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The future is here: 1st Conference of Slovenian Accountants, Auditors and Tax Advisers from the World and Slovenia

12.12.2018Comments are closed.,

On Thursday 29 and Friday 30 November, the Blue Hall of the Faculty of Economics was the venue for the 1st Conference of Slovenian Accountants, Auditors and Tax Advisers from the World and Slovenia. The event was organised jointly by the Slovenian World Congress, the FELU, the Slovenian Institute of Auditors and the Slovenian Chamber of Tax Advisers.

The common theme of the conference was that the future is already here. Digitalisation in accounting and auditing has already evolved to the point that auditing documentation is available and usable even on our mobile phones. This fact was pointed out by Primož Kovačič, Associate Partner at Ernst & Young d.o.o., Ljubljana. He added that digitalisation has turned things black and white.

Kovačič thus used different words to express what was indicated by the Canadian Slovenian John Doma from Bateman Mackay LLP, Chartered Professional Accountants and Business Advisors, Ontario Canada, who said that audits are now performed by testing all data. This is an important step forward from past practice when audits were based on a sample of business data given that in the era of paper-based transactions and operations it was practically impossible to do otherwise.

Digitalisation facilitating the tremendous progress made in the efficacy of accounting and auditing businesses was also the topic of the third speaker Domagoj Vuković, MSc, Director of Revizorske in svetovalne storitve, Deloitte Croatia – Slovenia, who delved into the future challenges of auditing. Vuković emphasised that, based on an analysis of the entire database, it is now possible to plan auditing work in advance and thus foresee potential risks. “Future auditors will not only be economists”, Vuković stated, which concerns all of us at the FELU. He touched on the fact that the range of knowledge an auditor must possess has expanded to the field of programming. Future auditors will have to know how to process, using automation, a growing quantity of data, while also being capable of building such highly-specialised tools themselves. “All the data already exists, it just needs to be interconnected”, Vuković commented.

Gregor Zorman from KPMG Austria and the Vienna University of Economics and Business asked whether “in the future, legal acts will have to be written in a way to allow their programming by computer or even, whether the competent body will have to issue, besides the new regulation, also a computer code that is necessary for the implementation of the relevant regulation”. Namely, the fact is that the burden of having to consider all the details of the ever more bulging tax legislation lies on the business sector which, as a result, is less effective than it could be. Instead of letting tax experts and programmers guess what exactly the legislator’s intention was, it would be much more reasonable to have the legislator also write the software solution to the problem they have imposed on taxpayers.

The Friday programme of the conference was opened by tax adviser Mirjam Trdan from Dafin d.o.o., who is also a member of the Slovenian Chamber of Tax Advisers. She drew attention to the unfortunate fact that Slovenia is not interested in reducing its appetite for general government revenue and illustrated her point by saying that “the duty of a good master is to shear their sheep not skin them”. The President of the ZDSS, Simona Štravs, emphasised that the Slovenian business environment and thus also tax advisers are unnecessarily burdened not only by the plethora of laws, but also by legislative amendments and, in their framework, the explanations of what may be considered a tax allowance. It is never quite clear which side of the law the tax adviser and their customer are on.

DDr Marian Wakounig, regional manager of tax and customs administration at the Austrian Ministry of Finance, said that Austria is also a very bureaucratic state. While Slovenia, with a population of 2 million, has 212 municipalities, Austria, with a population of 8.8 million, has more than 2,000 of them. He pointed out that in Austria, punishment for tax evasion involving less than 100,000 euros is within the competence of the tax office. He stressed that when imposing a high fine on a company the tax office’s intention is not to see the company go bankrupt, which is why fines only account for about 20 to 40 percent of hidden assets, whereas the legal maximum is 200 percent.

Austria has obviously identified the problem of transfer prices, namely when international corporations help conceal the actual profit made by their foreign branches operating in countries with “too high” taxes by charging them inflated internal prices. They exploit the excellent legal order to make profit but refuse to pay the cost of maintaining it. Namely, Wakounig said another element of the reforms being implemented by the Austrian tax administration is to establish a senate for transfer prices at the Federal Fiscal Court. By 2020, Austria plans to close 40 tax offices and replace them with a single office. The territorial jurisdiction and subject-matter jurisdiction will both be abolished and the system’s efficiency thus improved.

Many speakers at least touched on the importance of blockchain technology that will play an important role in the future of accounting and auditing. Owing to poor regulation of this field, there is still too much public doubt concerning application of this technology. There is a lack of trust.

Uroš Konda, EFnews

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