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Innovating sales tax solutions for SMBs

Gayathri Narayan  Senior Director – Content Services, Indirect and Property Tax, Thomson Reuters

Gayathri Narayan  Senior Director – Content Services, Indirect and Property Tax, Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters fosters a culture of innovation, with a focus on creating solutions to address our customers’ problems. It’s a simple enough mandate, but in the world of tax, where regulations, rates and rules are in a constant state of change, creating innovative solutions that solve our customers’ challenges requires a systematic and agile approach.

Here’s a sneak peek at the process, featuring one of the latest innovations from Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.

SMB sales tax challenges

Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE, the industry’s leading tax technology platform, has historically focused on serving large businesses and enterprises. But in the indirect tax area of our business – which helps businesses manage the collection, processing and remittance of sales use –our team also seeks to address the growing needs of SMBs.

The complexity of keeping track of sales and use taxes creates a unique need for indirect tax expertise and process automation for SMB owners. Their key challenges include a lack of tax knowledge; lack of time for time-consuming processes; increased tax complexity as they expand their businesses; and lack of solutions that affordably fit their needs.

The opportunity

ONESOURCE has robust content and proven experience in indirect tax, including specific content to address the known challenges that businesses face, including tax return preparation and filing, as well as keeping up with constant changes in tax rules and rates across hundreds of jurisdictions.

However, since ONESOURCE Indirect Tax solutions have been historically designed to serve enterprises, we needed to design a way to deliver our solutions that would better fit the needs of SMBs.

Building the intersection between business challenge and opportunity

Our goal is to provide a solution that meets our customers’ needs to be informed, in control and confident in their process.

The process of staying up to date with constantly changing sales and use tax regulations is burdensome and time-consuming. Our experts need to do the heavy lifting, allowing business owners to be informed and focused on running their businesses. As SMBs grow, they need a solution that scales with them. Our solution would offer greater transparency into their operations. With ONESOURCE’s history as a trusted source of information for 87% of the Fortune 500, SMB owners can be confident in their tax process, founded on the experience and knowledge of our sales and use tax experts.

In addition to the strength of the solution, the delivery method also has to fit the needs of SMBs. Because SMB owners are often on the go and on a tight schedule, they require easy-to-implement and easy-to-use solutions.

The answer

With the above goal in mind, we were determined to build a step-by-step solution to guide customers from registration to tax returns at an affordable cost. The solution would save considerable time for business owners by automating part of the process and would help them to easily find answers to their sales tax questions.

Moreover, the cloud solution would be exclusively available through an online platform, making it easy for business owners to purchase, implement, use and access it anywhere on the Web.

The process

To bring this idea to market, we submitted a proposal for consideration through the Thomson Reuters Catalyst Fund, a program designed to encourage innovation and to provide the funding, process and transparency to advance great business ideas at Thomson Reuters.

In order for an idea to be selected as a Catalyst Fund project, it must demonstrate a clear value proposition and address a customer problem. Once an idea has been chosen for support from the Catalyst Fund, the corresponding team receives funding and access to expert resources to develop a proof of concept, followed by a prototype, before going to market. During the development process, the Catalyst Fund idea teams receive guidance and feedback from Catalyst Fund sponsors and Thomson Reuters leadership to facilitate the process.

The solution

After thorough market research, launch of the proof of concept and a pilot program with customers, our team has developed an online solution as part of ONESOURCE Indirect Tax to address the needs of businesses. The new solution provides:

  • Transparency through content for all 50 states, including product taxability, rate charts, sales tax rate automation and other information
  • A cost-effective, semi-automated solution to manage sales tax compliance in a simplified way through a trusted platform
  • Step-by-step guidance on whether an SMB owner needs to collect and pay sales tax and a do-it-yourself manual solution

Looking ahead

The SMB tax department of the future will need to match the pace of their business and be available and accessible wherever business owners are. Our team will continue to speak to SMB owners and accounting professionals about their tax challenges and will remain responsive and agile to continue to address their evolving needs through innovation.

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