Something to hold on to
R&B Wagner architectural handrail company gets an assist in dealing with sales tax

Manufacturing Case Study

R&B Wagner

With roots going back to the 1850s, R&B Wagner is a Wisconsin-based family business specializing in architectural handrails. The company's products are all around you — in elevators, stadiums, and anywhere you need a little extra help. The 150-employee company is in growth mode, recently completing expansion to all 50 states and further development in to Canada. R&B Wagner offers a range of sales channels — including online purchasing — for its customers, many of whom qualify for sales tax exemptions.

Tax challenges
  • One-man accounting department
  • Exempt customers purchasing online
  • New nexus obligations
Business systems
  • ERP: Epicor
  • Ecommerce: Custom web portal
Avalara products
  • Avalara AvaTax
  • Avalara Returns
  • Avalara CertCapture
  • Avalara VendorCapture
  • Nexus Monitoring Services


  • Exemption certificate process is up to 40 percent more efficient
  • Maximizing productivity with streamlined staff
  • Managing compliance associated with nexus footprint

A one-man sales tax show

In the midst of this growth, R&B Wagner's accounting manager, CPA Dave Chermak, is the company's only full-time employee managing sales tax. Although he consults with outside accountants, Dave is the one responsible for tax compliance. He needs to accurately charge the right sales tax no matter where a sale occurs, manage exemption certificates, file returns across the country on various filing schedules, and stay on top of the company's growing nexus obligations. It's a big job — and Dave is the someone who has to do it.

The expansion of R&B Wagner's customer base means Dave must deal with an increasingly complex sales tax situation. As the company grows, so does the number of exemption certificates across channels; currently, there are approximately 11,000 in the company's system. A good portion of the company's sales are online, and those sales create challenges when exemptions are involved. These sales needed to be streamlined for both the company and its customers. Expansion has also resulted in new nexus obligations. Moving into a new location can create nexus in multiple jurisdictions, such as the city and the state. Each of these must be managed individually, including registration and filing monthly or quarterly returns.

The solution — Avalara sales tax tools

When Dave joined the company in 2014, Avalara's tax compliance suite — Avalara AvaTax, Avalara Returns, and Avalara CertCapture — was already being used at the company, although it wasn't fully  implemented or utilized. Dave wanted to maximize the suite's efficacy and found that making the most of Avalara's offerings was surprisingly simple. "The implementation was 10 times easier than we expected it to be," he said.

When Dave joined R&B Wagner, the company wasn't registered to file in some states where it was doing business. Once he set R&B Wagner up with those states, the company was able to turn returns filing over to Avalara Returns. Avalara Returns automatically files R&B Wagner's returns in every tax jurisdiction where it owes sales tax. R&B Wagner makes one payment to a secured account to cover the total amount of taxes owed, and Avalara takes care of making individual payments. Once Dave sends Avalara the sales information, he explained, "They do all the rest of the work. They basically set it up and stack it in the returns file ... Avalara Just takes it from there."

Dave also worked with R&B Wagner's dedicated Avalara account manager to set up CertCapture on online sales forms so customers could load their own exemption certificates. "In the past we would have to call the customer, have them send the form to us and then we put it in CertCapture. Giving customers the ability to load it themselves has been wonderful," Dave said. "The new process is up to 40 percent more efficient than the old one."

R&B Wagner also uses Avalara's nexus monitoring service to help reduce risk by monitoring the company's nexus obligations. When a sale occurs in a jurisdiction where R&B Wagner is not registered to collect and file sales tax, the transaction is flagged and Avalara alerts R&B Wagner. If registration in the new jurisdiction is required, Dave has the option to set it up himself or let Avalara take care of it. He called nexus risk mitigation "one of the top benefits" of partnering with Avalara.

Having a dedicated Avalara account manager has also been a great benefit for R&B Wagner. "She really worked hard to identify areas where we could improve or better use Avalara. We ended up with a better, more concise service that is helping me since have to deal with this every day."

Avalara sales tax suite

A complete, end-to-end sales and use tax compliance solution built to grow with your business
Avalara AvaTax

Automates the calculation of sales and use taxes.

Avalara Returns

Avalara Returns handles monthly sales and use tax filing, payments, and notice management.

Avalara CertCapture

Avalara CertCapture helps businesses collect, store, track, and utilize exemption certificates.

Tax automation results

If Dave didn't have Avalara's help, he would have to hire one or two more people to take on sales tax. Currently, he has a staff of three working in other areas, and he calls Avalara his "fourth employee." "Avalara is doing all the sales tax work essentially for me. All I have to do is collect the data and make sure it's been properly given to my fourth employee to handle and take care of."

Thanks to Avalara, Dave's day-to-day work on sales tax is minimal and he can spend more time working on finding process improvements for the business and making things easier for his other three employees. "The less have to think about sales tax, the better," he said.


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