Innovations that transform Tax: a conversation with Goki Kazama
When Goki Kazama won this year’s Dragon's Den Challenge, it came as no surprise to his colleagues. Goki, a former IT consultant, is constantly seeking ways for technology to streamline business processes. For his winning entry in the Dragon’s Den, He streamlined the tax compliance process with help of technology and dramatically reduced the time required to prepare an individual tax return. The Dragon Den’s Challenge is an annual Asia-Pacific program that recognizes outstanding innovation in Tax. The accomplishment is all that more remarkable given that Goki is self-taught, with no formal technical training.
While a student at Temple University Japan – and on a tight budget — he founded an IT consulting business to earn extra cash. “As a young person without a lot of work experience,” he recalls, “I had to prove to prospects that I could provide value.” He targeted small and medium sized businesses, recognizing that many owners lacked savvy in web-based and social media marketing. His guarantee of results drew many clients, who reaped significant business growth.
After graduating with distinction and near the top of his class, Goki moved to PwC as a part-timer, where he once again spotted a need and developed a solution. The timesheet system was not friendly to part-timers, who had to file reports manually. Reporting for this group was very time-intensive before Goki developed a reporting system for contract workers. The new app was put into use immediately, and has dramatically streamlined the reporting process.
When several professionals in his group at PwC planned to leave for EY in December 2014, Goki joined EY Tax. One project had him flying to India a few times to provide tax training to GDS personnel. Largely due to his efforts, GDS processing volume more than tripled the following year. (For his GDS training accomplishments, Goki received an EY MVP Award.)
Today Goki is Automation Lead, a part of the PAS SSL, for Japan Tax. In this role he is responsible for IT strategies to improve operational efficiency and for managing relationships with IT contractors. He is very happy to be at EY, where innovation is valued and his work is appreciated.
Tax meets virtual reality: a conversation with Christoph Bauer
On a typical day at the office, Christoph Bauer may put on a virtual reality headset, known as an Oculus Rift, to take a deep dive into a client’s tax picture. As an intern in the Tax Technology and Analytics Group, Christoph and his team deploy virtual reality and advanced analytics among other technologies.
Enrolled at the Aalen University of Applied Science, about 70 kilometers east of Stuttgart, Germany, Christoph is “fascinated by the idea of simplifying the huge complexity of tax,” Christoph collaborates within a diverse team that includes mathematicians, physicists and data scientists, harnessing leading technologies. “As our clients’ ERP systems generate more data,” he explains, “We can visualize the information, gain new insights, identify risks and predict future events.”
While preparing tax filings is hardly intuitive, Christoph says that a good user interface is essential to the programs developed for tax clients. During software development, the group often looks to computer games, which originated early innovations in user interaction, for ideas in designing an effective user interface.
For Christoph, every day presents a different challenge. A career at EY does not always come to mind among students in computer science, he observes. But Christoph urges his peers not to hesitate exploring opportunities in Tax. “You will work in a team of people who bring knowledge from a variety of disciplines. Every day, the group is collaborating on creative solutions, using innovative technologies.” He concludes, “It’s a great place to be.”
Can computer games lead to better tax solutions? Ask Christoph Bauer
A surprising range of technologies are increasingly important to the digitization of tax engagements. Christoph Bauer, an intern in the Tax Technology and Analytics Group, says that computer games are relevant in developing tax-related solutions, particularly when large amounts of data are involved. Many computer games are models of good user interface design. “Given the complexity of clients’ tax data,” says Christoph, “we are intent on creating programs that are accessible, and that means designing an intuitive user interface.”
Christoph’s colleagues are an international group spanning multiple disciplines including data science, mathematics and physics. They deploy such technologies as virtual reality; artificial intelligence; and real-time, advanced analytics using high performance servers and machine learning algorithms. “This is an exciting, formative time for our group,” says Christoph. “Every day is a learning experience. And there is lots of teamwork.”
New technology gains traction in Tax: meet Hiroshi Hamano
When the Panama Papers story broke in 2016, Hiroshi Hamano decided to seek a position in EY Tax. The Papers, revealing a global network of secret tax havens, led the OECD to establish a wave of new rules to ensure greater transparency among corporate taxpayers. At once, Hiroshi could see that clients “needed to deploy IT in new ways to navigate a higher level of complexity.”
The scope of tax haven regulations is widening, and professionals need specialized knowledge to build the supporting tax systems. Hamano-san proposes a system for client companies to increase the efficiency of compliance activities relating to anti-tax haven rules. He works with colleagues in International Tax Services (ITS) and Global Compliance and Reporting (GCR) to define tax-based system requirements and design the client-specific systems.
Prior to joining EY, Hamano-san worked in finance for an industrial company where he started to dabble in IT to enhance the efficiency of the company’s accounting system. After a stint as an SAP systems integrator, Hamano-san decided to make the switch to EY Tax as the news of the Panama Papers emerged. He joined the Tax Performance Advisory (TPA) in November 2016.
Hamano-san has another, equally important role: developing internal process improvement projects for Global Compliance and Reporting (GCR). Typically, data and templates received from clients are not standardized. This necessitates heavy lifting on the part of EY Tnts’ tax operations, and constructs systems with GCR staff that are customized to each client.
Hamano-san is certain that the discipline of developing IT solutions for tax will grow inax professionals during data input. One important aspect is to “add a fresh technological perspective to existing processes, and drastically change our clients’ experience.” Hamano-san gets to the core of cliecreasingly important in a tax world that is becoming more challenging.
A conversation with Jennifer O’Sullivan about working in Qatar
I didn’t know what to expect from working in the Middle East. Had it been Dubai, I would have felt pretty confident that it would be a fairly international working environment. But Qatar was an unknown quantity. I didn’t know how I’d be expected to dress, whether the language would be a barrier and, generally, what attitudes to women would be like. Five years on and I wouldn’t say I live my life any differently here from how I would in Europe or the US. It’s been very easy to adapt. When I first came, I did encounter a certain amount of shyness and hesitation among male colleagues and clients, but that’s changed over time as we have developed a greater understanding of each other. Their backgrounds are very different from mine, so I’ve had to learn to understand certain reactions and attitudes. For the most part though, men and women interact very freely. EY has worked really hard to make sure that’s the case in the office too. There’s been a real focus on recruiting women and encouraging them to go for promotion. The workforce here is pretty much 50/50.
The cultural norm is still for women to stop working once they have children and the proportion of women definitely drops off once you get to the more senior levels. This is a very competitive, fast-paced environment and I guess, in the past, women have found it difficult to get back in once they’ve taken a break. It’s the same on the client side. You don’t generally find many women in senior positions in industry here.
In my view, the Qatar firm has gone a lot further in terms of supporting women to get into senior positions than many other organizations here in Qatar, but the lack of female role models is still an issue. Personally, I have to look to male role models when I’m planning my own future. That wasn’t the case when I was working in Europe. However, here in the Middle East, the environment is different. It is still male dominated, so I feel I have a lot to learn from my male colleagues about how business is done. The male partners here are very supportive and encouraging. If we were to have this conversation again in 10 years’ time, I think the situation would be very different. I’m not sure we will have achieved complete equality – I think the nature of professional services means there’s always going to be a falling away of females to some extent. But I think we’re heading in the right direction.
Interested in more women’s stories about working in the Middle East? Visit – Tapping into the talent of our women in the Middle East. A publication that aims to dispelling some of the myths and stereotypes that are held in both the East and in the West.