This August, Irish Software company, Vizor, announced the successful implementation of its Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) platform for the Oman Tax Authority. The data sharing pursuant to the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) as mandated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will begin in December this year, making Oman the twentieth tax authority globally to implement Vizor’s solutions to fulfil some form of international tax sharing obligation (CRS, FATCA, CbC Reporting etc.)
‘We selected Vizor based both on the user-friendliness of the solution, as well as their track record of success with tax authorities, not just in the region but globally,’ explains Said Shanfari of the Oman Tax Authority.
Vizor is a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use and highly secure software solution which can be fully automated to provide fast and user-friendly services, combined with extensive monitoring, tracking and reviewing of both data and reporting entities. The Vizor platform is also designed to support its clients through any future changes to the tax exchange obligation standards such as Schema 2 for CRS, which is currently being rolled out.
What makes this contract a particularly impressive achievement, is that the entire rollout was carried out entirely remotely during the global lockdown.
’We are very proud to have delivered this project as our first AEOI project to be implemented 100% remotely’ says Vizor’s AEOI Business Development Manager, Mary O’Leary. ‘This was enabled by an excellent working relationship with both our local partner and the Omani Tax Authority.’
‘It’s very encouraging to see this,’ says Stephen Twomey, Enterprise Ireland’s Senior Market Advisor for the MENA region. ‘It is a different way of doing business. It signifies a change in how new deals can be done in this region. The very fact that this was conducted and implemented completely remotely is a first.’
The new normal
Based in Dubai, Twomey provides strategic consulting, and route-to-market advisory services to Irish technology companies breaking into the MENA market.
‘The decision-making process out here can be a little more elongated than is typical in Europe,’ he explains. ‘That’s down to the whole sales cycle… Local clients want to get to know their business partners, there is a big emphasis on building rapport and really understanding what the business is about.’
Lockdown has presented a challenge for most businesses, and some are adapting more easily than others to the ‘new normal’. The implications of having to work remotely are particularly daunting for industries and regions where face-to-face interactions and personal relationships play an essential role.
Ireland has a significant reputation in the Middle East, for cutting edge, bespoke regtech solutions. As well as having some of the best software available, ‘Irish business people are well placed to build up a rapport in this region,’ says Twomey.
So, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Oman and Europe, there was some concern about how Irish businesses would fare under the travel restrictions.
Collaboration across the distance
Ms. O’Leary visited Oman last December, to give a demonstration and discuss particular aspects of the Vizor solution. She knew Vizor could provide what the Oman authorities needed. What she didn’t know, was that this would be her last visit before implementation.
‘When it’s a relatively new jurisdiction, I would normally go over and be on site again once we were chosen as partner,’ says O’Leary, ‘there are a lot of face-to-face meetings and trainings.’ Of course, this became impossible as restrictions were put in place. But the client wasn’t in a position to wait for the situation to ease.
‘Oman had committed to a exchanging CRS data by September 2020 (now moved to December 2020 by the OECD in light of the Pandemic restrictions), mandated by the (OECD,’ explains Ms. O’Leary, ‘so we simply had to get moving.’
The key to the success of this project, was the effective cooperation of all the organisations involved. ‘The Omani Tax Authority was so great to work with,’ O’Leary adds. ‘They were so motivated and showed so much initiative.’ In order to have a presence on the ground, Vizor had partnered with a local firm – one of Omani’s leading technology services company, Software Systems LLC (SSL).
‘I think it did help that we had a local partner,’ says Ms. O’Leary, ‘and they were really cooperative, despite the fact that all players were working from home. Everything was facilitated through Teams and Zoom – even the training.’
Paving the way
Enterprise Ireland is currently working with a number of Irish tech companies, to help them to get a foothold in the MENA region. In this context, Vizor’s remote roll out is particularly heartening.
‘I’m hoping this will be a regular occurrence,’ says Twomey, [Vizor’s achievement] could be indicative of the times we’re in, and it could be a signal that there are similar transactions to follow.’
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