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Chris Vignone, with 25 years of sales tax experience in the public and private sectors, founded PM Business Advisors to specialize in state and local taxes, federal taxes and strategic planning. As sales tax matters became more complex, he saw growing demand from clients to help him file their sales taxes.

Chris has found a way to turn tax lemons into lemonade, dramatically increasing PMBA sales tax consulting practice and revenue, while reducing the labor and risk associated with sales tax filing. for several commercial customers.

Tax challenges

Managing sales tax returns for small businesses has been complex since the emergence of e-commerce in the 1990s. After the United States Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota against Wayfair, Inc. in 2018 and With subsequent state economic nexus legislation that has impacted e-commerce businesses, these complexities have increased significantly.

Chris noticed the impact. “Small businesses that once had tax reporting obligations in just a few states have now realized they have obligations in 20 or more states and subjurisdictions,” Chris says. “And large businesses were overwhelmed with hundreds or more sales tax returns per month. They simply weren’t prepared, didn’t have the resources to handle the tasks, and didn’t know who to turn to other than their accounting advisors, many of whom also lacked the expertise to handle these tasks.

Chris often comes across companies that should be filing in multiple states but aren’t compliant. He suspects this is an even bigger challenge for international companies. “These companies turn to us because we have the experience and resources to strategically guide them through these processes.”

PMBA was well positioned to meet this increased demand for sales tax filing services, having provided these services for over two decades. But to scale, they needed to find ways to reduce the burden and increased risk presented by manual processes.

After more than 20 years of working with a variety of sales tax software, spreadsheets and other systems that they had “tinkered with”, Chris realized that they needed a single solution. to help them manage reporting processes for multiple clients, with tens to hundreds of forms. , in several jurisdictions.

The problem, he says, is that such a system did not exist. “Our process involved many manual functions, which often required converting file formats and filing individual returns for clients, often through various state websites which were cumbersome and time-consuming. We needed new technology and a new compliance model.

Why automation

In 2019, Chris discovered that Avalara was developing two new systems specifically for accounting firms. PMBA has joined the beta test of Avalara Managed Returns for Accountants, a new solution that helps businesses create or expand their sales tax departments by automating the process.

“Avalara realized that there were different types of businesses,” says Chris. “Some companies didn’t want to tackle sales tax, but as it becomes increasingly critical for their business customers, they either had to partner with a SALT firm to handle these functions or partner with Avalara. for the preparation and filing of returns.”

Chris continues, “There are companies like mine that have extensive expertise in selling and using tax, but realize that our clients are better served and our practice is more efficient if Avalara manages the tedious and risky filing, while we focus on providing Advisory Services. But we needed a streamlined way to do it.

With Managed Statements for Accountants, Avalara handles the preparation and filing of all sales and use statements for an accounting firm’s client tax returns. Avalara also manages the remittance of tax funds to all jurisdictions. Firms can maintain and strengthen their relationships with their clients and retain managerial oversight of filing processes.

Get results

With Managed Returns for Accountants advanced automation features, including direct integration with leading e-commerce, accounting and ERP platforms, sales data feeds, returns and reports can be generated automatically for each jurisdiction where there is a filing requirement. This further frees PMBA resources from managing the most expensive and time-consuming processes.

Chris notes that with managed statements for accountants, it’s possible for his business to manage thousands or more of statements per year. In the first two years, PMBA significantly increased its number of SALT customers, while also handling returns for customers of partner companies. Chris says PBMA expects to see at least 50% growth in the second year. The company has also doubled its margins on these services since implementing managed statements for accountants.

“In my experience, many accounting firms, large, small, and midstream, viewed SALT as an afterthought: a low-revenue but high-risk service they were hesitant to dive into,” he says. “But with Avalara’s new automated cloud-based systems, businesses can meet the needs of their customers, whether or not they have sales tax expertise, without adding or expanding their staff, and reducing risks inherent in sales tax reporting.” This allows companies to spend more time on more profitable engagements and consultancy services.

Additionally, Chris says his staff love the automation features, especially for customers who also use the Avalara AvaTax calculation engine. “There are many reasons accounting firms should consider adding Managed Disclosures for Accountants to their practice, starting with peace of mind due to reduced risk. The automation features make the system easy to use to oversee all due dates and status of returns for all customers, safe in the knowledge that returns are prepared and delivered by Avalara, which I believe owns the broadest expertise and technology available for sales and use tax. management.”

“If your business provides business tax services or advice,” says Chris, “your clients expect you to be able to help them with their sales and use taxes. Managed Returns for Accountants is one of the most cost-effective, scalable, and risk-mitigating solutions on the market. »

Chris also adds, “I expect demand for the sales and use of tax advisory and reporting services to explode as companies realize the risks of non-compliance. Companies that add Avalara Managed Returns for Accountants will be ready to serve these customers and build a successful sell-and-use tax practice, with strong revenue, low risk, and no increased burden on staff or resources.