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Company Spotlight: Avalara

Sacha Wilson, Senior Director EMEA Sales, Avalara

“Avalara simplifies and manages transactional tax compliance and rapidly changing reporting requirements when selling cross-border, allowing you to stay focused on your business while also maximizing your international selling opportunities and the customer experience.” 

Founders: Scott McFarlane

Date founded: 1999

Headquartered: Seattle, WA with offices across the US, UK, Belgium, India and Brazil

Employees: over 3,300

Customers:  Any retailer that sells goods or services internationally.

Clients include the likes of ASOS, Moonpig, FatFace, Acer and Rapha


What does your company do?

Avalara is a global tax technology company. Our cloud-based software helps companies automate and simplify tax compliance when selling internationally. We can help businesses of all sizes achieve compliance across a range of transactional taxes – from VAT, US sales tax, excise, digital services taxes and customs duties. This is especially important given the implications of Brexit for UK retailers looking to export / import and for any retailer looking for growth through international expansion.

What is your USP and how do you work?

There are some firms that help companies understand where they have tax obligations and get them registered for tax, some that offer software to calculate taxes in the checkout, some that focus on cross-border duties and some that focus on filing tax returns. Avalara is unique as we combine all those different services with compliance solutions covering all United Nations countries.

Which retailers do you work with?

We work with any company that sells goods or services internationally. This can range from pureplay ecommerce retailers to retailers with physical stores and software/technology companies to logistics, manufacturing and healthcare businesses. Any company that sells a product from one country into another faces complex tax compliance issues and we can help them to manage that, allowing them to focus on their business instead. Our customers include ASOS, Moonpig, FatFace, video game platforms like Unity, IT brand Acer and cycling specialist Rapha.

What have been the main points in your expansion?

Our technology was originally built to manage the complexities of US Sales Tax which can be a challenge for anyone looking to sell into the market. However, we’ve expanded our remit hugely since then. Since I joined seven years ago, we have been aggressive in our expansion, both through acquisition of other companies and building integrations to platforms where transactions take place. We currently have over 700 pre-built connectors to ecommerce, marketplace, ERP, CRM billing and accounting platforms. We also cover a range of taxes and verticals, including retail, digital services, communications, lodging and alcohol.

What challenges are you addressing for multichannel retailers looking for expansion overseas?

Retailers are hungry for growth and want to take advantage of the shift by consumers online. International markets provide huge opportunities for them but come with the complexity of very different tax structures. To ensure they can expand internationally successfully, as well as trade in changing markets such as Europe, retailers must understand their tax implications, ensure they are collecting and filing the right taxes and check that they are not over/under-charging. If they don’t it’s the customer that can end up paying – literally. That in turn can impact the customer experience and their likelihood to shop with that retailer again. We take that headache of compliance away from retailers– allowing them to focus on the business of selling internationally rather than the complexities of different tax structures.

How are you using emerging technology to support retail growth?

As a technology company emerging technology is key to our offer. One example is how we use AI in some of our solutions. For instance, our Cross-Border Item Classification solution assigns commodity codes to product catalogues to facilitate cross-border shipping. Customers submit detailed product information and the AI engine matches the most likely 10 digit HS codes. Using AI allows for a fast turnaround, critical when orders are waiting to be shipped. If there is no direct match, the decision is passed to a team of experts-as-a-service, ensuring we combine the agility of technology with the sense-check capabilities of a human. This is all then fed back into the engine to continually improve efficiency over time.

We also use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) internally to help with compliance processes to file tax returns faster for customers, as well as update ever-changing global tax rules ensuring the software always delivers the most accurate tax rates.

What do you see as challenges for retailers and suppliers in the near future?

Retailers have already seen huge challenges as they have tried to master the new complexities of selling into the EU following Brexit. And, as they look to other markets such as the US there are also challenges, especially with the country clamping down on sales tax enforcement on remote sellers. There is a constant process of changing legislation, as well as a move to the Italy/Brazil/India models of e-invoicing where we are seeing governments wanting greater visibility of tax at point of purchase rather than in a later filing period. These are all commendable steps designed to minimise tax fraud but can prove hugely challenging for retailers to manage.

What targets are you aiming to achieve in the next five years?

We are on a trajectory to be a billion-dollar business within the next two years. To do this we will continue to drive internal efficiencies, integrate to even more platforms and expand our portfolio of solutions to provide even more value to our customers. We recently acquired London based Impendulo for example, which will allow us to expand into the insurance tax industry, and there are many more areas to follow.

Join Sacha at Avalara’s Virtual Ecommerce Summit on May 6th  to find out how to expand into new international markets.

Follow the link to register for free::

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