Company: Sobeys Inc.
Industry: Food Retail
Business Activity: Wholesale and retail trade
Type of Entity: Public Corporation
Number of Employees: More than 10,000
Headquarters: Stellarton Nova Scotia
Yearly Revenue: Greater than $25 million
Can you describe an important issue that you had to resolve?
My name is Rob Jeffery. I am the Senior Director of Taxation for Sobeys. One of the issues that we faced was the decision as to whether to move from a manual MS Excel based tax provision to one that was automated using tax provision software that would be tying into our general ledger account.
What caused the issue and why was it important?
Our organization had continued to grow and out corporate legal structure continued to expand. Our tax provision reporting time lines continued to get more and more compressed. Our older existing process was taking our staff a total of approximately 2600 hours per year to complete in total. If we went with the tax provision solution it was expensive. 200,000 in an initial license fee. $40,000 in an ongoing maintenance fee to the vendor and it would cost us $250,000 in consulting fees to get the software up and running. The existing process was free but it was taking us a lot of time. We thought that the new process could save us approximately 500 hours per year.
Rob_Jeffery_Q1: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your career path to date?
Customers for Sobeys would be Canadians from all walks of life. Canadians have a choice for were they purchase their food and we strive to be that store of choice through strong customer service through fresh offerings and we can focus on food and show our passion.
Rob_Jeffery_Q5a: Can you describe the industry within which your company competes??
The food retailing industry is a highly competitive industry it is an industry that has undergone many changes in the past few years and very completive, dynamic industry.
Rob_Jeffery_Q7a: What is the role of government in your industry?
The role of government is critically important to us across the business clearly as a food retailer there is a number of food safety standards and food storage standards which are paramount to us as an organization speaking more specific to the tax function there is a number of regulatory areas that we would be dealing with directly not specific to the food retailing industry but in terms of making sure that Sobeys is compliant with its tax obligations from an income tax perspective and by working with our partners within the taxation department from a commodities tax stand point to make sure we are collecting the right amount of GST on sales to our customers.
Rob_Jeffery_Q9a: Can you comment on the role of transparency in corporate accounting?
Within corporate Canada there is a broad discussion about the role of transparency for a corporate tax function. If we look back 10 years ago it was a bit of a cat and mouse game people find loop holes you try to exploit them government would shut it down then you know you would keep playing the game over and over again. That has really evolved over the past number of years; you have seen a lot of corporations in the spotlight because of their tax practices. You see in the states apple, Google Starbucks in the UK they have got a lot of scrutiny for their tax practices. Taxes are no longer viewed as something were you can play some games and save it bit of money. It is a really important part of being a good corporate citizen. And when we look at our relationship with the Canada revenue agency. The relationship with other tax authorities that relationship and the transparency we have with them is really a critical decision for corporations in Canada to make do they want to be on the side of transparency or do they want to be in more of a protective relationship. Neither way is the right approach, but it is a decision companies have to make based on their culture.
Rob_Jeffery_Q8a: Can you offer some fast facts about your company?
So Sobeys is a company that has got more than 24 billon dollars in annual sales, we serve over 800 communities, over 1,500 retail locations across the country. And a fun fact about Sobeys is we actually own our own airport. Back in 2006 we purchased Trenton airport in the town of Trenton, Nova Scotia and we use that to help some of our executives travel to one of our head offices in Stellarton, Nova Scotia.
Rob_Jeffery_Q10a: How do you deal with failure in your organization?
I think failure is a part of any job and what is more important than the actual outcome of a project is to understand what you learned from it and what you can do better the next time. There is times when failure has a very low financial cost to an organization or to your career and there is times when failure has a very high financial cost to your career or to your organization. I like to hope in the areas that I fail in are ones that have little ramifications and I can learn lessons from that to make sure were not failing on ones that matter
Rob_Jeffery_Q6a: How do firms compete in this industry?
Within the food retailing industry, the market is very competitive and it is driven on a weekly basis often the weekly flyer that many Canadians are used to seeing. Is a very important part of how Canadians choose where to make their food selection. One of the many factors but the weekly flyers speaks to the regular competitiveness of the industry.