Real estate organization W.P. Carey has more than 250 entities in 30 countries on which it must prepare tax reports, which requires a lot of attention. The multinational wants to make its tax processes less labor-intensive and less time-consuming. Anaplan's Tax App replaces 250 Excel sheets, making the processes more stable and faster.
"After the tax reports for Q4 2015, we concluded that we didn't want to repeat the tax process in the same way. It was more labor intensive than is justifiable, and therefore more time consuming than necessary," Najib Damghi of W.P. Carey says.
"The main issue was the process; by automating and optimizing the process and tax reports, the quality also goes up," states Patrick van Gerven of Taxvibes. Patrick has been involved in W.P. Carey's tax process for years. "With over 250 Excel sheets, the classic story plays a big role; as soon as someone changes something, everything has to be redone. Mailing versions back and forth also disrupts the process, as does the fact that everyone fills out the sheets differently," Finext says. Finext and Taxvibes regularly work together on improving tax processes.
Anaplan Tax App
W.P. Carey chooses the Corporate Tax Reporting App, developed by Finext together with Taxvibes in Anaplan. A striking choice, since the organization already has another Performance Management solution for its financial processes. "We wanted to implement it in a short period of time; with the Anaplan Tax App, this is possible because a number of things are already built in based on best practices," says Najib.
"Anaplan aggregates the data in such a way that you can look at it properly; it takes the noise off the line first."
"In addition, we want a flexible solution so that we can also set up things that are specific to our company," Najib continues. "In Anaplan, for example, you can quite easily build in an additional reporting option, such as US GAAP. From Anaplan, that flexibility is there; it's not an off-the-shelf tool, it's a platform." "Anything is possible, but you have to be careful not to make it too complex," Finext's consultant concludes.
Rapid implementation of the Tax App
In practice, the implementation of the Tax App indeed proved to have a short turnaround time. Najib: "We actually implemented it quickly and within the time frame we wanted. Within two months the implementation was achieved, after which we received the required internal approval by internal audit within three months." "Despite the short implementation time, we were still able to incorporate many of W.P. Carey's specific requirements," says Patrick.
Meanwhile, additional tax reports are also being added to the App. "After first automating the existing tax processes, we are now expanding to include Country-by-Country Reporting," Finext says.
User-friendly tax solution
Najib is positive about Anaplan's new tax solution: "It is very user-friendly. Where I personally would expect you to need technical knowledge, that is not the case at all. It's almost as simple as adjusting formulas in Excel."
The user-friendliness produces the expected results. "Anaplan aggregates the data in such a way that you can look at it properly; it takes the noise off the line first," Najib says. "In addition, we no longer spend so much time on version control and chasing Excel files; it's easier to coordinate."
Around the design of such a flexible system, it is important to make conscious choices, for example around data refreshing. "We chose semi-automated refreshing," Najib explains. "The upload comes in automatically, after which I can decide whether to update the data and calculations." "We cannot prepare tax reports for all 250 entities at once, so if you refresh in between, you have to start over for some entities. We now do one hit on all entities first, after which we refresh and then update," Patrick explained
Najib likes the collaboration between Finext and Taxvibes. "The combination is very powerful; on the one hand a party that masters the technical knowledge through and through, on the other hand someone who advises us on the complete process around tax accounting. That combination ensures that you can set it up to meet the company-specific need, while also looking at what is needed around tax accounting in the future."
"Instead of seeing the forest for the trees, we can now look more at the content."
With the new solution, including automated tax reporting, the tax process has become faster and more secure. This starts with automatic data entry. "In the old situation, I had to rely on someone else's formulas, which I then had to manually copy into 250 Excel sheets," Najib says. "It's tested, it's repeated exactly every time and it has automatic checks in it, so you can rely on it."
Data quality assurance is already built into the App. Finext: "All data coming in is checked against the available master data. Because of built-in checks, deviations are immediately presented on a dashboard and even suggestions are given to solve the deviation."
From six to two weeks
The optimized tax process is faster and less labor-intensive. "During quarterly closing, it saves six FTEs," Najib says. "It also saves a lot in terms of turnaround time; we went from six to two weeks to close the quarter."
Moreover, more is happening in that shortened time. "We now work with live data, which has a lot of added value. We certainly couldn't do that in the old process. Instead of not seeing the forest for the trees, it has brought us to a point where we can look more at the content," Najib concludes.