Regulatory uncertainty meets unmatched clarity

How Cowen Inc. uses Checkpoint Edge to empower the tax department, drive efficiency, and provide world-class client service

Cowen Inc. is a diversified financial services firm headquartered in New York with offices worldwide.

As a global financial services business, Cowen has tax reporting obligations in many jurisdictions and those obligations are constantly evolving. To manage this constant change, Cowen’s tax department uses Checkpoint Edge for federal, state, and international tax research needs.

As David Gassman, Cowen’s Head of Tax Operations, Asset Servicing and Restricted Securities, explains: “We need to stay on budget, build in a buffer for unexpected overages, and manage staff resources to ensure the department can keep up with its workload during tax season. We want to empower our people and that starts with giving them the right tools.”

Proactively manage change and plan for the future

Like many global companies, Cowen Inc. has dealt with a deluge of new rules and regulations from federal, state, and local governments worldwide. “It's constant change, constant churn, constant expense, and never been busier,” Gassman says. In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made major changes to U.S. federal income taxation and, in 2018, South Dakota v. Wayfair changed the landscape for state and local sales tax collection in the United States. Globally, information reporting schemes like DAC6 and country-by-country reporting demand new data and new internal processes.

To manage this nonstop change, Cowen’s tax department chose Checkpoint Edge as their tax research tool. “We know what we need to do, we need to do it in a client-friendly way, and we need to do it in a smart way,” Gassman says. “We look at technology. We engage vendors; we engage technology solutions and our business partners to drive compliance with tax regulations.”

Monitoring new developments starts with news from Checkpoint Edge. Daily newsletters cover developments from the IRS, state tax agencies, global tax authorities, as well as commentary from leading tax practitioners and insights from industry conferences. “We are taking in all of the news and we are trying to dissect and look for the biggest problems on the horizon so we can inform our counterparties and clients,” explains Gassman. “We’re able to aggregate that information and provide it to clients so there’s transparency, time for business planning, and solutions in place to be compliant,” he adds.

Easily manage multiple jurisdictions with customizable charts

Cowen operates in multiple countries, states, and municipalities — each with its own rules and requirements. Understanding the nuances of laws and how they apply across different jurisdictions is a time-consuming task. With the right tools — like international and state charts from Checkpoint Edge — organizations can quickly generate custom reports with each jurisdiction’s rule, the controlling authority, and links to analysis from Checkpoint’s editorial team of experts.

“With the charting tool,” says Gassman, “you’re comparing apples to apples. You understand what your deadlines are, what your obligations are, and what your nexus is. The charts allow you to customize for what you need.”

Checkpoint Edge enables Cowen’s staff to be responsive to clients. Gassman continues, “They feel good about their job, and it's another tool that they have in their toolbox to be able to manage client inquiries, to be able to manage all sorts of challenges or new projects and initiatives that come up every day.”

Bring more work in-house and reduce outside advisor expense

“Many years ago, we didn't use Checkpoint in the international space,” recalls Gassman. “What we found was that every time we had to call our outside advisors, it would be very expensive and it would also delay the response to our clients.”

All of that changed when Cowen added international tax resources from Checkpoint Edge: “It does two things right away: first, it means the people who are having discussions with our advisors are already very well-versed in the matter. When we come to the table, we already understand the rules. Two, the conversation now focuses on particular pain points — ‘Here are the four questions we have’ or ‘here's the information we're not clear on.’” Checkpoint Edge reduces the learning curve, allowing Cowen’s tax department to bring more work in-house.

Reducing outside advisor expense was a key driver for Cowen’s choice to purchase an expanded set of resources on Checkpoint Edge. “Now, we're doing all that research in advance,” says Gassman. “We now have this tool that gives us the news, gives us the up-to-date rules; we can read it in layman’s terms, chart the difference between all the countries or states, and formulate a plan. If we still have some questions, the cost to go to a local tax advisor goes down tremendously. This tool is very powerful for that.”

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