Customer case study

Zillow Group moves fast and thinks big on sales tax

“Within a couple of hours, we had our development sandbox up and we were evaluating transactions.”

– Jason Heckel, Senior Director of Tax, Zillow


Tax challenges

  • Rapid growth
  • Increasing complexity
  • Compliance
  • Time-consuming, manual process

Business systems

  • Zuora

Products

Results

  • Easy integration
  • Confidence in compliance
  • Future-proofing for growth

Rapid growth leads to new challenges

In just a dozen years, Zillow Group went from upstart to power player in the age-old game of real estate. The company serves consumers in every stage of owning and living in a home — renting, buying, selling, and financing — and operates one of the most popular suites of real estate apps on mobile. Its experts are regularly called upon by major news outlets to comment on the housing market.

Zillow Group’s rise from Seattle startup to national juggernaut is no accident. “One of our core values is ‘move fast and think big,’” says Jason Heckel, Senior Director of Tax for Zillow Group. “We try to operate quickly and be very efficient in everything we do.”

When ‘business as usual’ is no longer sustainable

For all its bold, forward-thinking ways, the company got by for many years using old-fashioned, manual processes to manage its sales tax obligations. But when Zillow Group acquired Trulia in 2015, its tax dynamic shifted dramatically, increasing the company’s potential exposure. This spurred Jason’s team to reevaluate its compliance situation.

“I try to stay in front of anything that might pose a tax risk to the company,” Jason explains. “Your exposure only grows as time goes on. Our business was expanding, and we could see that it was just going to increase. We knew we needed a better solution.”

Finding a solution that checks all the boxes

Zillow Group’s search for a comprehensive solution was driven primarily by the desire for easy integration with its existing business systems — solving the tax problem doesn’t help if it creates new headaches for IT and users. Jason also wanted an all-in-one solution, rather than piecing together individual tools from multiple vendors.

“I contacted several vendors,” remembers Jason. “Some had a software solution, but not a compliance team that could produce the returns. Some were vice-versa. I knew we needed a software solution that was easy to use, easy to plug in, and had the backend side of tax compliance Zillow Group needed.” In the end, Jason asserts, the choice was easy.

Avalara’s team walked Jason’s team through the solution, making sure everyone understood it fully and clearly. “The implementation was really smooth,” says Jason.

Looking forward to future growth

Risk mitigation is the primary benefit for Jason and his team. “Sales tax, because it’s based on revenue, is the elephant in the room,” says Jason. “If you’re not compliant, it can get real ugly, real fast. Avalara, in that regard, helps me sleep better at night.” 

Automation also has its advantages as Zillow Group’s business continues to grow in size and complexity. The company’s revenue has roughly tripled over the past four years. “It’s not slowing down,” says Jason. “We just publicly announced another pending acquisition, and the ability to take in a new revenue stream, port it into Zuora, and immediately be compliant — that scalability is really nice.”


Avalara Sales Tax Suite

Avalara supports quick deployment by providing over 600 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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