3rd part of our ‘Thought Leaders reveals’ interview series. 1:1 Conversation between industry experts Remco Dewaerheijt and Jeroen Lassche as they discuss all things that relate to tax, technology and beyond
Remco Dewaerheijt VATBox’s VP Tax & Product Strategy interviews Jeroen Lassche.
Jeroen Lassche is an EMEA VAT Manager responsible for the in-house tax operations for the US-based biotechnology product development company with revenues of more than $24 billion and approximately 70,000 employees globally.
Listen to the full interview
How did you end up in the world of the VAT? What made you decide to work in the field of VAT?
17 years ago, I started as a tax consultant after my graduation. I was able to walk through different tax departments at Deloitte. I even spent three months walking around in the VAT department. I believed that was the department for me, but I did not want to rush my decision, to immediately specialise myself. It took me one and a half years to come back to that decision because what really triggers me in the VAT world is the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the business and its implications. It’s all about knowing what the business is all about, gaining an understanding of the world. And in our profession, we’re the subject-matter experts. We know all ins and outs of VAT, while typically, our stakeholders in the business have a high-level understanding of VAT.
How do you bring across the importance of the VAT, and how do explain the importance for the business to have correct VAT processes in place?
Well, most of the people in the finance department understand that VAT has a major impact on the cash flow. If you do not follow the rules – the formal rules, which might differ in each country – during a tax inspection, the company might end up with a huge assessment, followed by penalties and interest charges, which hits the profit and loss account of a business. That really makes people aware of the importance of VAT.
Within finance, there are many automation projects. Of course, they also have a VAT impact. I think typically, the technology impacts VAT, but VAT itself has its own technology, with different authorities entering more and more into the technology arena, for auditing for instance.
What’s your experience? How does automation work for you in your day-to-day life?
I can really jump into that. I recently worked for a company, where the real-time reporting in Spain was put on the radar. One thing that was really frustrating for me was the fact that the person responsible for budgeting was always asking about the costs involved. So, my experience is that most businesses do not really see the advantages of technology yet, or they only see the cost aspect of it.
Regarding technology, if we look in the future – say 20 years from now – how will your position or your role in the organisation change?
I believe automation will help me focus more on the most challenging aspects of a business. The most challenging things – the standard routine activities – will be fully automated, but I’m more curious about the challenges it will bring, and the opportunities to grow further as a VAT professional. Not only from a VAT technical level but also from a VAT-related automation level.
I see it as a real challenge, and I’m absolutely not afraid of technology. I think it brings a lot of opportunities for us as VAT professionals in our day-to-day work, and I also strongly believe that if you can have the really simple, straight-forward work is done by technology, then you can focus on the things that really matter to you, and have a bigger impact on the business as well.
You’ve been working in this field for a long time. What would you consider to be your biggest achievements so far?
My biggest achievement is working in cross-functional projects in which VAT seemed to be the bottleneck. When I started at the company, VAT was a real problem, because of the unwillingness of corporate tax or legal to make a minor adjustment in the contracts,
because VAT and corporate tax, accounting and legal sometimes conflict with each other.
It was sometimes very frustrating but in the end… I felt that I put VAT on the radar, in the center of interest.
Indeed, being an in-house VAT professional is not only about knowing all the VAT rules. It’s also about ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned and that the best possible solution for the company is chosen based on what VAT can mean for a business.
Yes, and especially working internationally with countries, such as the US, where there’s no VAT system, it’s also creating the awareness in the company about what VAT is all about and the impact if things are not set up properly, and don’t run daily on a proper basis.
With your experience, can you give us three golden VAT tips?
One of the first things that I would really recommend, especially to an in-house VAT manager, is to talk to the people within the business, in different departments. Get to know the business, what the business does, who are the customers, who are the suppliers?
Second, look for an opportunity to make use of technology — to make your life easier – fully investigate it, because sometimes people are eager to use technology, without knowing what technology should do for the business. I just had a conversation with a person who was very fond of having technology in place, but don’t end up in a situation where unclear or unclean data is getting into the system, resulting in garbage out of the system. So avoid garbage-in, garbage-out.
Third, I also believe that from a VAT perspective you can [help reach] all the business goals — cost reduction, headcount reduction, efficiency and cash flow – by improving processes, making them more efficient, and applying technology in the end as well.
Click here to visit the first part of our “Industry leaders reveal” interview with Ilona van den Eijnde, Global Trade & Indirect Tax Advisor at E&Y
Click here to visit the first part of our “Industry leaders reveal” interview with Bas de Koning, EME Indirect Tax Manager at Bayer Crop Science
If you are interested in participating in our “Industry Leaders Reveal” interview series, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Remco Dewaerheijt is VP Tax & Product Strategy at VATBox, responsible with his team to keep the VATBox systems fully up-to-date and design new features and solutions in the area of VAT, Benefits in Kind and Corporate Tax within the scope of the Travel Expense domain and part of the AP process. The mission is to develop those solutions that provide our clients with more insight and control over their tax relevant data and increase the level of compliance, using VATBox patented AI proprietary technology.