How making tax smarter helps businesses manage rapid change

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The Dow Chemical Company, facing new transactions and changing tax laws, made its Tax function a strategic partner in the business.

According to its website, “The Dow Chemical Company is a leader in materials science, delivering innovative and sustainable solutions for customers in packaging, infrastructure and consumer care.” Since 2018, EY teams have been working with Dow to create an intelligent tax function – instilling the agility required to quickly respond to and adapt to disruptive forces, be that from internal or external change.

At the time the collaboration began, Dow’s leadership found itself facing a wave of challenges. It was engaged in major M&A activity, as well as scrambling to keep up with a fast-moving operating environment — all while facing the increasing sophistication of the tax authorities, who were demanding ever greater transparency and real-time access to digital tax data.

Against this backdrop, Dow’s C-suite realized there was immense value in a tax function that served as a true strategic partner to the business — not only for meeting compliance requirements but also for adding value in everything from investment decisions to competitive analysis. Yet when they looked at their existing tax function, they saw something very different — a “black box” in which they couldn’t understand what decisions were being made, or why.

“Tax was almost speaking its own language,” says Marcelo Vieira, Dow’s Director of Tax Strategy and Global Tax Operations. “So, while the C-suite needed to participate in the strategies of the company globally, and for tax to come closer to the business, the tax function was too far from their reality for them to understand.”

Dow’s tax function needed a radical transformation. The company would need to create a vision and plan to elevate tax function beyond managing compliance, to managing the evolving risk picture on a global basis and becoming a value-adding strategic partner within the enterprise. And it would have to introduce leading-edge processes and technology that pushed efficiency and effectiveness to a whole new level.

The question was how.

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