Are You Making Sales Tax Mistakes?

Somewhere, a CFO is lying face down on a desk. A number glows above her on the computer screen: $96,552. That’s how much it cost her company to manage a recent sales tax audit.

Could this happen to you?

For many companies, when the topic of sales tax comes up, the first response from most of the staff will be, “What’s the big deal? I just need a rate.” But when you ask a Controller or Finance person, their first response is usually, “They don’t understand. It’s so much more than a rate.”

Sales tax is more complex than ever and the rules of the game are constantly changing, making it increasingly difficult to maintain accuracy. Even the most seasoned tax professionals would have to be super human to be 100% on top of current rates, rules, jurisdictions, exemptions, and holidays.

Here’s why different responses in the same company is a problem: Over 70% of the time, the tax and accounting departments aren’t even responsible for managing tax compliance (charging sales tax, collecting exemption certificates, etc…). For many companies, it’s the credit department who carries that burden. This disconnect in how sales tax is managed and by whom, often results in tax rate, taxability, and jurisdiction errors.

What are the common misconceptions around sales tax compliance?

Misconception 1: Sales Tax is Easy

Downloading rate tables, visiting state websites, plugging numbers into invoicing systems, determining exempt sales and filling out complex tax return forms manually is unbelievably time consuming and fraught with error. That’s because sales tax is hard. There are countless things that go into ensuring sales tax is being done correctly and when you tie in the fact that there are more than 12,000 taxing jurisdictions, thousands of product taxability rules in the U.S., and the rules are subject to change, it’s not easy.

Misconception 2: My ERP Already Automates Sales Tax

Most ERP have built-in sales tax functionality, but it’s very basic. Not only does it require manual work to configure and update, you can’t be fully accurate as most sales tax functions provided by the ERP use zip-code based tax tables to drive the calculation. There is also usually limited support for handling specific sales tax rules tied to sourcing, product taxability or exemptions. In addition, the sales tax reporting available doesn’t expose the data in a format required to support the filing process and some “accounting gymnastics” are still required of the accounting team or CPA to try and pull it all together.

Misconception 3: Sales Tax Automation is only for Big Companies

“My company is too small” or “We only have to collect in one state” are common objections we hear. Companies of all sizes can benefit from sales tax automation as risk is risk whether you have it one state or all states. Also, any time spent on it is wasted time that could be focused on the business versus the pass through activity of sales tax. Factor in a sales tax platform that is delivered as a SaaS solution with pricing based on usage and you have ROI for small businesses all the way up to the enterprise.

The bottom line is, fast, accurate calculation of sales tax impacts customer satisfaction and improves sales. Complete reporting of taxable and exempt sales saves time and lowers audit risk.

Do your own audit of what you might be doing right (or wrong) by reading 8 Ways to Increase Your Company’s Audit Risk. It offers a side-by-side comparison of how tax is handled in the ERP system manually vs automated.

READ THE WHITEPAPER

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Amiee Keenan | Channel Development Manager, Avalara

Cell:  (401) 451-7223
amiee.keenan@avalara.com

Business Tips from Magic Johnson at Sage Summit 2014

I attended Sage Summit last month.  Sage Software is attempting to change this event from being a software training event to focusing on small businesses.  There were a number of programs that had nothing to do with Sage Software, but were very useful for small business owners. Magic Tweet

Magic Johnson was part of one of the keynote panel discussions and he discussed his life after basketball.  Magic Johnson is the second richest basketball star worth about $500 million dollars.  He has many good ideas, but I will list only a few that stayed with me.

First, the secret to success is “Passion & Love.”  If you do not have a passion for your job you will never be truly great at it.

Second, we need to keep reinventing ourselves.  The ability to adapt and adjust will serve you greatly as your market place changes.

Third, look for people who are hungry to grow.  The best person for the job is not always the person with the best resume.  Sometimes it is the person who has the skills to do the job, but a hunger to get better.

Fourth, hire people smart in people skills.  It doesn’t matter how smart a person is, if they cannot get along with customers or other employees they may be better off working somewhere else.

Fifth, always make the business about the customer and not yourself.  This may be a bigger issue for celebrities, but there are many business owners with big egos.  Make sure your business has the right focus.

Sixth, make sure that there is a demand for your product.  It is very difficult to create demand.  Magic owns over 100 Starbucks coffee houses.  All of them in the inner cities.  There is a large demand in those locations and they are under served.

Seven, surround yourself with people smarter than yourself.  You don’t have to be the smartest person in your company; in fact you shouldn’t be…

Finally, Magic suggested doing a SWOT analysis twice a year.  SWOT is Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Overall, Sage Summit was very successful in its attempt to provide useful information to small business owners and not just information about their products.  If you use any Sage products you may want to attend Sage Summit next year in New Orleans.

– Michael Ericksen, WAC Solution Partners-Midwest

If you would like to watch the keynotes including Magic Johnson please check them out here: Sage Summit 2014 Keynote

How to avoid the common mistakes of an ERP Implementation:

There are some major issues that businesses can face after implementing accounting and ERP software systems.  As certified ERP software consultants, we have helped many businesses over the last 25 years successfully implement ERP systems.  Based on our experience, we wanted to share some great ways to overcome these ERP software mistakes.

Here are 4 ways to overcome this ERP software implementation mistakes from happening in your organization.

DON’T SETTLE ON THE LOWEST PRICED ERP SOFTWARE

Do not try to squeeze the budget so much that you end up purchasing the lowest priced solution that will not perform the functions that are required for your business.  While you might be trying to save money, this will always cost an organization much more in the long run. If you settle on a cheap solution, the cost of switching later after your business grows and becomes more complex will cost much more than selecting the correct ERP software option that will grow with your business over time.

CREATE A HAVE TO HAVE LIST AS WELL AS A NICE TO HAVE LIST OF ERP SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

One important key to success in an ERP software system implementation is to work with an ERP consultant aka. ERP VAR (value added reseller).  ERP consultants help evaluate, implement, train and take the time to create a full wish list of your future ERP system requirements.  Consult with each department to build this wish list.  Consider instituting a business process assessment for your ongoing organizational improvement.  Make sure you provide your ERP VAR or ERP software consultant the FULL list of what you your requirements, break is down into Have the Have as well as NICE TO HAVE, even if it is something that you think CAN’T be done. You never know what solutions they might have implemented in the past that may solve your same problems.

CHOOSE YOUR ERP SOFTWARE CONSULTANT WISELY

Make sure they are not only Certified in the ERP software products they sell but are also competent and experienced in other important areas.  Look for an ERP software consultant who will  not only help you  set up and implement the ERP software system  but also can deliver the modifications or 3rd party enhancements of this product to keep your organization on the leading edge. Your ideal ERP consultant is also experienced enough to be your trusted advisor to give you new insights into your business operation on an ongoing basis.

INVOLVE YOUR ERP SOFTWARE CONSULTANT AS YOUR TRUSTED ADVISOR

It is important to know the value an ERP solution can bring you. It is also important to know how your ERP software consultant can help you as a partner in your businesses’ growth.  If your ERP consultant is great, they will help you dig deep to reveal what is missing from your wish list or anticipate your business needs changing and help explore options in order to be more efficient and effective with your business operations model.

Previously I wrote this article as a quest blogger for ERPVAR.com, this was a slight update: The original article can be found at:

ERP CONSULTANT NETWORK BLOG

Celebrating Failure

Jack Welch, in his book “Straight From The Gut” states, you have to celebrate when someone attempts a major breakthrough and fails.  If you don’t celebrate, you are not encouraging risk takers to attempt these major breakthroughs.  Two of my favorite Thomas Edison’s quotes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” and “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Recently I heard a young lady being interviewed on a major Chicago radio station and she was asked the secret to her success.  She stated that every week her father asked her what she failed at during the week.  She was not learning how to fail but learning how far she could go.

As a business owner, I also need to celebrate not only my staff’s failures and successes, but also my own.  Recently I had an article I was working on for The Rotarian magazine.  I sat on that article for 4 months going over it several times instead of taking the risk of either someone reviewing it or submitting it because I was unsure if it was ready.  I also have implemented inter office weekly meetings.  This helps us as a group to keep moving things forward such as a project or a lead.  More importantly we, as an organization, discover together what we learned for the week and what we can help each other achieve.

I was once at a meeting of volunteers and heard one of the leaders boasting that he had achieved all of his goals for the year and yet we were just starting the second quarter.  I just thought to myself how disappointing that the goals were set so low and already achieved.

Does your company just reward the people who play it safe?  How does your company celebrate failure?

-Michael Ericksen

WAC Solution Partners- Midwest

2013 Tax Planning by Leif Jensen

Guest Article Post by Leif Jensen of Leif Jensen and Associates:

In planning for the filing of your 2013 taxes there are a number of issues that Congress has blessed the US taxpayers with.  A number of these new laws may or may not impact you personally.

A growing number of taxpayers consider themselves to be the middle class only to find out that they are in the top 10% of all US taxpayers, an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $115,000 or so will get you into this club.

The following are a number of provisions that will either help or hinder your tax planning for 2013.

State and local general sales tax deduction, this is for those who itemize but have no state taxes paid.  In Illinois this is usually reserved for the elderly who are living off of Social Security and qualified assets.  This election has been extended for 2013.

Principle residence mortgage debt relief, this is for those lost their homes and have cancellation of debt income.  This election has been extended for discharges of debt occurring before January 1, 2014.

Medical deductions allowed on Schedule A have been increased for those less than 65 years of age.  Making this election even more difficult to utilize, the higher threshold can only be crossed when there has been a catastrophic illness, or a devastating unemployment issue.

The marriage penalty is back in place at the higher income levels.  This higher levels begin with the 15% tax threshold, so those married and making more than $72,500 will be taxed higher than single individuals at the same income levels.

The Net investment income tax (NIIT) is a 3.8% additional tax on investment income based upon the lesser of: the taxpayer’s net investment income for the year or the amount of modified adjusted gross income in excess of the taxpayer’s threshold.  I know clear as mud, this is s complicated calculation and not easily explained in a short space.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) added SS3101(b)(2) to the code.  This new code section requires the payment of a 0.9% tax, called the additional Medicare tax, which is an entirely separate tax from the 3.8% NIIT. This if for taxpayers whose income exceeds certain levels, single $200,000 or MFJ $250,000.

With all of these new changes and the others not mentioned it is increasing in your best interests to consult a qualified tax prepare to make sure you are adequately prepared to minimize and tax liability of underpayment penalties.

Remember Illinois has three levels of Accountants:

  1. Licensed CPA who has the training, background and education levels to prepare and defend your taxes before the IRS
  2. Registered CPA those who took the exam years back and just want the designation with no educational requirement.
  3. Then everyone else.  There are no requirements whatsoever to call yourself an accountant in Illinois.  No training, education or experience is required.

article written by,

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Managing Risk

In life we face many risks.  Just driving a car involves a risk; will someone run a stop sign or go through a red light.  The food we eat can affect our health.  If you use a computer or another device to store important information, will we be able to access that data tomorrow.

For some risks we buy insurance.  I, like most people, have car, house, medical and life insurance.  Having insurance helps us to live with the risks we face every day.  For data risks we backup our servers and other devices.

A few years ago I was introduced to a risk I was not aware of.  Someone used my name for an insurance claim.  They were most likely in the country illegally and when they went to a treatment center for a workplace accident, they just happened to use my name and address.  Since they did not have my social security number or my date of birth it turned out to be an insignificant problem.  Although I did have to call the insurance company a half a dozen times to explain that I did not work at the location they had on the records and that I was not injured on the date in question nor had I ever had used the pharmacy that a filled a subscription. And so on….

The incident did in fact worry me a little and I now know that identify theft is a huge crime that is rapidly growing in our nation.  I now carry identify theft insurance.  Again, there is only so much we can do to protect ourselves and this was one risk I was not willing to take alone.  Are you protected?

~Micheal Ericksen

WAC Solution Partners- Midwest

Undo Identity Theft, our strategic partners, can help you get more information if you need it. Click the logo below.

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