Customer case study

Boll & Branch does “what’s right” with Avalara Included

“I don’t lose sleep worrying about late or misfiled taxes and penalties, and Avalara keeps us up-to-date as requirements change.”

– Robin Hecht, Controller, Boll & Branch


Tax challenges

  • Compliance risk due to growth
  • Growth and Wayfair complicate sales tax further

Business systems

  • NetSuite
  • Shopify Plus

Products

  • Avalara Included


Results

  • Simplified tax calculation and filing
  • Significant effort eliminated
  • Peace of mind, confidence

Sales tax calculations fully integrated with Shopify Plus—on a single bill

Boll & Branch was founded in 2014 with a simple mission: to produce sheets that feel good, inside and out. The business vision has evolved since then, adding clothing and accessories to their line, but the spirit in which it was founded remains. 

The entire operation — from sourcing organic materials and dyes to delivering heirloom-quality design — is geared toward quality, sustainability, authenticity and fair-trade practices. “We don’t do what’s easy,” the web site says. “We do what’s right.”

That same ethos guides the way the company’s finance department approaches its sales tax obligations. As the Boll & Branch customer base grows state by state — especially in the wake of South Dakota v. Wayfair — Controller, Robin Hecht, is decidedly front-footed when it comes to compliance.

The company’s website, bollandbranch.com was launched in February 2014. At the time, the company had a warehouse in California and its headquarters in New Jersey. “Filing in just two states was a very painful process,” Robin remembers, “especially for California, which is probably the most complicated state.”

The process involved generating reports from the credit-card platform, and then manually moving that data into the filing forms for each state. “I dreaded every time I had to do one of those returns,” says Robin.

In April of 2016, Boll & Branch moved its warehouse to Massachusetts, and its credit-card platform to Shopify Plus, which came with Avalara Included, which handles sales tax calculations as an embedded function within Shopify Plus, presenting customers with a single interface and a single bill. Robin chose the add-on option to have Avalara file the company’s returns as well, and things were working well. Until Wayfair changed everything.

The first sales tax notice Boll & Branch received around the time of the Wayfair decision came from the State of Washington. “That was the beginning of the avalanche,” says Robin. After consulting with her outside accounting firm, Robin engaged them to begin a nexus study that, in her words, really opened the floodgates as they discovered the “gray areas” that exist between physical nexus and economic nexus. 

“There were all these things that we didn’t know, that most people don’t know,” she says. “For example, if you go to a trade show and are there for more than two days, you have nexus. Every online retailer is in the same boat, trying to comply with nexus rules that are complex and evolving.”

At the same time, the sales tax notices began flooding in from other states. Robin, who had been going online and registering with each state as the first trickle of notices arrived, soon found her small department overwhelmed. “I learned that Avalara had a third-party relationship with a company that would handle those registrations for us,” she says, “so I started to use Avalara for that as well.”

The company is now registered in 38 states and Robin expects to be registered in all 50 states by the end of 2019. The big push came in November 2018. “The nexus study was still going on, and we have our biggest sale of the year the week of Black Friday,” Robin recalls. “I knew that if I didn’t get the jurisdictions turned on before then, we’d be exposed to potential out-of-pocket tax payments.” 

Automating her sales tax calculations has given Robin peace of mind. “I don’t lose sleep worrying about late or misfiled taxes and penalties,” she says. “And Avalara keeps us up-to-date as requirements change.” 

Robin also appreciates the savings of time and labor. “I can’t imagine how many hours it would take a person to sort out all of the applicable taxes for so many cities, counties and states.”

Working with Avalara, Robin has become quite fluent in sales tax compliance — so much so, that she is now helping a wholesale partner work through their obligations. “We’re going to be A+ students in the sales tax zone very soon,” she laughs. 

As Boll & Branch expands its channel, Robin plans to license Avalara CertCapture to keep track of resale certificates. “We might even start selling internationally someday,” Robin muses, “and expanding our own retail footprint in the U.S. When that happens, I’m comfortable having Avalara deal with that stuff for us, too. I’ve been super happy with everything, and we get amazing support and guidance from the people at Avalara.”

“We asked our accounting firm to register us in the state of California. When we checked, the majority of the registrations were already done by Avalara business licensing and Avalara charged half the price of what our accounting firm charged.”


Avalara Sales Tax Compliance Suite

Avalara supports quick deployment by providing over 700 pre-built integrations to business applications.

Avalara AvaTax

Delivers sales tax calculations to your shopping cart or invoicing system, and aggregates your transaction data so you can calculate what you owe in Returns.

Avalara Returns

A filing service so seamless you’ll barely lift a finger -- Returns pulls your data from AvaTax to prepare and file your returns. If you choose, we can even remit payments for you.

Avalara CertCapture

A seriously upgraded way to manage tax documents in the cloud for tidy, audit-ready records. Syncs with AvaTax to automatically apply exemptions at checkout.

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