Tax News & Updates

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The Changing World of Tax Technology

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By Joni Johnson-Powe, JD, CPA- CEO/Principal Taxnologi Solutions LLC

As I look back on my career over the past 16+ years, not only have tax technology services changed but the accounting industry is much different place. I actually started off doing tax software implementations of telecom tax software which generally spanned at least a year from project kick-off to go-live. My counterparts in the “Sales tax” practice usually had a 3-6 month implementation timeframe with tax research and taxability determination set up. However, telecom tax had a much more detailed project scope and timeline because the complexity involved not only sales tax but a wide array of regulatory surcharges, 911 fees and other gross receipts taxes that could apply to a single charge. There were only a few software vendors to choose from but usually it was narrowed down to 1 or maybe 2 depending on price point, industry, and ERP system. Our team usually worked with IT consulting firms such as Bearing Point and Accenture to assist with the “technical” aspects of the projects such as API (“Application Program Interface”) development.

Fast forward to 2016, there are many more “tax software” players out there with solutions for all size companies and a wide range of industries. The role of the “tax consultant” has expanded significantly and includes more technical skills such as the ability to write SQL queries and in-depth knowledge of ERP systems. At the same time, integration timelines can be shorter in some respects with the increase of “plug and play” connectors that reduce the time needed for API development. Yet, sales tax has become a lot more complicated and issues of nexus, tax base expansions, new technology, and internet sales and services offerings have all created a ‘gray” area in indirect taxation. Not to mention the increased global footprint of businesses both big and small.

The good news is that all of this “change” is quite beneficial for the businesses that now must maneuver the obstacles of indirect taxes. Online start-ups and ecommerce businesses now have cost effective solutions available to help manage their compliance responsibilities with cloud based applications.   In addition, there’s a lot more industry specific content available for the food & beverage, manufacturing, construction and many more industries with unique rules.

All the choices in the market of tax software solutions and the ever-changing world of sales tax might seem momentous and overwhelming when it comes to finding a solution that is the right fit. However, with good planning, focused execution, and extensive online tax resources to help with your journey, your business can effectively and efficiently implement the right solution.

Joni Johnson-Powe, JD, CPA, is the Founder/CEO of Taxnologi Solutions, LLC located in Aurora, CO.  She has worked for over 17 years in federal and multi-state tax income tax compliance and consulting, sales and use tax, tax automation, and property tax compliance.   Joni has a specialized skill set in the sales and use tax automation arena. She has served as project lead on several integrations and tax conversions for large Fortune 100 companies.

She has both industry and public accounting experience with Big 4 firms and large national firms. Joni worked for several years for Big Four accounting firms such as KPMG and Ernst & Young providing tax compliance and consulting services to clients in a variety of industries.  She is a wife, mother of 4 and native of Colorado. Joni enjoys snowboarding and gardening in her free time.

 

How to Assist Your Accounting Clients With Determining Nexus

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More and more in today’s ever changing digital economy, clients are challenged with running and growing their business while complying with tax rules that continually evolve and expand. In the state and local tax arena, I find that clients don’t know what they don’t know. This issue does not only impact small businesses and start-ups but also established companies.

Thus, the first step with assisting your clients with their multistate obligations is determining whether they have the obligation to file: Nexus. A client is deemed to have nexus where that client has “sufficient contacts” with the state or locale to succumb to the jurisdiction of the tax authority and obligation to collect and remit tax.

The challenge we face as practitioners, however, is that the definition of “sufficient contacts” set forth in the Quill case continues to expand and explaining this complicated landscape to a client is not easy. Thus, it is important to gather some fundamental information about the clients’ business as part of the initial analysis of nexus:

  1. Identify all states where the client has sales. Also, in states like AL, AK, AZ, CO, ID, IL, and LA, identify the local jurisdictions where your client makes sales as these places have some local registrations and reporting requirements.
  1. Identify all states where client has people. People includes sales, corporate or other employees. This information should also include any contractors or agents acting on company’s behalf. This area tends to trip up a number of companies as they assume that contractors will not create nexus.

In addition, in most states having agents such as dealers or other relationships where a third party is selling, servicing, repairing, or delivering your goods or services for a commission or fee will create nexus.

  1. Identify all states where the client has property. Property includes tangible, intangible, real property and inventory.   This property can be either owned, rented or offered on approval to consumers.
  1. Identify any related entities and activities between the companies. Find out whether the affiliate conducts any advertising or other services for or on behalf of your client in any states.

Many times clients assume that activities they engaged in throughout the various states are treated equally by all states for purposes of nexus. While many states adhere to the similar standards for nexus such as physical presence, economic, affiliate, and click-through nexus, the manner in which these standards are interpreted vary widely.

Thus, once you gather information related to your client’s activities, further analysis of the state or local rules is necessary to make a final determination of nexus. Here are some common activities that constitute nexus in various states:

  1. Physical presence in a state such as an office building, field office, or warehouse owned or rented by the company.
  2. Employees or contractors working in a state.
  3. Intangible and tangible property in a state including inventory and equipment owned or rented by the company.
  4. Having an affiliate in a state.
  5. Remote sellers with online links provided by residents in a state (i.e. click-through nexus).
  6. Software as a Service(SAAS), Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS), or downloads by your customer in a particular state.

Keep in mind that these definitions and rules continue to evolve as does your client’s business. Accordingly, revisit your nexus analysis with your client periodically to ensure they stay in compliance with filing requirements.

Joni Johnson-Powe, JD, CPA, is the Founder/CEO of Taxnologi Solutions, LLC located in Aurora, CO. She has worked for over 17 years in federal and multi-state tax income tax compliance and consulting, sales and use tax, tax automation, and property tax compliance.   Joni has a specialized skill set in the sales and use tax automation arena. She has served as project lead on several integrations and tax conversions for large Fortune 100 companies.

She has both industry and public accounting experience with Big 4 firms and large national firms. Joni worked for several years for Big Four accounting firms such as KPMG and Ernst & Young providing tax compliance and consulting services to clients in a variety of industries.  She is a wife, mother of 4 and native of Colorado. Joni enjoys snowboarding and gardening in her free time.

 

2017 Mid-Year Sales Tax Changes

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2017 Mid-Year Sales Tax Changes

Repost from Avalara

Dealing with change is standard operating procedure for many companies: employees leave and are hired; new products are introduced and old ones phased out; there are booms, and there are busts. On top of all that, companies need to account for sales and use tax changes. Significant changes in rates, regulations, and product taxability often take effect July 1, which is the start of a new fiscal year in all but a few states.

At the end of 2016, we shared many of the sales tax changes set to occur January 1, 2017. These included state sales tax rate changes in California and New Jersey, the expansion of sales tax to certain services in North Carolina, the prohibition of taxing more services in Missouri, and a bevy of recently enacted soda taxes and tampon tax exemptions. At mid-year, we’re seeing a few propositions that signify a dramatic shift in online sales tax revenue.

 

States want to collect more tax revenue from remote sales

Perhaps the most notable trend of 2017 is states’ push to obtain tax revenue from remote sales. This isn’t new. States have been working to tax out-of-state sellers for years, but their efforts have been hampered by Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992) — the landmark Supreme Court ruling that a state can only tax businesses physically located within its borders.

In recent years, states have found creative ways to work around the physical presence precedent upheld by Quill. They’re taxing businesses with ties to in-state affiliates and those that generate a certain amount of business through links on in-state websites (commonly known as click-through nexus). Increasingly, they’re also taxing companies with a certain amount of economic activity in the state (economic nexus). Unfortunately for states in need of additional sales tax revenue, these affiliate, click-through, and economic nexus laws are difficult for states to enforce.

Therefore, many states are looking to different and more aggressive approaches. Two methods in particular have been gaining steam this year: use tax notification and reporting requirements, and taxes on online marketplace providers such as Amazon and eBay.

 

Use tax notification and reporting requirements

Colorado paved the way for states to impose use tax notification and reporting requirements on non-collecting out-of-state sellers. After spending years stuck in court, its policy takes effect July 1 — the same date a similar policy starts in Puerto Rico. Vermont recently passed one and made it effective retroactively, on January 1, 2017. Other states, including Pennsylvania and Texas, are considering use tax notification and reporting measures.

Sending annual reports of consumer purchase activity to consumers and state tax authorities is more work for remote retailers, and Colorado and the other states could be using their policies as a back-door approach to getting out-of-state companies to register and collect. Even if companies choose to not take that route, use tax reporting should help states increase their use tax collections.

 

Taxing online marketplaces

Minnesota is the first state to enact a tax on marketplace providers. HF 1 will take effect at the earlier of July 1, 2019, or when the Supreme Court modifies its decision in Quill — though the effective date could change if Congress passes legislation allowing states to tax remote sales.

North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and a number of other states are also interested in taxing marketplace providers, and their efforts are likely to continue or resume as 2017 wanes. But not all agree it’s a good idea: New York lawmakers blocked Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to tax them earlier this year.

 

Congress could tackle online sales tax

Federal lawmakers are much preoccupied with tax reform and repealing or revamping the Affordable Care Act. Allowing states to tax remote sales transactions, or definitively preventing them from doing so, seems to be low on their list of priorities. However, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected from Washington, so a federal solution to the problem of untaxed remote sales should not be entirely ruled out.

Two bills have been introduced that would authorize states to tax certain interstate sales: the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017 and the Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2017.

A bill that would codify the physical presence standard set by Quill and further limit states’ ability to tax interstate sales has also been introduced: the No Representation Without Representation Act of 2017.

 

Other sales tax changes

Many of the trends seen at the start of the year are continuing as 2017 progresses. Florida has enacted a tampon tax exemption, Seattle a soda tax. Tennessee is lowering the state sales tax rate on food and food ingredients, there are calls to add a statewide sales tax in Alaska, and although he failed to achieve it this session, Governor Jim Justice has been pushing to raise the state sales tax rate in West Virginia. The taxation of services — including online music and movie streaming services — remains a hot and hotly contested topic. And, as always, a plethora of local sales tax rate changes take effect at the start of each new quarter.

Don’t be lulled into complacency during the dog days of summer: There’s a lot happening in the world of sales tax right now. Staying on top of these and other changes will allow you to prepare for them. Download Avalara’s 2017 Sales Tax Changes Mid-Year Update to learn more.

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What is your employee listening strategy?

Please download the PDF version here!

Excerpt taken from The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty

What is your employee listening strategy?

To be listened to is, generally speaking, a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating. It is small wonder that people who have been demanding all their lives to be heard so often fall speechless when confronted with one who gravely agrees to lend an ear. Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts. But once offered these conditions, he becomes frightened.— Robert C. Murphy


Believe it or not, your organization needs an employee listening strategy.

What do I mean by this?

Many organizations administer an annual employee engagement survey and then stop there. By doing just that, they miss the opportunity to truly listen to what their employees like or dislike about the organization, their manager, their role and more.

This also undermines the most valuable reason for listening: Action!

Here are some things to consider when crafting an employee listening strategy:

Why are you listening?

For organizations that administer employee engagement surveys annually, they often do not know why they are doing it. Is it just to say that your employees have a voice? Is it to tell employees that you “listen” to them frequently?

Why are you listening?

Is your employees’ happiness and satisfaction the end, or is there an underlying reason your organization wants to ask your employees questions annually?

Knowing the “why” behind any employee listening program is crucial, because then everything else can fall in line.

How will you listen?

There are a myriad of ways to gather the voice of your employees. The most popular of which is the annual survey. While annual surveys are great for organizational benchmarking and gauging your employees’ overall relationship with your organization, there are many ways to get unfiltered and trustworthy feedback from your employees:

Pulse Surveys

Pulse surveys are real-time surveys that are short and provide immediate feedback to managers and the organization. They are excellent tools to drive more employee engagement and create a culture of transparency.

Managers Meetings

Whether we are talking about team meetings, or one-on-one meetings, managers have a unique opportunity to clear away the barriers to true employee listening. These meetings should remain the safe place for parties to ask questions and provide feedback. When managers listen to their team members, it promotes trust and honesty.

The perfect combination for a successful relationship.

All employee meetings

I do not believe that “All-hands” employee meetings are the more credible way to gather a big picture of employee sentiment. Nonetheless, it is a great way to share information and get an initial pulse of opinion. I like to call this the “allergic reaction” that the information sharing may or may not create. Once you are able to gauge that initial response, you can plan for more pointed feedback methods to follow.

Focus groups

As someone who has Empathy and Relator as my two top strengths, I really enjoy and am quite successful gathering unfiltered feedback via focus groups. I usually recommend a good cross-section of employees. I do not include supervisors in these groups unless I am meeting with that group in particular, because I find that employees cannot loosen up and open up with management present.

             

 One-on-one interviews

This is one of the most effective ways to gather raw feedback, particularly if they trust the interviewer and know that their feedback will remain anonymous. This is where the rubber meets the road with employee listening, because I have found that employees rarely hold back.

Employee Happiness Audits

In many cases, human resources or some other internal resource may be the ones gathering this feedback. Unfortunately, more often than not, employees don’t trust those internal stakeholders for a variety of reasons. In this case, it may make total sense to bring in an outside consultant to use some of the methods above to gather unfiltered feedback. This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but often the outside consultant is perceived as non-affiliated or non-interested, and thus, automatically garners more trust. You will know what will work for your organization when the time arrives.

What will you do after you have listened?

So, what will you do with the feedback once you gather it?

What is your plan of action?

Yes. One key reason you are asking the questions you are asking should be so that you can respond to your employees’ specific needs and suggestions.

The absolute worse thing you could do is to gather feedback and then just sit on it and do or say nothing at all about it again. This will be the fastest way to breakdown trust between the organization and the people who keep it moving forward.

You may also never “hear” from them again.

Here are a few things to consider in this regard:

Who decides what gets fixed?

Have you established some type of governing body that can review the feedback or employee suggestions and decide what gets fixed or acted upon? Please do not just keep all of the feedback housed with the senior leadership team and expect that they will have time to make needed improvements.

Should they be a part of the deciding team? Yes, but there are other key influencers that should be a part of the process as well.

Who is accountable to act?

So, once you have decided who will be a part of the reviewing body, you will also need to know who is responsible to act on the feedback?

Would it be beneficial to have the leaders directly responsible for the area or teams providing the specific feedback to be the ones to lead the improvement efforts? Alternatively, should you appoint non-interested persons to lead the improvement efforts? These questions and more are things to consider when considering who is accountable to follow-thru on the feedback

How do you track improvements?

This can be easy or this can be hard. Much of the difference rests on the internal tools that are available to “close the loop” and track efforts that are taken to act on the feedback.

No matter what tools are available, someone has to facilitate the creation of action plans and measure the success of improvement efforts above organization. If you leave this part of the listening strategy to chance, you might as well never ask the question. It is in the acting upon the listening that trust is built and culture is curated.


Heather R. Younger, J.D. is the best-selling author of, The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty and founder of Customer Fanatix, an organizational development firm whose mission is to inspire leaders to use their employees’ voices to create more loyalty and engagement. Heather does this through corporate workshops, executive coaching, personalized consulting and her speaking engagements. If you want to learn more about setting up your own employee listening strategy, you can contact Heather at her website at customerfanatix.com, or at heather@customerfanatix.com.

Heather

Growth activities that can be life (and tax) changing

By Kerry Alexander

Growth isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, companies expend a great deal of energy and resources deciding which pursuits will move the needle the furthest toward achieving specific goals, and where to prioritize their time and investment.

Oftentimes sales and use tax gets left out of this equation, especially when it doesn’t appear to directly correlate to the task at hand. Certain growth activities, like adding new locations, products, or sales channels, instinctively signal a need to alter sales and use tax compliance practices. With others like financing rounds, acquisitions, or technology platform changes, tax implications aren’t as obvious and therefore are more likely to be overlooked. Yet these are often the situations where compliance strategies can have the greatest and most lasting impact.   

Below is a brief glimpse of how sales and use tax compliance can come into play for 3 business growth activities that can be life (and tax) changing: financing events, M&A, and technology platform integration projects.  Here’s what you should be aware of when going through these processes. 

Financing events

For any financing event, public or private, investors look closely not only at how you plan to grow the business, but also how you are managing it now. Poor sales tax management practices or unfavorable audit outcomes can impact valuation, jeopardize funding, or even nullify deals. High visibility events like funding rounds and IPOs can also bring your business to the attention of state auditors looking to draw in more tax dollars.

Mergers and acquisitions

The meshing together of people, assets, systems, and processes is no simple feat. So, it’s not surprising that business integration issues following M&A transactions are one of the biggest things keeping company execs up at night.  Between due diligence, integration, accounting/financial reporting, and post-acquisition compliance, who has time for the minutia of sales tax? It can be easy to overlook tax obligations or liabilities, which can raise red flags with investors early in the process, or with auditors later.

Technology platform changes, consolidations or upgrades

During change events, it’s good practice to evaluate your financial systems and fill any gaps with new solutions or functionality that can advance your growth objectives. For example, tax automation software that unites critical transaction data from disparate systems and processes can alleviate compliance issues during post-merger integrations, reducing audit risk and avoiding delays in closing the books.

Download the complete whitepaper for further insights from leading industry leaders.

Permission to reprint or repost given by Avalara. Content previously published at www.avalara.com/blog.

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Old is Gold, or is it?

Old is Gold, or is it?

by Tasneem Esmael

Brainstorm-Cover

Not in the world of technology. If we were to live by our ancestral standards, technology would not see the light of day. That does not mean that everything old is not gold; it just means that the definition changes across the spectrum of how it is used and delivered by various authorities.

With the introduction of Enterprise Resource Planning software solutions in the market, many companies have been revamping and rethinking their business processes with a fresh new outlook.

There are a few things to consider when business strategy is restructured.

Legacy Systems and the cost of their upkeep

Management should ask themselves the importance of what is important- Core Systems or Key Processes. The sooner a resolution is reached the better. After all, long term financial planning helps companies bring together ideas that are knowledgeable and thought-provoking, which can lead to better results.

Involvement of Business from the onset of the Implementation Planning

Implementation of new technology on a company-wide scale involves many departments: IT, Marketing, Finance, HR, Legal, Sales, Purchasing and so on. Most of the decisions sit with the IT department as they are the ones who are responsible for executing the change of a new product or an enterprise solution. While more often than not the final decision takes place within the IT department, cross-functional representation of all the key stakeholders is essential for a seamless and successful implementation.

Tax is crucial and should not be an oversight

There have been many times during the initial phase of implementation planning where the tax department is not involved. With tax being one of the last functions in the downstream systems, its relevance is not considered vital. It is a good practice to have a dialogue with the tax manager of how the department will be affected by the new change and get an insight on how tax functions would need to be incorporated in the bigger picture of an ERP implementation.

The buy-in of all the stakeholders in the project

Checking in with the stakeholders of the company is vital. Resistance to change is not an option when it comes to the idea of change for the better, and having everyone on board helps ensure a smoother transition. A communication grid that is broadcasted well across the management of all departments and employees should also be created.

It is an old saying, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Representation of all the cross-functional departments is important, but at the same time a leader should be chosen amongst each cross-track unit. Finance, Accounting, Tax and Revenue could be one unit, who can speak on their behalf and minimize the involvement to a degree where decisions do not become a juggling ball but a repository of conclusive responses to be refined.

Moreover, the initial design should not be battled over too much, but rather fine-tuned to a standard platform design. Later on, any scenarios where custom requirements need to be met should be handled on a case by case basis. This will help to reduce untimely overhead and an enormous list of requirements that needs to be designed into the new system before the implementation is finalized.

Prioritizing what is more important is the key to making a better judgement, so that the new technology can be implemented without a big dent in the budget and the custom designs can follow the course in due time.

Uprooting an old infrastructure and installing a new system in place is not a child’s play, but as technology becomes pervasive more and more companies are taking the high road to change. It is important to exercise best practices. If these have not been developed they should be laid out before any initial planning is undertaken. Outsourcing help from an implementation partner is essential but even after years of experience building ERP empires in different industries, sometimes an outsider might not bring in the magic wand to fix a company’s pervasive culture. An insider look into a company’s practices can reveal much needed answers that should not be overlooked nor demonetized!

 

Tasneem Esmael is the Principal Consultant at Taxnologi Solutions, LLC (“Taxnologi”). She has over 12 years of Financial Business, IT and Consulting experience helping clients with ERP implementations, re-engineering projects, sales and use tax and VAT automation.You can learn more about Tasneem on Taxnologi’s Featured Tax Consultants page. Questions and comments can be submitted by using the REQUEST link on the company’s Firm Profile, or by directly e-mailing her at tesmael@taxnologi.com.

Five Qualities of a Successful Manager

Five Qualities of a Successful Manager

By Tasneem Esmael

The “Divide and Conquer” strategy works well against your enemy on a battle field…but please leave it there. Your company/workplace is not your battle ground, it is a place where livelihood is earned.

  • It is more productive to work together as a team than working individually. Make sure each team member realizes the importance of their role, even if they are working on a section of a project alone.
  • Give each member the space, opportunity and time to excel in their respective role!
  • Each team member is a unique individual with their own style of being, learning and working: acknowledge that, and culture mutual respect between yourself and your team members.

 

Speak up for your team! They work for it and they have earned it.

  • If your team has worked on a project that fails the management review, make sure to defend the good aspects of it and then bring back constructive feedback.
  • Peer review is a good thing, but should not always be mandatory. Be sure to promote healthy, safe reviews that provide constructive criticism.
  • Judge each of your team members on the final product of their work, but also on the process. Even if the end product is not perfect, give your team praise on the aspects they did well on.

 

Knowledge is an asset in the minds of those who hold it, acquiring that knowledge is a privilege.

  • Training those with less experience is essential. It helps the learner and the trainer alike. Encourage your experienced employees to voluntarily train and help others.
  • Volunteer yourself to train people on your team! A task delegated to your team members for the same should not be viewed as volunteering but should be rewarded if volunteered.

 

To Err is to be human. We all make mistakes and can make amends to them.

  • Create an environment where mistakes are viewed as a learning experience, and a springboard for improvement.
  • Anyone from the lowest ranked worker to the top management can make a mistake. If you make one, be sure to take responsibility for it and let your team know. Not only will it help strengthen your team bond, it will help set a good example.

 

Our job applications say, “EOE – Equal Opportunity Employer.” What about EOM – Equal Opportunity Manager?

  • Favoritism brings down morale, and should be avoided at all cost.
  • Whether someone is full-time, part-time, anytime, employee, contractor or independent…everyone needs an EOM. Don’t focus all of your energy on the people you work with on a daily basis.

Tasneem Esmael is the Principal Consultant at Taxnologi Solutions, LLC (“Taxnologi”). She has over 12 years of Financial Business, IT and Consulting experience helping clients with ERP implementations, re-engineering projects, sales and use tax and VAT automation.You can learn more about Tasneem on Taxnologi’s Featured Tax Consultants page. Questions and comments can be submitted by using the REQUEST link on the company’s Firm Profile, or by directly e-mailing her at tesmael@taxnologi.com.

Uncle Sam and You!

Uncle Sam and You!

By Tasneem Esmael

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To some degree we can save ourselves with the virtue of Tax. Tax is a great way to sustain our society and help rebuild our nations. It helps to align our resources and direct them into proper channels. If tax were to be used as a vehicle of redemption, there is no better way to re-lift a struggling society from its abyss. I know you must be saying, “Really…which world are you coming from, I struggle to pay my taxes!” Did I just hear a grumble, a snarl! I hear you, but let’s analyze what tax does for us.

How do you make tax work for you?

A few good things about tax to remind us during the tax season:

Your roads are built, maintained and paid for by state and local road funds replenished by your tax dollars.

– Tax has a long history of building roads. With the Industrial Revolution came railways, and over time the reach of man quadrupled. Men started building cars, steel bridges, underpasses, underground bullet trains, steamboats and then finally airplanes and rockets.

Your public schools benefit from your tax dollars which in turn helps building our future and sustain employment.

– Let’s consider an income of a median family with two or more kids. Our tax dollars help such families give their kids a better education and better lives so that they can grow up to become responsible adults, who would be capable of earning a livelihood and don’t end up on streets.

Your tax dollars also go to fund law-enforcement and Department of Health and Human Services.

– Back in the 1800s the first Income Tax was levied to help pay for the Union War effort by Congress. If we travel a bit further down in history, we will find that from Chinese to Greeks to Egyptians to Romans they all levied some form of tax to mostly pay for military, law enforcement and to help built their Empires.

Your county or local municipality gets a percentage of share from taxes collected

– Counties provide from libraries to healthcare services. They also help state governments to keep law and order and collect taxes. They provide for our basic needs like water supply, wastewater treatment, police and fire protection, garbage collection, planning and zoning and building inspections. Some municipalities offer additional services like airports, auditoriums, bus systems, cemeteries, electric or gas systems, parks and recreation programs, public housing, and traffic control.

I hope my small effort to shed light on what taxes do for you will help you “bite the bullet” easier this tax season and in the years to come!

Tasneem Esmael is the Principal Consultant at Taxnologi Solutions, LLC (“Taxnologi”). She has over 12 years of Financial Business, IT and Consulting experience helping clients with ERP implementations, re-engineering projects, sales and use tax and VAT automation.You can learn more about Tasneem on Taxnologi’s Featured Tax Consultants page. Questions and comments can be submitted by using the REQUEST link on the company’s Firm Profile, or by directly e-mailing her at tesmael@taxnologi.com.

Reaching The Safe Harbor with Technology

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Reaching the Safe Harbor with Technology

By Tasneem Esmael

Your future is a mirage but if there is one thing that is certain, it is called ‘Technology’. Technology is synonymous to money in a way. I am sure we all have heard the phrase, “Money is the root of all evils.” Technology can be used with the same reference by the orthodox, religious zealots. There is an Arabic verse, translation of which, says it for me, “Your deed is defined by your motive.”

So, what is your motive to invest in technology? Less carbon emission in the air will make our air cleaner. Therefore, investing in renewable energy is a good thing. Technology is bringing the world together, closer, more intimately intertwined. A friend in Pakistan recently remarked, “The world is a global village.” The days of segregated systems, departmental chaos, and information silos is over. Most of us in the industry are familiar with this phenomenon called ‘ERP.’ Enterprise Resource Planning. It is a system that helps small, medium and enterprise size businesses become leaner, smarter and agile by better managing company’s resources. ERP helps to achieve knowledge management in an organization. With ERP we integrate tax automation systems that help to simplify the world of taxation. Before we analyze how technology helps with KM, let’s first analyze what is knowledge management:

1) Data

An organization gathers data. Data can be static, factual, discrete, unprocessed and unorganized

2) Information

Refined form of data is information which is more meaningful

3) Knowledge

Knowledge is the acquired form of human learning and experience. It is not information and information is not data. But knowledge is acquired from information and information is acquired from data.

How ERPs and Tax Automation softwares help with Knowledge Management is by bringing people together from different departments on one platform, recognizes their intellectual capacities and leverages their wisdom in a company-wide system.

It is important to note that an ideal organization is one where a conducive and unpolitical environment is provided for a smoother exchange of knowledge across functional areas by using technology and established processes. A successful leadership knows how to manage the overlapping factors that is people, organizational processes and technology. None of the three areas can function independently of one another.

So, your motive to invest in technology was to manage your company’s knowledge by the use of ERP and/or a Tax Automation software. There are a few things to keep in mind that I encountered on my various ERP and Tax software implementations to be essential tools of investments for managing knowledge:

1) Change Management

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it. It sure is not. It involves letting everyone know who is going to be effected by the change; that you are going to make a change before you make it. No, you don’t pick up the mic and announce it. It is quite an involved system. It is a process. 1. First you propose in writing what the change is about. 2. You identify the right candidates of the change who will be affected by it. 3. Then you notify them about the change. 4. Explain them how they should effectively respond to accomplish this change 5. Keep them informed while you proceed to accomplish this change.

Two things are accomplished with utilizing this process:

a) Historical data of changing system processes is preserved

b) Leaves a trail of information for the new team or associates to act upon, saving time and company’s resources

2) Data Cleansing

It is one of the most relentless task at hand. Cleansing data is quintessential to a successful implementation, daily operation and error-free functioning of a system. A clean master data is important on the 1st day of go-live and few years down the road. Companies usually tend to forget with more important tasks at hand, they overlook the enormous data sitting in company’s systems taking space and creating clutter. It might be worthwhile to bring a fresh team on board just to clean and create a clutter-free environment if the task seems out of control for those who already have enough on their hand and there are only so many hours for the job. A re-engineering project team or consultants would make for a good investment.

3) Business Processes

Business Processes can become obsolete. A company needs to know when they should adapt to a newer version or newer and better technology. Some companies tend to keep legacy systems as it is for their strategic advantage or conform to the newer trends. Multinational and mid-sized companies tend to be more flexible with conforming to the newer trends to keep up with the industry’s ever-changing technology. It is the small to mid-size firms that tend to lag behind and overlook the necessity for change. If it makes for a good investment, it will be worthwhile to adapt to the changing world and become more techno prowess.

Investing in your future, may it be an individual, a group, a company or a nation is a worthy cause and a cause for much mind probing and thought provoking effort, an effort that should not be taken lightly but intelligently and with the right frame of mind will be a job well-done in the end.

Tasneem Esmael is the Principal Consultant at Taxnologi Solutions, LLC (“Taxnologi”). She has over 12 years of Financial Business, IT and Consulting experience helping clients with ERP implementations, re-engineering projects, sales and use tax and VAT automation.You can learn more about Tasneem on Firm’s Featured Tax Consultants page. Questions and comments can be submitted through the COMMENT feature following her posts – or by using the REQUEST link on the company’s Firm Profile.