For CRUSH AUSTIN 2017, Avalara’s national tax compliance conference on May 2–3 in Austin, Texas, we sat down with one of the conference speakers, John Sallese, a tax business consultant with Avalara. In this Q&A, John discusses his session, the challenges and complexity surrounding filing tax returns, and what he is most looking forward to at this year’s conference.

The title for your session at CRUSH AUSTIN is “Filing Returns in the ‘Problem’ States.” What are the key concepts you hope attendees take home?

Filing a sales and use tax return may seem like an easy concept, but the challenge is in the details. When you leave my session, you will understand:

  • The importance of sales tax versus sellers use tax
  • Why it can matter what tax type you change
  • The importance of reconciliation
  • Why outlet or store locations can be crucial to correct returns filing

Accounting professionals and business owners are attending CRUSH 2017; why would they need to know more about filing returns in the “problem” states to better serve their clients or get their job done?

Filing tax returns can be a labor-intensive process. However, if you have the right process in place, believe it or not, there really are no problem states. If the correct reporting and automation are taken into consideration, most issues around problem states can be eliminated.

Why do you feel businesses ignore, or are unaware of, filing sales and use tax, and what potential ramifications do businesses face? 

When looking at compliance processes, most companies judge the efficiency of this process by how much time it takes to get the returns out the door. Companies don’t consider the time required to update tax rates, respond to state requests for more information, research new state tax rules as a company expands, or organize the return information and related backup schedules for an audit, if that should happen. Going through a state audit will be a cost to company management, even if nothing is ever found.

What is one of the points from your session you think is the most impactful?

A properly set-up, automated compliance process addressing the tax calculation in your billing systems, and one that captures all the required information for filing returns, will almost always eliminate any issues with filing in the problem states.

How do you feel technology helps speed sales tax compliance and reporting?

I have been doing sales tax automation work for the better part of 22 years, and I have worked as a tax manager in industry, managing manual and automated tax processes. I can truly say, from a very objective point of view, that tax automation is not a “nice to have”; it’s a requirement for expanding businesses. Having a tax service take ownership of updating a company’s tax rates and rules, along with filing the tax returns, can greatly free up a tax department’s time from handling mundane tasks. All a tax department has to worry about is making sure its general ledger reconciles back to the audit history in our system.

What are you looking forward to most at CRUSH AUSTIN?

It is always great to get out from behind my desk and see the customers who are using Avalara’s service offerings. I really look forward to meeting and talking to them about how our service offerings can help make sales tax less taxing.

Join John Sallese for his session, “Filing Returns in the ‘Problem’ States,” on May 2. For more information on CRUSH AUSTIN 2017, visit our website that includes all conference sessions, speaker bios, and location information.