In this series, we introduce you to the people behind the technology that is revolutionizing sales tax management. At Avalara, we use technology to take on the arcane, mysterious task of sales tax, from calculation to reporting and remitting. We make sales tax less taxing.
Raquel Trinidad is a Senior Tax Analyst at Avalara’s Washington D.C. office, a member of the Content Team. She’s been on the job for five years, tirelessly researching sales tax laws and integrating new content into Avalara’s calculation engine.
What do you do?
“I research sales tax law and help maintain Avalara’s database of taxability rules. The Content Team helps answer the question, ‘Is this product or service subject to sales tax?’”
What would your rapper name be?
Describe a typical day in the life of a Senior Tax Analyst.
“My job combines two things that I really love: reading and Excel. Half my time is spent reading sales tax news from several resources…. The other half is translating those laws into a format that our calculation engine understands.”
How did you get here?
“I have my bachelor’s in Economics from the University of Virginia. I worked for the Washington Post, first in the Circulation Accounting Department and then in Reporting and Analysis. After the Post, I held a sales tax position in a local public accounting firm. It was a pivotal moment in my sales tax career because that’s where I met Isie Wong and Arminder Kaur. When they left, they told me about their new employer, Avalara. For most of my five years at Avalara, I had one hand in Compliance (filing returns) and the other hand in Research. It was only at the beginning of 2013 that I had the opportunity to focus on research.”
What two celebrities would you pick to be your parents?
“Beyonce and Jay-Z.”
What bothers you most about sales tax? What do you find most challenging?
“The inconsistency of resources across the states is what bothers me.” Some states have “many great, accessible resources that make it easy to research a top.” Others “barely have a website up and running. It’s a real challenge to get an answer for those particular states, but when you find even a little bit of information, it’s the best feeling.”
Which U.S. State would you get rid of?
“No comment. What if I run for office one day?”
What is the first word you think of when I say “sales tax”? The second word?
“Returns and the 20th (the standard deadline to file).”
What has surprised you most about working with sales tax?
“The extreme level of detail in some tax laws. For example, the treatment of candy. Some states don’t tax food but they do tax “candy;” but an item is not considered “candy” if it contains flour. I know it’s all political, but you have to wonder who sat up one night and asked, ‘How can we split this split hair?’”
Raquel’s sales tax tip:
“Don’t mess with Texas. The folks at the TX Comptroller’s office are trained very, very well in their jobs, and they will help you as long as you do EVERYTHING they tell you to do. If you don’t pay your taxes, they will come after you. I’ve heard of sales tax notices being nailed on doors, liens, and frozen bank accounts in Texas. Don’t mess with Texas.”
Orange is Avalara’s color. What’s the craziest orange thing you’ve ever seen?
“One time I saw a (white) dog dyed orange at the groomer’s.”
What is the number one thing you see businesses struggle with when it comes to sales tax?
“Keeping up with sales tax law and rates changes…but that’s what Avatax is for.”