Customer case study

BRANY stays smart on sales tax with AvaTax

“I honestly don’t know what we would have done without Avalara. We certainly would have needed to expand our staffing in order to manage all of this complexity. Avalara has been seamless.”

– Joanne Nicholson, EVP & CFO, BRANY

Tax challenges

  • Rapid growth drives sudden complexity
  • Acquisitions result in multiple business systems
  • Products and services taxed differently

Business systems

  • QuickBooks Desktop
  • Home-grown ecommerce system



  • Tax compliance sets stage for continued growth
  • Easy integration to current, diverse business systems
  • Expanded offerings taxed appropriately

Tax compliance allows confident, diverse growth

Biomedical Research Alliance of New York (BRANY) is a national organization that supports sponsors and investigators involved in research in a wide variety of therapeutic areas, medical devices, and biological and diagnostic trials. At its founding more than 20 years ago, BRANY worked primarily with hospitals and academic medical centers in the greater New York City area.

Over time, BRANY’s offering has grown, as has its footprint. A couple of key acquisitions moved the company into online education in the clinical and social behavioral research space, as well as onsite and remote consulting for research compliance programs, and multiple business systems. With new services came new geographic markets and new complexity, especially around taxability. “Those two acquisitions made us national,” says Joanne Nicholson, Executive Vice President and CFO at BRANY. “Suddenly we were selling online courses all over the country and we had consultants in several states.”

In a very short period of time, BRANY went from being registered for sales tax in one state to 28 states and counting. Since different states tax these services differently, Joanne knew that BRANY needed a solution to streamline the process of sales tax calculation — and to mitigate risk. Programming BRANY’s homegrown ecommerce system to do the calculations would be difficult and would not ensure the accuracy they needed.

“We talked to several people, including our auditors, and the first name everyone mentioned was Avalara,” Joanne recalls. “One of my colleagues used Avalara in a previous company, so we really trusted that recommendation. Once we looked at the pricing and did some calculations, we knew Avalara was the right fit.”

Integrating with QuickBooks

BRANY needed Avalara AvaTax to integrate with its ecommerce system, as well as QuickBooks Desktop, which the company uses to invoice for online education services. And because certain states tax digital goods and online training differently, it presented a challenge.

“The QuickBooks integration was very, very easy,” says Joanne. “We got it done in two meetings, and the only reason we needed two was because we had to get through the firewalls of a third-party provider that hosts all our IT functions.”

Integrating with BRANY’s homegrown ecommerce system took a little longer. According to Joanne, “We had to look at all of our services and carefully map them to each state’s taxability requirements. For example, West Virginia considers online education taxable unless it has a continuing education (CE) designation. We have courses that have CE accreditation, and courses that don’t. Making sure those kinds of customizations were done the right way was important up-front work we had to do, and the Avalara team was very helpful in providing guidance along the way. After that, the technical integration was very simple.” BRANY went live with AvaTax in January 2019.

Growing without fear

BRANY, so far, has triggered economic or physical nexus in 28 states, but the company has reach into all 50 states. Joanne expects to trigger nexus in the remaining states very soon, as BRANY is enjoying sustained double-digit growth and continuing to launch new products and services.

“One of the best things about using AvaTax is that it gives us the confidence to grow,” says Joanne. “Whether we’re adding states or services or both, knowing that we can handle the tax implications using Avalara allows us to grow without fear. We can comply in a timely and proactive way, rather than having to catch up after the fact.”

Joanne also appreciates the affordability, accuracy, and ease of use, along with the robust reporting capabilities available with AvaTax. Since BRANY has other divisions which aren’t using Avalara, the company exports data from AvaTax and does its own tax filing at the corporate level. 

“AvaTax gives us the tools to monitor our activity,” she says. “Without AvaTax, assessing whether we have triggered economic nexus in the remaining states would be a tedious, manual process, requiring significant staff hours.”

Joanne expects that BRANY will eventually outgrow QuickBooks and will transition to a new accounting system. She says that integration with Avalara will be a requirement for any system they consider. “I honestly don’t know what we would have done without Avalara,” she concludes. “We certainly would have needed to expand our staffing in order to manage all of this complexity. Avalara has been seamless.”

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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