a specific function, and there is virtually no limit to what they can do. They can be written to display data in different ways (e.g., charts, graphs, maps, dashboards), push third-party tools, execute regular reports, provide alerts and notifications, or perform almost any routine computer function automatically, according to whatever rules the API is programmed to follow. In future iterations of ONESOURCE, indirect tax users will also be able to build and guide their own APIs, either in-house or with the assistance of the Thomson Reuters Professional Services team.
Because they are so versatile, APIs are the building blocks of the next generation of Thomson Reuters software. Even a single API can open the door to greater levels of transparency, flexibility, control, and power, especially when it comes to data extraction and analysis. Companies are positioning themselves today for more efficient and effective decision-making tomorrow by having an API strategy that allows their systems to automatically make better decisions, faster.
They may be invisible, but it’s not hard to see why APIs are worth getting excited about. In the hands of an experienced user, APIs aren’t just clever bits of code – they are universal gateways to possibility and opportunity.