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Simon Dennis, Director, Central Government, SAS UK & Ireland   

Now the dust has well and truly settled on the UK General Election result, the new Conservative Government is tackling the detail of how it will deliver on its promises with The Chancellor set to present his budget in a few days’ time (July 8). What this means is that government departments have had computers “crunching away” in the background to enable The Treasury to conduct their Spending Review 2015 that meets their various revenue and policy targets.

This year’s previous Budget saw Chancellor George Osborne announce that end-of-year paper tax returns will be scrapped in favour of real-time online accounts by 2020. Deemed “a revolutionary simplification of tax collection” by the Chancellor, it was confirmed that the Government plans to switch to “digital tax accounts”. By 2020, instead of the annual rush to file tax returns, individuals and small businesses will be able to submit their affairs continuously via computer, tablet or smartphone – at any and all points throughout the year.

While it is still not certain exactly what will be involved from a technology standpoint, it is clear that taxation is moving into real-time analysis. This is a far cry from the yearly review and audit process and a welcome departure from the sometimes slow-paced reform of processes within HMRC.

To ensure it will be able to extract the most value from this new method of processing tax obligations, HMRC will need to revamp the assessment systems it has in place. No longer can it remain wedded to gut-feel driving the analysis of the data it collects once a year. Instead, it will now need to adopt advanced analytics systems in order to allow machine-learning or “artificial intelligence” to process all the data being fed in so it can uncover new insights that weren’t expected – and do so in real time, too.

The changes could lead to businesses and individuals being able to link their own accounting software and bank accounts to the digital tax account by 2020, so they can feed in information directly. This means the volume of data being processed in real time will burgeon to unmanageable volumes if there are no systems in place to ‘read’ the data and extract value from the information as it is collected.

Rather than continuing with the current approach to analytics, cheaper commodity hardware combined with open source software SAS enables tax authorities like HMRC to carry out in-memory analytics and move risk-based decisions and processes alongside transactions while they’re happening. This means that a sustained level of counter-fraud and checking for compliance can be maintained in real time, similar to the standards being deployed in the wider financial services sector.

Changes in how HMRC processes data will be vital in its journey towards 2020.  In the last five years, HMRC has revolutionised the way it which it collects and analyses data to identify tax evasion and fraud in a timely manner. Using advanced analytics, HMRC has already uncovered billions in additional tax revenue. The continued movement towards a digital government means HMRC can benefit and go on to create the next Big Data Hadoop-based data hub, using real-time analytics at the point of transaction.

So, whatever the Chancellor announces on July 8, it’s important that Government has the capability to combine Hadoop with best-in-class analytics to make the right decisions, and then be able to operate as efficiently as possible on a day-to-day basis as those decisions are taken by machines rather than inspectors

Find out more about how SAS’ analytic strength combined with Hadoop’s low-cost, distributed data storage delivers new opportunities in this recent report.