1:1 conversation between Remco Dewaerheijt, VATBox’s VP Tax & Product Strategy interviews Ilona van den Eijnde, Global Trade & Indirect Tax Advisor at E&Y
2nd part of our ‘Thought Leaders reveals’ interview series. 1:1 conversation between industry experts Remco Dewaerheijt and Ilona van den Eijnde as they discuss all things that relate to tax, technology and beyond
As Global Trade & Indirect Tax Advisor at E&Y, Ilona van den Eijnde advises national and international clients regarding Customs, International Trade and Indirect Tax and is a member of the fiscal litigation advisory group, assisting colleagues of various service lines with their fiscal litigation matters (objections & appeals to tax assessments), and advising clients on risks and opportunities. Ilona is also a university lecturer and involved in further developing the new Masters (LL.M & M.Sc.) fully dedicated to indirect taxes, including the guidance of master thesis students throughout the year.
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How did you end up in the Indirect Tax area?
I actually started general law at Tilburg University, and one of the courses is an introduction to fiscal law. [The lecturer] was very enthusiastic about tax law. He mentioned that, for example, if you, as an individual, pay your personal income tax throughout the year, and then at the end of the year, you may sometimes get something back from the government. And he explained that he doesn’t understand why people are so happy about getting money back, because he said, “If I give you $100, or if I collect from you $100 during the year, and at the end of the year I give you back 20, why would you be happy?” And that inspired me; taxes are not that logical and at the same time, they are.
And from the tax department, I rolled into Indirect Taxes and VAT specifically very quickly because I like to deal with things that I can touch and that I can see. I like to go to a client and see what they are actually producing and what their issues are.
For me personally, I think that’s one of the nicest things about VAT – that it’s really tangible, compared to some of the other taxes. You really need to understand the business of what people are selling, what are they producing and how it is distributed.
How do you convey this message to your students during your lectures? How do you make them enthusiastic about this specific field?
I like to take my students on a deep dive into VAT as soon as possible. Of course, they have to understand the theory, but I like to get them into the practice as soon as I can to teach them about the impact of what they are learning. So yes, definitely, I think you will also create more enthusiasm for them if they understand what they are learning and if they see the value of what they are learning.
What do you find most interesting when comparing lecturing with advising?
As a lecturer, I see a group of students that don’t really know anything about VAT other than the VAT that is on their supermarket bill, and I think it’s so interesting to see that light going on, when they understand what they are learning and they understand what they are talking about, and you can let them go and experience that whole world that is out there for VAT purposes. Basically, you are with them when they have their first step in the VAT world, and that’s very exciting.
From an advisory perspective, the aspect that I like most about that job is also the personal aspect. I like to build relationships with my clients, and I like it when they trust me in guiding them through the best business decisions for their companies. And if you look at today’s practice, technology is becoming more and more important, especially over the last ten years, both by companies but also by authorities.
How do you see this development currently and how does it impact your work as an advisor? And how do you think this will develop in 10 or 15 years from now? How would your goal as advisor change?
I think that technology will definitely change the profession of the VAT advisor. I think it will change the more mundane tasks that our job sometimes entails, especially the reporting parts. These tasks will be automated and increasingly digital in the future. I do think that businesses and advisors should remain mindful that their data is ultimately transferred to tax authorities, and it’s currently not very clear what they can do with that data and what they want to do with that data. My role as an advisor would also change a little bit more towards implementing technology solutions, as well as informing businesses about their data protection.
I would protect them from the “data greed” of the tax authorities, and to remain mindful of the impact that sending so much data over to the tax authorities may have.
You’ve been working in VAT for quite some years. What would you consider your biggest achievement or success in all those years?
I can’t really point to one big success. I think it’s more about getting to that trusted advisor position and helping your customer who has nightmares or can’t sleep because they have an issue or their business is not compliant, and they need your help. Reaching out and giving them that help, gives that warm, fuzzy feeling. I think that I would label that as a success.
Please give us your three golden VAT tips.
When I walk into a company that I haven’t been to before, the first thing I look at is the technology solutions. What has the company implemented, how these systems are communicating with each other, whether there are any gaps between those systems and how the gaps are being managed.
Second, I’d look at the familiarity of VAT within the company. Is the CEO aware of the VAT decisions being made and the importance of VAT to the business? And I think as a third, I might look at the training of the people. Not so much VAT technical training, which is of course also important, but whether you the person or persons responsible for VAT also understand the IT language and know how to connect with other departments within the company, not only IT but also HR and logistics and all departments. VAT is everywhere, basically.
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
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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.