Will Trends Toward Automated Regulatory Compliance Make My Job Obsolete?

There is a trend to move towards automating regulatory compliance. There are many papers on how to use computer languages: IE XBRL, SPIN, NLR and other semantic representation of laws. Please see this blog as my reference point: http://solutions.wolterskluwer.com/blog/2012/12/trends-towards-automating-regulatory-compliance/

As one of the ‘moving parts’ in an organization that helps companies expand and maintain compliance I know that a lot goes into making sure that all the regulations are followed. If I am applying for a contractor license in Mississippi or even, simply, registering a company for sales tax in all 50 states I must possess knowledge of what each of the regulatory bodies expects. Usually this information is found within the regulatory code set out for each state or jurisdiction. What if the regulatory bodies had computers which could automatically read information from a company’s computer to obtain the required information for the license application or the sales tax registration? What if I had software that could automatically tell a company’s computer that a regulation has changed and request a new piece of information automatically?

In some ways, I can rest assured that this kind of trend coming to full fruition is a long way off as some authorities still require an applicant to make an application for a business license in person. However, I believe that once this trend does come to fruition there may be less mistakes – of the human kind. I know that this trend is awhile in the making for the following reason: if a company wants to pay business tax in Miami, it will need to take an application to the 7th floor, have a man stamp the application, then take the same application to the first floor for another stamp, pay a fee and obtain the license. This could clearly be done through the mail if these agencies would use their internal mail system. A company would be surprised to know that there are still many of these systems in place in much of the southern half of the United States. To be perfectly honest, most of them are places in the United States where businesses aren’t flourishing because the system is arcane and unwelcoming.

Some circumstances dictate for an ‘in person’ application. The rationale for requiring an application to be made in person makes sense when there are public safety issues. For instance, if a company or an individual wants to obtain a license to purchase gold from the public, he/she/it will be required to obtain a secondhand dealer license. In California, there are a number of local municipalities that will allow the applicant to mail in the application with the requisite fee and copies of fingerprints—Great!-30 days later a license will come in the mail! However, buying gold from the public has a public safety aspect to it as someone could steal gold from another, take it to the secondhand dealer, and obtain cash thereby essentially ‘washing their hands’ of the crime committed by turning the stolen goods into cash. For this reason, a number of municipalities require everyone who will be handling purchased gold to read and understand the holding period requirements, a procedure for documenting and collecting information about the purchase of gold and to give their fingerprints personally to the Authority on the day of the application. I understand that this is a process that is best conducted face to face to be sure that everyone understands the consequences and importance of honesty and procedure for the good of the society.

On the other hand, requiring that a business license be obtained in person, in this day and age, is slightly unreasonable. To make the requirement even more arbitrary-some of the authorities allow couriers to drop off the application or take the application to the 7th floor then back down to the first for payment and collection. My question, then, is-what is the difference of sending a courier or emailing the application?   At the end of the day, I am not in fear of losing my job to a computer just yet because the authorities that require breathing human beings to make an application for a business license are certainly not of the mindset to accept an emailed version of an application much less allow its computer to speak with mine in any automated fashion in the near future. However, it is important to note this trend as it may change the landscape of compliance services and the way providers provide compliance services in the future.