Make Your To-Do List (Slightly) Selfish
It’s December and the season of spirit is all around! Decorations, festivities, laughter and joy are key indicators that it is time to sit back, relax and coast through the end of the year!
If only that were true.
Last-minute client requests, unrealistic deadlines and unusually empty offices are equally a part of the holiday season as are the above mentioned merry memories—and so are lists: seemingly inspirational yet stress-inducing “do-these-things-to-get-your-life-together-in-the-next-4-weeks-or-else” lists saturating the internet and reminding you that there is so much more to do and so little time left. Words like “review,” “evaluate” and “assess” fly off the screen, landing right on the to-do list that is already spilling out of your briefcase.
While it would be nice to say that an additional to-do list is just that—excessive—that’s simply not true. These internet lists and their well-intended authors are actually right: it is important to be prepared for transition of years. December tends to be one of the busier months in a company’s calendar, as there are always additional i’s to dot and t’s to cross before the ball drops to kick-off a new year. Having a checklist can be a helpful tool but the key is, it doesn’t have to be an excessive one.
So here is our present to you: a simple, short, effective list of things you may want to do as 2014 comes to an end:
- review the company’s fiscal standing
- evaluate the technological and organizational needs of the teams
- assess the year’s progress overall
- set goals for the upcoming quarter
- coordinate with staff to implement plans of improvement
- contribute—this one’s our favorite
Why is “contribute” our favorite? Because it can be interpreted any way you want. Yes, it is important to contribute time and money to local, national and global charities, so volunteer at a shelter; attend a fundraiser for orphans, and write a check to a worthy cause.
Read Related: Why Sustainability is a Good Business Decision
But it is also important to contribute time and money to yourself, so take the time to take time off this season. With all of the stressors of life coupled with the angrier-than-average drivers and shorter-than-usual work days, some downtime is a necessity. As for money? Give some right back to yourself, too: You have until December 31st to make a last-minute contribution to your annual 401(k).
Here are some facts from U.S. News and World Report to show you why you should:
- Workers age 49 and younger can contribute up to $17,500 to their 401(k) plan
- Workers age 50 and older can contribute a total of $23,000 to a 401(k) account
- Income tax won’t be due on the amount deposited in a traditional 401(k) account until the money is withdrawn
- In some cases, you can also allocate part or all of a year-end bonus to your 401(k) account and avoid the extra tax bill on it. So if you need some extra motivation to get you through that never-ending end-of-year project, think about that tax-saving bonus!
And just for reference: An employee in the 25 percent tax bracket who is able to max out his 401(k) would save $4,375 on his federal income tax bill, compared with $1,250 in tax savings for someone who deposits $5,000 in a 401(k).
Read Related: Take Control: Financial Planning 101
If saving money for yourself isn’t a good reason to follow a checklist, we don’t know what is.
Six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda
New Deloitte research reveals that tax leaders are under increasing pressure to add strategic value as companies accelerate business model transformation, from undergoing digital transformations to rethinking their supply chains or investing in green initiatives.
According to Phil Mills, Deloitte Global Tax & Legal Leader, to “truly deliver value to the business, the tax function needs to rethink its resourcing model and transform its technology infrastructure to create capacity and control costs”.
And the good news, according to Mills, is that tax and business leaders have more options at their disposal to achieve this.
Reflecting the insights of global tax and finance executives at global companies, Deloitte’s Tax Operations in Focus study reveals the six issues at the top of tax and finance leaders’ agenda.
Trend 1: Businesses seek more strategic counsel from tax
Companies are being pushed to develop new digital products and distribution channels and accelerate sustainable transformation and this is taking them into uncharted tax territory. Tax leaders say their teams must have the resources and skills to give deeper advisory support on digital business models (65%), supply chain restructuring (49%) and sustainability (48%) over the next two years. This means redrawing the boundaries of what tax professionals focus on, and accelerating adoption of advanced technologies and lower-cost resourcing models to meet compliance requirements and free up time.
According to Joanne Walker, Group Tax Director, BT Group PLC, "There’s still a heavy compliance load today, but the vision for the future would be that much of that falls away, and tax people become subject matter experts who help program the machine, ensure quality control, and redirect their time to advisory activity.”
Trend 2: Tipping point for resourcing models
Business partnering demands in the tax department are on the rise, but 93% of tax leaders say their department’s budget is remaining flat or falling. To ensure that the tax function can redefine itself as a strategic function at the pace that is required, leaders are choosing to move increasing amounts of compliance and reporting to a combination of shared service centers, finance departments, and outsourcing providers that have invested in best-in-class technology.
Trend 3: Digital tax administration is moving faster than expected
in addition to the rising focus of the corporate tax department partnering with their business counterparts, transformative changes to the way companies share tax information with revenue authorities is also creating an imperative to modernize operations at a faster pace. Nine in 10 (92%) respondents say that shifting revenue authority demands on digital tax administration will have a moderate or high impact on tax operations and resources over the next five years—and several heads of tax said the trend is moving faster than expected.
"It’s really stepped up in the last couple of years," says Anna Elphick, VP Tax, Unilever. "Tax authorities don't just want a faster turnaround for compliance but access into a company’s systems. It's not unreasonable to think that in a much shorter time than we expect, compliance will be about companies reviewing a return that's been drafted by the tax authorities."
Trend 4: Data simplification and lower-cost resourcing are top priorities
Tax leaders said that simplifying data management (53%) and moving to lower-cost resourcing models (51%) must be prioritized if tax is to become more proactive at delivering strategic insights to the business. Many tax teams are ensuring that they have a seat at the table as ERP systems are overhauled, which is paying dividends: 56% of those that have introduced NextGen ERP systems are now highly effective at supporting the business with scenario-modeling insights. Only 35% of those with moderate to low use of NextGen ERP systems said the same.
At Stryker, “we automated the source P&L process for transfer pricing which took a huge burden off of the divisions," says David Furgason, Vice President Tax. "Then we created a transfer price database to deposit and retrieve data so we have limited impact on the divisions. We are moving to a single ERP platform which will help us make take the next step with robotics.”
Trend 5: Skillsets are shifting
Embedding a new data infrastructure and redesigning processes are critical for the future tax vision. Tax leaders are aligned — data skills (45%) and technology process experience (43%) are ‘must have’ skills in a tax department of the future, but more traditional tax specialist knowledge also remains key (40%). The trick to success will be in tax leaders facilitating the way these professionals, with their different backgrounds, can work together collectively to unlock lasting value.
Take Infineon Technologies, which formed a VAT technology and governance group "that has the right knowledge about how to change the system to ensure it generates the right reports", according to Matthias Schubert, Global Head of Tax. "Involving them early was key as we took a greenfield approach, so we could think about what the optimal processes would look like and how more intelligent systems could make an impact
Trend 6: 2020 brought productivity improvements
Improved productivity (50%) and accelerating shifts to remote working (48%) were cited as the biggest operational benefits to emerge from COVID-19-driven disruption. But, as 78% of leaders now plan to embed either hybrid or fully remote models in the tax function long term, 34% say maintaining productivity benefits is a top concern. And, as leaders think about building their talent pipeline and strengthening advisory skill sets, 47% say they must prioritize new approaches to talent recognition and career development over the next two years, while 36% say new processes for involving tax in business strategy decisions must be established.