All eyes were on Charlotte Schellerup during TaxTech London, an event “where indirect tax meets technology.” Charlotte is the Global VAT and Indirect Taxes Specialist of the Group Tax Department at Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish company specializing in wind turbines.
Charlotte’s group is responsible for the company’s VAT processes, both local and global, as well as for automating the tax determination in SAP and for ensuring Vestas’ global VAT controls are in place.
Vestas is a global leader in wind technology, operating in 75 countries worldwide, with over 22K employees and revenues of €10.2 Billion (2016). Charlotte explained that despite spending significant amounts in VAT, the company had no visibility into their potential VAT recovery. As a result, the company did not apply to recover VAT for its massive T&E or for foreign invoices with local VAT until 2014.
Vestas partnered with VATBox, an automated, enterprise-wide, cloud-based VAT recovery solution, to streamline its global VAT recovery process, and provide full visibility, compliance, and data integrity. VATBox applied its proprietary extraction tool to 24 of Vestas’ entities, and after two years, recovered Millions in VAT for the company.
Charlotte explained that VATBox was especially successful because their extraction tool processes, analyzes and submits every single invoice, no matter its size. With 88% of Vestas’ T&E invoices below €50, the VAT refunds on these smaller invoices added up significantly. Says Charlotte, “It was so much easier and also much faster for them to do it.”
One audience participant raised a question about preparedness. What level of digitalization must an organization have to benefit from VATBox’s services? Charlotte explained that when they started in 2014, they stored paper receipts in boxes. They shipped these boxes to VATBox, where the invoices were scanned and digitalized, and the physical receipts returned. VATBox can also provide this service at the company’s location.
VATBox’s analytics further highlighted that the company had a high percentage of disqualified invoices. 30% of Vestas’ submissions were being disqualified because the invoice itself was invalid, or invoices were missing the supplier tax ID or company name, or the VAT information was invalid. Vestas worked closely with VATBox to improve its invoicing process and are now at a disqualification rate of 21%, a number they continue to improve.
In addition, VATBox’s analytical tools provided Vestas with a high level of detail about their refunds, helping them understand where they can improve, what went wrong, and in which entities. In addition, VATBox serves as the go-between between the company and tax authorities, helping Vestas understand and address any inquiries, in any language.
With positive results on VAT recovery for T&E, Vestas decided to expand its relationship with VATBox into the realm of AP invoices. Vestas was aware that some non-T&E AP invoices with foreign VAT existed in their system, but thought it was insignificant. The company assumed there were only a small number of invoices and only with minor amounts, and it would be too complicated due to different tax codes to attempt extraction. Vestas utilized VATBox’s extraction tool to perform a foreign VAT AP audit and after only a single day, found almost €200K in discovered VAT. Of that amount 6% was actually refunded. However, this tool emphasized that a full 71% of Vestas’ foreign AP invoices were incorrectly charged and non-compliant. VATBox indicated exactly which suppliers were at fault, enabling Vestas’ procurement department to “plug the hole,” by contacting the vendors to re-issue invoices and change their processes in the future. She was also pleased that VATBox’s reporting tools gave her visibility into tax coding, and whether their manual input process was being performed correctly. “It was a good eye-opener for me,” says Charlotte.
Charlotte then gave the audience a peek at VATBox’s user-friendly dashboard that she uses to slice-and-dice the data across Vestas’ 35 entities. Data can be viewed by specific entity, country or category, etc. Companies have full visibility into their refund potential, disqualified invoices and actual reclaims. One can drill down to the actual invoice level. In addition, the VATBox dashboard offers attractive visual tools to help Charlotte’s team present the data.
“We initially thought implementing the extraction tool would be difficult, but VATBox showed us it wasn’t. We thought our travel expenses were not significant, but VATBox showed us with €6M that it was. Also, we thought our travel expenses were all recoverable, but VATBox showed us it was not, with a high disqualification rate, and then they showed us how we can improve.”
Vestas’ relationship with VATBox will continue. They would like to further decrease their disqualification rate by training employees using a humorous VATBox-created movie. They aim to extend cooperation with the most frequently visited hotels by having VATBox intercede to ensure their invoices fill all VAT requirements. Other upcoming projects include expanding VATBox services to other entities as required, updating the complex tax codes for Danish hotels, and reducing the waiting time to receive actual refunds by filing quarterly rather than annually.
Charlotte made special mention of the skilled staff at VATBox. The IT team helps with implementing the extraction tool and the extraction process, and VATBox tax professionals assess whether the T&E and AP invoices are correct, and ensure that nothing submitted will put your VAT registration at risk.
She reminisced about her days working at PwC Denmark where she attempted to recover VAT on her own using an Excel spreadsheet. She laughed and explained that it took her three months to submit one year’s worth of VAT refunds. “Not worth it,” says Charlotte. “Use VATBox.”
Charlotte summed up her relationship with VATBox, “VATBox is the best in their class. They save me a lot of time…I’m just a very happy client.”
TaxTalk seminar participants reacted positively to Charlotte’s talk. They expressed appreciation for learning how new technologies can make their lives and their business operations easier, and for a clearer picture of what the future of indirect tax may look like.
Founded in 2012, VATBox has been revolutionizing the automated VAT recovery marketplace with its cloud-based solution that can be deployed in 30 minutes without any additional budget or IT resources. VATBox’s out-of-the-box solution handles reports, data collection, aggregation, qualification, submissions and the complexities that accompany these processes using a fully automated approach. VATBox implements the highest level of data security and compliance with all international rules and regulations of the various jurisdictions, and offers companies 360⁰ visibility into their VAT spend and recovery. Let us show you how your company can thrive in today’s complex financial times. Request a free demo here.