Tax teams under pressure to invest in technology, says new survey

BY Fraser Tennant

The continued globalisation and digitalisation of tax is putting tax professionals under pressure to invest in new technologies, according to a new survey by Thomson Reuters.

In its ‘2019 European Tax Technology Survey’ – which polled 438 tax teams across a wide range of industries, including banking, manufacturing and services – Thomson Reuters reveals that 98 percent of tax professionals plan to invest in tax technology over the next 12 months, compared to only 54 percent in 2018. Moreover, the main driver behind the anticipated investment is the rise in digitally capable tax authorities.

Recognising the need for increased efficiency for internal processes and workflow, 45 percent of survey respondents said that they had started or have plans to implement digital tax filing and compliance for new standards such as MTD and Standard Audit File for Tax (SAF-T) – the international standard for the electronic exchange of reliable accounting data, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Key findings from the survey include: (i) 76 percent of senior tax executives have seen an increase in attention on tax compliance and planning at board level; (ii) 28 percent of tax teams plan to increase spend significantly in the next 12 months – mainly to address the needs of digital tax reporting; (iii) managing compliance across multiple jurisdictions continues to be the biggest challenge, although preparing for Brexit had also significantly increased in importance; and (iv) 89 percent consider tax technology as strategic to the success of their tax function, although only 39 percent have a tax technology strategy.

“The survey indicates that many tax departments are looking to centralise and manage compliance across multiple jurisdictions, in response to the continued globalisation and digitalisation of tax,” said Steve Smith, proposition lead, corporates at Thomson Reuters. “The interest in new technologies also suggests that tax departments are recognising that the deployment of tax technology can help increase efficiencies, reduce human error and deliver a consistent and manageable way of addressing these new tax regulations.”

In addition, the survey found that there is an appetite within tax departments to adopt in-house technology, rather than outsource, suggesting a desire to take control of the digital tax transformation process.

Mr Smith concluded: “It is inevitable we will see more jurisdictions following suit in the coming years, and multi-national corporations need to be prepared to address these requirements with future-proofed technology solutions.”

Report: 2019 European Tax Technology Survey

Investor appetite for PE in North America and Europe likely to plateau, says new report

BY Fraser Tennant

Investor appetite for private equity (PE) across Europe and North America is showing signs of reaching a plateau, according to a new report by Rede Partners.

In its ‘1H 2019 Rede Liquidity Index (RLI)’ – an industry benchmark assessing investor sentiment toward the PE asset class – Rede reveals that the overall RLI score has fallen below 60 – standing at 59 for 1H 2019 (a baseline score of 50 represents no change in sentiment, above 50 indicates an expectation to increase and beneath indicates less expectation to deploy less).   

The jurisdiction which saw the greatest decline in overall RLI score was North America, which dropped 13 points to 50, meaning North American limited partners (LPs) are expecting to hold their commitments to PE steady rather than growing them.

In contrast, Europe has remained more stable. Six months ago there was a clear fall in sentiment among LPs in the UK and across Europe – a likely reaction to Brexit – as LPs began to adjust their investment programmes in the face of uncertainty. That said, sentiment has now stabilised, with a RLI score of 64 suggesting modest growth during 2019.

“The divergence in attitudes toward PE  between North American and European-based investors can perhaps be attributed to a more heightened awareness of cycle by the Americans, tied to their more bearish outlook on distributions,” said Scott Church, a partner and co-founder at Rede Partners. “With the decline of North American sentiment being driven by endowments and foundations, it is reasonable to suggest that other LPs may be expected to follow over time.”

In addition, the report – which features the views of 166 global institutional LPs – shows that despite an overall downward trend in PE sentiment co-investments remain an area of significant growth, with 96 percent of LPs stating their intention to maintain or expand co-investment activity.

“Although sentiment may be slightly muted compared to six months ago, PE unquestionably remains an attractive and resilient option for investors,” said Adam Turtle, partner and co-founder at Rede Partners. “Looking ahead, as PE continues to evolve, the overall long term outlook for PE as an asset class remains positive.”

Report: 1H 2019 Rede Liquidity Index (RLI)

Brexit impacting investment in three in five UK manufacturers, reveals new report

BY Fraser Tennant

As we head toward what purports to be the endgame for the Brexit process, three in five UK manufacturers blame the imminent departure from the European Union (EU) for a slump in investment in their business, according to a new report by KPMG.

‘How to gain a competitive edge in UK manufacturing’, KPMG’s survey of 300 firms across a cross section of regions and manufacturing sectors, reveals 62 percent of UK manufacturers have delayed or paused investment as a result of Brexit. Automotive firms reported the hardest impact, with 78 percent indicating a slowdown in investment.

The report’s key findings include: (i) 90 percent of UK manufacturers report obstacles in realising their digitalisation strategies; (ii) talent and infrastructure are the top drivers for internal manufacturers to invest in the UK; (iii) 67 percent of manufacturers view technology disruption as a threat to their business model; and (iv) the availability of talent is viewed as the main obstacle to realising the benefits of industry digitalisation.

“Recent headlines have shown just how much the automotive sector in particular is feeling the pinch and this was echoed by our findings,” said Stephen Cooper, head of industrial manufacturing at KPMG UK. “Factors such as macroeconomic trade wars, regulation, technology and the fast pace at which the world is moving means that manufacturers must be more competitive and agile if they want to remain viable and thrive. Disruption is everywhere, but if viewed as an opportunity and navigated strategically, it can help businesses retain the edge the UK needs to have on its international peers.”

The KPMG report also found that over half of UK manufacturers (54 percent) are planning to relocate some elements of their operations abroad during the next three years.

“With squeezed margins, productivity challenges and a tumultuous geopolitical environment, it is little wonder that manufacturers are unsettled,” suggests Mr Cooper. “However, it is rarely ever one way traffic, so while some may be looking at other destinations, the UK has many redeeming qualities for manufacturers, so they must ensure that any moves being planned are for strategic reasons.”

That said, the report also found that almost half of UK manufacturers (44 percent) believe that the UK’s quality of infrastructure, talent and skills are drivers for international firms choosing to invest.

“The UK’s attractiveness to international firms should not be downplayed,” adds Mr Cooper. “For it to be sustainable in this environment, however, more can be done, such as further government support to strengthen infrastructure and international connections and a focused effort on strategic growth, productivity, skills and innovation.”

As Brexit, in whatever form, presumably approaches, UK manufacturing leaders are in no doubt as to what they must do to invest in their long-term future and stay competitive at a global level.

Report: How to gain a competitive edge in UK manufacturing

FireEye report – Aggressive new attackers emerge

BY Richard Summerfield

The cyber security industry evolved significantly in 2018, with aggressive new attackers emerging, according to the FireEye Mandiant ‘M-Trends 2019 Report’.

Encouragingly, however, organisations are getting better at responding to breaches quickly. Over the past eight years, dwell times have decreased significantly – from a median dwell time of 416 days in 2011 to 78 days in 2018.

Thirty-one percent of the breaches investigated by Mandiant last year had dwell times of 30 days or less, up from 28 percent of compromises in 2017. Twelve percent had dwell times greater than 700 days, down from 21 percent in 2017.

The report suggests that the increase in compromises detected in less than 30 days is due to greater use of ransomware and cryptominers over the last 12 months, which are detected faster. FireEye also believes that companies are improving their data visibility through better tooling, which allows for faster response times. In the Americas, the median dwell time fell from 75.5 days in 2017 to 71 days in 2018.

Nation states continue to pose an increasingly dangerous and evolving threat. The report identifies North Korea, Russia, China and Iran, among others, as the most threatening actors which are continually enhancing their capabilities and changing their targets in alignment with their political and economic agendas. The report suggests that significant investments have provided these actors with more sophisticated tactics, tools, and procedures, with some becoming more aggressive, and others better at hiding and staying persistent for longer periods of time.

There are a number of important steps companies must take if they are to resist attacks which are coming in increasingly diverse forms. Attackers are targeting data in the cloud, including cloud providers, telecoms and other service providers; they are re-targeting past victim organisations and are even launching phishing attacks during mergers & acquisitions (M&A) activity.

“By regularly reviewing and updating their incident Response Plans and associated use cases and playbooks, organisations can mitigate the risk of destruction of important evidence, failure to identify major breaches, and extending the duration of breaches,” notes the report. “Organisations should incorporate important concepts such as evidence preservation during remediation activities, context of alerts instead of simple volume metrics, and eradication timing into these documents. This will empower front line analysts to effectively escalate relevant information to decision makers and avoid costly mistakes.”

Report: M-Trends 2019

Chemicals dealmaking to remain robust despite headwinds

M&A activity in the global chemicals industry is expected to decline slightly in 2019 in the face of ongoing uncertainty, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Chemical Industry Mergers and Acquisitions Outlook.

The report suggests that rising interest rates, trade tensions and slowing economic growth will impact M&A activity in the sector, though the market will remain robust.

Global M&A volume in the chemicals space reached 600 deals in 2018, a decline of 5 percent compared to 2017, but total M&A value was still higher than in each of the years from 2010 to 2013. The value of M&A in the global chemicals industry rebounded to $72.4bn in 2018, up from $46.4bn in 2017.

The first quarter of 2018 was slow, although deal volume increased in each successive quarter in 2018, and deal values were also strong, with billion dollar-deals increasing in both quantity and value throughout the year.

Deloitte expects 2019 to be a challenging year, with growth in industrial production down and protectionism on the rise in many developed economies. However, the emergence of digitalisation is expected to transform the global chemicals industry and create additional M&A activity in the future.

“In 2019, we expect a modest decline in chemical industry M&A activity, but as demonstrated in the past, activity should still be strong despite global uncertainty,” says Dan Schweller, Deloitte Global M&A leader for the chemicals and specialty materials sector. “Underlying conditions for a strong M&A market remain intact – ample cash on-hand for buyers, availability of relatively cheap credit, and the desire to increase ROI for investors.

“Protectionism and trade concerns are weighing heavily on companies and global regulators continue to heavily scrutinize deals,” he continued. “As a result, we may see hesitancy towards cross-border M&A deals. However, the equity market declined in the fourth quarter, which may make high deal valuations – a limiting factor for M&A in 2018 – more palatable to investors moving forward.”

Report: 2019 Global chemical industry mergers and acquisitions outlook

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