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Industry roundup: 2 February

IRS finance and procurement branches transition to robotic process automation (RPA) technology

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and UiPath, an enterprise automation software company, partner to improve the agency’s technology systems and manage finance and procurement functions more effectively by using UiPath’s software bots. Teresa Hunter, Chief Financial Officer, IRS, stated that the agency is undergoing major changes with robotic process automation technology.

Both the Finance and Procurement departments are striving to provide a comprehensive approach to identify use cases for robotic process automation. Additionally, they plan to implement RPA across operations with a longer “time-to-value” by reducing the tedious manual processes that normally take months into minutes of work, commented Shanna Webbers, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support and former Chief Procurement Officer, IRS.

The procurement department faced a strict deadline to align contract terms with federal law in 2020. Webbers’ team utilized the capabilities of RPA to complete approximately 1,500 contract changes within 72 hours. Processing these modifications normally takes one year to complete. This automation system minimized the administrative load on contract officers, eradicated data mistakes, transmitted the changes to the vendor, and then uploaded the document into the contract file repository.

The office of the IRS CFO currently has future strategies to utilize bots to format financial data and plan to install other bots to consolidate information from multiple data sources, extract data from documents, and retrieve information pertaining to property and equipment vouchers.

The IRS, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, collected approximately US $3.5 trillion in revenue and processed more than 240 million tax returns in fiscal year 2020. According to the IRS, the main priorities pertain to streamlining the service offerings to the general public and making the IRS more accessible by utilizing technology more efficiently for both personnel and taxpayers.

According to Hunter, the IRS’s specific purposes for RPA are focused on enhancing customer satisfaction, increasing process efficiencies, and improving the consumer and employee experience. As developments in the world of technology automation continue to be at the forefront of finance, the IRS CFO plans to transition with those innovative solutions to meet future needs.

The IRS recognizes the need for teamwork to achieve the desired level of automation, and therefore the IRS utilizes a collaborative approach and partners with colleagues in the Chief Information Officer's office. After thorough analysis of automation industry companies, the IRS chose UiPath as its RPA software platform. Webbers further added that understanding all the features of UiPath will enable the IRS to help employees make intelligent decisions in less time.

The sole automation of functions or processes does not unlock the complete potential of RPA. Organizations need to take an all-inclusive approach considering people, processes, policies and technologies. The introduction of automation into operations will affect the way people perform their jobs. The IRS CFO and IRS Procurement Offices focus on improving and retraining employees to use automated tools. Technology is evolving at an accelerated pace, and regulatory requirements are becoming more complex. Additionally, real-time data is expected, and talented skill workers face fierce competition. All of these concerns represent challenges and opportunities to address according to the IRS.

The IRS seeks opportunities to leverage existing data and technology to integrate new processes, increase efficiency and reduce overly complex processes. By recognizing employee needs, skills, talents and abilities, they will be able to further develop technical knowledge and transition from a compliance-based mindset to a decision-based mindset. According to the IRS, the agency will continue to focus on communication and transparency when adopting automation as a key to successful change management.

UAE fintechs and payment startups invited to Visa Everywhere Initiative 2022

Visa announced Visa Everywhere Initiative (VEI), a global open innovation program, inviting fintechs and payment start-ups from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to illustrate their innovative products and solutions. Finalists will gain exposure to prominent fintech stakeholders across banking, commercial, merchant, VCs and government sectors. The frontrunners of the contest will be awarded prize money and the opportunity to partner with a globally trusted brand like Visa.

The 2022 program has been extended to include startups that use cryptocurrencies and Visa Direct, a payment solution that helps businesses move money in innovative ways using card to billions of endpoints around the world. Finalists from around the world (including Central Europe Middle East and Africa – CEMEA – finalists) driving economic growth will meet in Qatar for the VEI Global Finals in November 2022, with a total prize pool of up to US $ 170,000.

Shahebaz Khan, General Manager for UAE, Bahrain and Oman, VISA, commented that fintechs and other payment innovators are transforming the way consumers and businesses initiate payments by enabling more access to their money when they need it. Furthermore, one of Visa’s main priorities is to support businesses who are creating solutions that enable seamless transfer of funds universally.

Approximately 8500 startups from around the globe are part of the VEI network, which continues to grow annually. Since its inception in 2015, the program has helped start-ups in more than 100 countries raise more than $ 2.5 billion in total, addressing one of the biggest challenges faced by early-stage entrepreneurs. Each year, VEI expands its reach and engages with startups to solve unique problems in the payments world.

The 2022 program will clearly focus on CEMEA, a region with vast opportunity for fintechs to develop innovative products and solutions that support the community. The latest version of VEI forecasts two new editions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with a global final in Qatar in November 2022.

VEI seeks innovative and determined entrepreneurs who empower the community by solving the payment and commerce challenges faced by companies of all sizes and sectors.

Combatting money laundering and terrorism financing with EuReCA’s preventative guidelines

The European Banking Authority (EBA) launched an essential centralized database for money laundering prevention and counter-terrorist financing. EuReCA, the European anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) Critical Vulnerability Reporting System, is the key to coordinating EBA efforts with knowledgeable authorities to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing (ML / TF) risks.

EuReCA contains information about the critical vulnerabilities of financial institutions in the EU identified by the regulatory authorities. The authority will also report the measures imposed on financial institutions to address major vulnerabilities. The main weaknesses include lack of proper AML / CFT policies and procedures, such as the lack of group-level transaction monitoring and the lack of policies and procedures for high-risk customers that increase the ML / TF risk associated with financial institutions. In addition, EuReCA also includes the results of internal audits identified by supervisors during field inspections, where the management agency was notified and decided not to remediate the problem.

The information derived from EuReCa will be used by the EBA to provide insights on ML / TF risks affecting the EU's financial sector. It also shares information from EuReCA with authorities as needed to support them at all stages of the supervisory process, especially in the event of specific ML / TF risks or trends. Furthermore, EuReCA will act as a preliminary warning tool to help regulatory authorities to take action prior to ML / TF risks becoming apparent.

EuReCA will only begin collecting personal data after the draft Regulatory Technical Standard (RTS) has been approved by the European Commission.

India imposes a 30% tax on cryptocurrencies and NFTs

India announced it will impose a 30% tax on income from cryptocurrencies and other digital assets in a federal budget announcement Tuesday, commented Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister, India. This will place cryptocurrency and non-fungible token (NFT) revenues in India's highest tax rate range. Sitharaman further added that companies cannot offset the loss from the sale with other revenues, another obstacle added to trading and investing in digital assets.

There is no official data on the scope of the Indian crypto market. However, the industry estimations indicate that India has 15 to 20 million crypto investors, with a total of approximately 400 billion rupees (US $ 5.37 billion) of crypto holdings. Advocates of digital currencies expected that the establishment of a formal tax framework will save the crypto industry from at least some of the more stringent measures considered by the government.

Avinash Shekhar, Managing Director, ZebPay, a cryptocurrency exchange, commented that a 30% tax on virtual digital assets income is relatively high. However, it suggests an optimistic movement towards justifying adoption of cryptocurrencies and NFTs, in addition to reassuring corporations interested in entering the market. According to Reuters, some tax accountants estimate that individuals could potentially pay more than 30% of cryptocurrency profits in taxes and other levies. Nischal Shetty, CEO, WazirX, another cryptocurrency exchange, believes this development will clear banking uncertainty and enable financial services to offer cryptocurrencies.

The Central Bank of India has raised serious concerns about private cryptocurrencies, as they could lead to financial instability. Consequently, some banks have disengaged with crypto companies to avoid these issues. Sitharaman further commented that the central bank of India will launch digital currencies using blockchain and other supporting technologies in 2023. Furthermore, an introduction of a central bank digital currency will enhance India’s digital economy and lead to an efficient and economical currency management system, added Sitharaman.

Automated transformation of complex business systems to cloud infrastructure utilizing Oracle Cloud Lift Services

Oracle, in efforts to support growing demand and enable more organizations to realize benefits from Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), is expanding its features to make it easier for customers to design their data architecture and AI-enabled application environments to transition to OCI. Oracle Cloud Lift Services, launched in March 2021, provides organizations with a single point of contact for end-to-end technical delivery, eliminating critical expertise in adopting OCI services and delivering value and creating faster opportunities for innovation.

Over 1,000 global organizations are using Oracle Cloud Lift Services to speed the transfer of mission-critical workloads to OCI. Global customers and partners such as Ingersoll Rand, Volvo Group, Suramericana SA, National Pharmacies, Accenture, Cognizant, Infosys and Syntax are moving line-of-business applications and complex integrations from on-premises and other clouds to OCI.

As part of the offering, organizations receive expert guidance from experienced cloud engineers on cloud migration planning, architecture, prototyping and management at no additional cost. With this capability, customers can shift critical workloads in weeks or days instead of months. In addition, Oracle will work with customers until their workload is in production and provide training on best practices, so they can either run the business environment independently or partner with a “day 2” managed service provider.

Vinay Kumar, Senior Vice President of North America Cloud Solutions Engineering, Oracle, commented that Oracle Cloud Lift Services enables customers to leverage Oracle experts to guide their migrations and successfully run critical workloads at OCI. Oracle has helped many of the world's largest companies manage their most complex migrations.

Business migrations are not all the same and require flexible cloud services to meet customers’ needs. Dave McCarthy, Research Vice President, Cloud and Edge Infrastructure Services, IDC, commented that to achieve the best results, the process means more than a simple ‘lift and shift’. Cloud providers need to be ready to help customers move from planning to operation to ensure timely and thorough transitions and continuous uptime.

The recent additions to Oracle Cloud Lift Services include features that help customers design and migrate their data ‘lakehouse’ and AI-enabled application environments. To accelerate the migration of big data, a new partnership with distributed computing company WANdisco will provide organizations with large production datasets access to WANdisco LiveData Migrator. According to Oracle, the WANdisco LiveData Migrator is a fully automated cloud migration solution that transfers HDFS data and Hive metadata to the cloud without taking the data offline. Additionally, this feature is able to transfer large amounts of data to the cloud up to 38 times faster than labour-intensive (manual) migration methods. Thus, customers are able to realize savings in time, money and resources.

David Richards, Founder and CEO, WANdisco, commented that companies around the world are searching for ways to enable their large-scale on-premises data lakes in AI-enabled cloud environments to accelerate time to business insights and improve operational efficiencies. Furthermore, customers would have access to LiveData Migrator by integrating with Oracle’s Cloud Lift Services. This would enable customers to automate the complete migration cycle of their large critical business data to OCI in record time without any risk of business interruption or downtime, added Richards.

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