Stories of our impact

The race to automate

Robots have long spoken to our imagination – from droids taking over monotonous tasks in factories to the “fool-proof and incapable of error" intelligent computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The truth of the matter is, the robots aren’t "coming", as headlines have passionately claimed over the past years, they’re already here.

Capable of emulating the human brain, these robots are changing the way we run our businesses for good. In Deloitte Tax, we’re embracing this new technology and its ability to transform the role of our tax advisers. Find out how robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation (IA) are helping us to run our business more efficiently and offer enhanced services to our clients.

Streamlining internal processes

One area where RPA is proving to be particularly valuable is the automation of repetitive processes. We’ve developed software (more popularly called a robot these days) that works with existing IT applications to enable transaction processing, data manipulation and communication across numerous IT systems. By using multiple robots as a virtual workforce, we can reduce the time it takes to complete routine tasks and help to eliminate the risk of errors.

Such technology has far-reaching implications not only for clients but also for our own business. For example, we’ve used RPA to turn a lengthy manual documentation process into a procedure that takes a fraction of the time – a robot designed by our tax innovation team recently extracted 30,000 lines of data from our systems in just 8 hours, whereas it would have normally taken 20 days to complete manually. By using automation to free up people’s time to work on more valuable or rewarding activities, organisations could see lower staff turnover, higher morale and increased internal innovation.

Intelligent automation raises the bar

But what about non-routine tasks – those involving intuition, creativity or problem-solving? They would appear to be very difficult to automate, but thanks to IA, incredible advances are being made. For example, we’ve recently applied cognitive technology to international anti-hybrid legislation (anti-hybrid rules aim to ensure that cross-border income and expense match, so that taxable income is equal to tax deductions). The goal is to use IA techniques to better navigate the complex legislation and respond to questions, not just with information but an actual judgement.

We’ve also been using artificial intelligence to create a virtual tax adviser that’s capable of answering technical questions using natural language processing and machine learning. The technique involves feeding a neural network with large data sets – think technical content and user search terms – with an algorithm stepping in to understand the context and offer answers. The system is self-teaching, so the quality and detail of responses improves the more it’s used.

As the volume and complexity of tax policy continues to grow, this technology is becoming an essential tool in helping tax professionals to filter the vast quantities of specialist data they need to interrogate to deliver the most informed advice to clients, proving that when humans and robots work hand in hand… both our clients and our business win.

We’ve been working with the European tax and finance team at Prologis, a global leader in logistics real estate. Our job was to look at the compliance and reporting processes for over 1,100 commercial entities in 14 countries. The solution required a rich mix of tax skills, from compliance to accounting and technology. Together, we created a compliance procedure that was more automated, more streamlined and more robust.

With a range of automation tools reducing the manual rework of data by Prologis personnel, we have helped the client to speed up its compliance and reporting processes, reduce its costs, and produce a significantly higher quality of outputs.