Meet the Expert: Andrew Hocking, VP of Consulting and Compliance Services, Europe

February 26, 2021

Meet the Expert is a series of blogs to share more about the team behind our innovative software and managed services. As a global organisation with tax experts across all regions, our dedicated team are always keeping abreast of the latest regulation changes to ensure our customers stay compliant.

What is your role and what does it involve?

As vice president of consulting and compliance services in Europe I look after the VAT and Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) services team that deliver compliance services to our clients, as well as our newly formed advisory group. The advisory group provide consulting services ranging from written advice to assisting clients with revenue authority audits and data reviews.

I also oversee the customer success team in Europe whose focus is giving our clients an excellent experience through providing them with a dedicated adviser to discuss and escalate queries or understand more about the issues our clients may be having and how other Sovos solutions may be able to help.

What kind of businesses does Sovos work with?

What’s interesting is that we work with a wide spectrum of businesses. Across our global organisation a lot of problems our clients face don’t discriminate between markets or business sizes, and we do provide a mix of products and services that benefit companies entering into new markets all the way through to multinationals.

We do have some areas where there’s a focus, such as IPT and the insurance industry. As reporting becomes increasingly digitised and revenue authorities look to continuous transaction controls, we are seeing more clients in manufacturing, retail and e-commerce and other services organisations whereby virtue of operating in certain markets, they have technology-based reporting requirements that we can help them meet now, and into the future.

What are the most common services or issues that the compliance services team deals with?

Currently a real focus in the European market is navigating recent VAT changes such as the impact of Brexit or the upcoming e-commerce packages. With IPT the digitisation of reporting in Portugal has been a real focus area. In either area though, new mandates and changes to existing regimes is something that our clients are always looking for guidance on.

Our approach is therefore to have our experts there right from the first conversations with clients, to discuss business plans and tax frameworks so we can identify other opportunities for optimisation beyond the initial issue they may have considered. This not only helps to develop a real collaborative partnership, but we can then use our global reach to futureproof their reporting against upcoming changes and mandates they may not be aware of.

With our experts they’re not just speaking to any technology provider but someone who understands tax and how difficult it can be to anticipate issues and navigate various regimes.

What do you think are the biggest tax challenges for businesses?

Certainly a key one is the pace of change and the fact that we’re starting to get more and more tax problems you can’t necessarily solve with people alone. We’re seeing this in both IPT and VAT where reporting is being completely digitised and there’s a need for digital links all the way through the process of a transaction, from generation through to ultimately reporting it to revenue authorities.

Also, whilst there are a number of harmonised regimes across Europe, quite often the application of these can have subtle variations from country to country due to different policies and technology usage. Throw into the mix language barriers and revenue authorities releasing rules with short lead times and many clients struggle as they don’t have the necessary in-house expertise to set up the required tax and IT solutions.

How does Sovos help businesses navigate those challenges?

We help by bringing our global expertise to every problem that comes our clients’ way. The combination of our long history in many different markets, leading native technology platforms and in-house tax experts and regulatory teams means that we can always address the whole picture.

We don’t just look at meeting that need for today, we map out how needs might arise tomorrow and how challenges might evolve over time, and partner with our clients to solve all these challenges. Solving things for the future and like we say, solving tax for good.

Can you tell us more about the advisory team?

We’ve always been a compliance technology provider, whether that’s people choosing to outsource periodic reporting to us with our managed services or actually taking on these challenges in-house with the use of our reporting, determination and e-invoicing software.

More and more we had clients asking us to help with other tax issues that they may have previously engaged advisory firms for, such as determining where tax liabilities arise, understanding the treatment of transactions, setting up their registrations so they can report correctly on tax in the first place or providing a fiscal representative in countries where they may not actually have a permanent establishment.

In addition to our compliance, regulatory and technology teams we understood that a great resource for our clients would be an in-house team of experts, whether that be in the VAT and IPT laws, or understanding complex data, systems and processes. It’s an additional resource to help them and provide that global and holistic approach so we can explain not only how tax will impact their systems but the way their business is operating and the implications.

Our advisory team also help clients work through legislative changes, such as the upcoming e-commerce package, to show them where their liabilities might be tomorrow and what options they may have. Again, in that vein of trying to solve their future problems and help them through this tax maze, the advisors are a really great addition to the team.

On our mission to solve tax for good we want our clients to be able to come to us for everything and we’ll have a solution for whatever they’re looking for.

This mix of tax expertise, technology and global reach is unique in the market. Traditionally some of our clients might approach advisory firms to help them work through tax challenges but they’ve found that there are very few organisations with such a global portfolio of technology solutions to meet their needs. What we’re proud of is that clients can come to us for help with their compliance, e-invoicing or CTC requirements but we can also give them a holistic service with our advisory group as well.

Where do you think the future of tax is going?

There’s no doubt that the future of tax is real-time and digital. It’s also no longer just the tax function’s problem, it’s the business’ problem. What we’re seeing now is revenue authorities wanting invoices and transactions to be cleared before they’re even issued to customers. We’re also seeing reporting that was once done on a monthly or quarterly basis needing to be done every day.

This is where having the suitable systems in place is important to solving the problem, but you also want to have a holistic global view of how you can meet these problems and how to ensure that systems are prepared for not just the digitisation requirements for now but those that will inevitably follow.

Tax is becoming increasingly globalised and digitised, and is becoming an essential business function rather than something that’s done after the fact.

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Sovos was built to solve the complexities of the digital transformation of tax, with complete, connected offerings for tax determination, continuous transaction controls, tax reporting and more. Sovos customers include half the Fortune 500, as well as businesses of every size operating in more than 70 countries. The company’s SaaS products and proprietary Sovos S1 Platform integrate with a wide variety of business applications and government compliance processes. Sovos has employees throughout the Americas and Europe, and is owned by Hg and TA Associates.
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