MUNIRevs with Erin Neer
Hosts & Guests
Erin Neer, MUNIRevs
MUNIRevs with Erin Neer
Meredith Smith [00:00:02] Welcome to SALTovation. This Alteration show is a podcast series featuring the leading voices, Insult, where we talk about the issues and strategies to help you make sense of state and local tax. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the SALTovation podcast. Today, we are joined by Erin Neer, the founder and CEO of MUNIRevs. We are excited for our conversation with Erin today, especially given the changing landscape in our home state of Colorado as a state is in the process of being able to collect tax in our home jurisdictions via MUNIRevs Erin. Thank you so much for being with us here today.
Erin Neer [00:00:38] Absolutely. Thank you for having me.
Meredith Smith [00:00:40] And of course, SALTovations. Judy Vorndran. Hello, Judy. Hello, Meredith.
Judy Vorndran [00:00:44] Hello, Erin.
Meredith Smith [00:00:48] Erin, as we've mentioned, you're the founder and CEO of MUNIRevs. So tell us about your career that got you to where you are today.
Erin Neer [00:00:57] So I am an accountant by training, I have my bachelor's in accounting and then went through the CPA route and I'm actually a CPA. I started out actually in the hotel industry doing accounting for them. I ended that part of my career as the assistant controller for a hotel here in Telluride and then decided that I wanted to change. And so that's when I went and had my first opportunity at the local government level and started out as an accountant for the town.
Judy Vorndran [00:01:25] Wow. I knew some of that, but I didn't realize you worked in the hotel industry. And you know what? Crazy taxes. They have to work for them.
Erin Neer [00:01:37] It is for sure.
Meredith Smith [00:01:38] So then how long were you with Mountain Village?
Erin Neer [00:01:42] I was there for about five years. I ended my career with them as the finance director for the town. I actually after that, when I was the CEO and CFO for their sister organization, they have a master's away in the Telluride community that handles more real estate taxes and things like that. And then in that process, that's when I started thinking about Muni Rev's realizing that there was a challenge with the way that all the businesses were having to remit the taxes, how difficult it was for the town, for even tax collection at that owners association. And so that's the end of that is when I invented many reps and hired programmers to build it.
Judy Vorndran [00:02:24] So what do you mean? What was hard about it? Like why what? How it gets
Erin Neer [00:02:30] really. One of the first things I saw was the vacation rental industry actually coming from the hotel and then seeing it from the town's perspective. And it was 2010. So the RBA was just starting. Yeah. And here I am in Telluride, Colorado, and I knew that there was a lodging tax. They had a lodging tax on the books, they had a sales tax on the books. And I knew that these people there were all of a sudden hanging their shingle up as we are below that. We didn't know they needed to get a license. They needed to pay taxes. So I did my very first audit, actually, before I found many Rev's in 2010 in an Excel spreadsheet going through the Vig�rio website for the town of Telluride and then the town of Mountain Village there, kind of sister communities as well. And as I was doing that, I was actually calling these homeowners and reaching out and explaining to them the process. But I'm telling them to go find a PDF form, print it, know, check in the mail and let the town then process all of that. And I realized that that was crazy. And so that's really where the idea for materials came from.
Judy Vorndran [00:03:32] Fascinating. Yeah, it is. It is so brutal, isn't it, like just the expectation. I actually have a second home and I have always collected all of it in my lodging taxes, but most people do not because this is the business I work in. Right. So I've always been a licensee, but the license was really expensive. My place is at a town called Blue River, which is outside Breckenridge when they decided to put those two hundred dollars to get a license, that's a lot of money just for the privilege of giving them money. So but, you know, just figure it out. The nice rental, the cost, what should be taxed, is the cleaning fee taxable? Is there any extra charge that fee, you know, and the lodging itself, like, whoa, that's a lot of items that we invoice for over and above, just the nightly lodging. So it was kind of a twisted thing to figure out and get remitted properly. And there are multiple jurisdictions as a county, the city and the state.
Erin Neer [00:04:25] And if you're not an accountant like yourself, it's difficult. That's why they need your services. Right. And then and then finding out how to actually pay it if you've collected it. How do you actually take care of that? How do you remember to do your renewal? How do you stay compliant? Right. Yeah. Yeah.
Meredith Smith [00:04:39] So then, Erin, tell us what Muni Rev's is and then is the product of Muni Rev's as it is today. Is that the end goal of what you were hoping it would be? And then did it start out kind of as something else? So talk to us, because our listeners are probably not fully aware of the municipalities of sales tax for us in Colorado. It's very close to home because of all the home rules and, you know, just the crazy collection of our state. But, you know, just give us an overview of what Muni raises for those that may not know.
Erin Neer [00:05:19] So really, when I came up with the idea, my goal was to make licensing and tax as easy as possible for both the business and the jurisdiction. And that's the premise of it. It's an online system that a business can log in. And in their business center, it's very clear there's a punch list of almost everything they need to take care of for that jurisdiction. It could be a tax form. It could be a license form. We're going to send them email reminders to make sure they understand that even without logging in, so they can really stay on top of it and be a compliant business in their community. You know, with that on the other side of it, we needed a way to deliver the money to the. Taxing jurisdiction automatically without them having to go through and process paper checks, and we needed them to have robust reporting to be able to issue electronic licenses, and that's really what the system does, it's that full gamut. It could be a permit, a license, tax money, license fees, anything can come through the system. And both sides of the party, they're the business and the jurisdiction can do it all electronically, see it all electronically and handle it within the system. And remember, this is 2011, 10 years ago. You know, online payments were as robust as they are today. You know, we had to find the right gateway to use and really figure out how to automatically deposit those funds to the jurisdictions. And then in terms of what I envisioned today, obviously we've added so many new enhancements and releases since that first product version, whether it's notifications, models and running processes, estimated assessments, that kind of thing. I would say that what we have added more so in that time since then is additional products. I mentioned my very first Manuell vacation rental audit for the community, where we have taken that now. And it is a fully automated system that we've built a few years ago that cities all over the country utilize. They contract with us. We help them determine who is renting their vacation rental unit and then through our system, then let them know, hey, you need to get this tax form taken care of or this license taken care of. So it's basically an additional module that we built over the years and it works hand in hand with many reps. And then the other thing is that as we grow, we now have you know, I think we're pushing seventy thousand businesses that file their taxes, take care of their licenses and Mutty Rabs. So as we grew, we had businesses say, you know, can you make it easier? Can we get to, for instance, the Englewood, Colorado site and the Commerce City site all in one log in. And really, that's where our portals that we're delivering to states came from. The businesses that loved using millirems said, hey, can you take it one more step, make tax even easier again for us. And that's where we built the single filing portal where they can actually upload taxes in a single form and pay multiple jurisdictions in the single payment. And so we use that product to be used here in Colorado and then also in Alaska right now. And so that's where it's grown. It's just more module's and more needs because we listened to what our businesses and our clients needed us to build next.
Meredith Smith [00:08:17] We are here in Colorado in the process as a result of Wayfair. Right. We need to have the ability to have a central point of registration remittance in order to be kind of Wayfair compliant related to our home rule cities. So can you not violating any sort of, you know, agreement or whatnot, walk us through kind of what it's been like to work with the state in order to facilitate that ability to kind of fund our cities and make it easier for our cities and taxpayers, you know, with the Muni Rev's portal.
Erin Neer [00:08:57] Yeah, I would say that what I think is interesting about this is that the product and the solution that we've provided is more exciting today because of the wafer ruling. But when this process started in Colorado, where there wasn't even a glimmer yet, you know, it's been, what, five years with the task force and spending time on that well before Wayfair. And really the issue started from businesses here in Colorado that we're struggling with having to remit taxes to multiple jurisdictions. So that furniture company example. Right, they deliver a couch to all 70 home rule cities throughout the state. They have to file 70 tax returns individually now that month. So that's where the process started. So I guess I would just say that, you know, it has been a long road to get to where we are today. And I think we we had to go through that process to make sure that we all the compromising and or understanding that happened at that task force level, whether it was in the business community side, the state side or the home city side, to get to the point where we knew what solution should come first and needs to be done first. And then Wayfair was really the icing on the cake, really. We knew we needed to solve this already. The legislators already asked the Department of Revenue and such to solve it. And then having additional revenue come through the system because of Wayfair is almost a bonus. And it was almost secondary, wouldn't you say, Judy? I agree.
Judy Vorndran [00:10:19] But what I found and part of why I've been on this task force for all these years is so many people are just not complying. So the poor little cities are not getting their money because it's too difficult and costly. And like I was saying, I have a rental property in Breckenridge, which is in it in a subdivision called Blue River, which is a town, and it imposes a license and it's two hundred dollars to get the license just to give them their lodging tax. That's a lot of money to have a license to give tax as a homeowner and who rent their house out occasionally. So but of course, I complied and I did it. But it was like one more thing. I had to give the town the money. I have to give the county the money. I have to give the state the money. On one form, but the other, so just tracking all that, those licenses, it's a lot of work for and I do this for a living and I was like, oh my gosh, one more thing I got to do every month. Right. Track it all. Pay attention to it. So it was onerous for me as well. And I'm just a little person who actually can do it, you know what I mean? So, yeah. And then you've like you said, you've got you've got businesses that run on behalf of many homeowners with the barbell and all that. So we have lots of what we call, I would call them a marketplace. They're making a market on behalf of all these homes in order to provide this opportunity to stay. Airbnb certainly changes the character of how you and I stay remotely. I mean, when we first became RV owners just 16 years ago, we chose very new technology because staying at home was a very new thing. Airbnb made it like normal, right, because you rented out your room. Even so, it's really changed character about how you and I engage in new communities versus staying in a hotel. But I think the Otis's that you saw a lot of businesses that weren't located in the city. They didn't comply, even if they delivered, even if they put an AC system in, even if they did electricity construction, they're in there for a bit of time, not forever. So they don't comply. So they don't even know they should. So there's just a lot of challenges, I think, with lack of knowledge and certainly out of state, taxpayers don't have a clue that we have home rule cities. So you're selling to Coloradans and you are licensed in Colorado. You don't even think twice about the cities. That's certainly an issue for software like software is taxable at the city level. It's not taxable at the state level. So they follow the state law. They don't give the city their tax. I mean, it's a problem. And so what I thought was the cities are getting their due and enforcement, should it be a negative way to get tax out of vendors. So we needed a better system. But there was so much lack of trust in Colorado. As you're well aware, everybody is worried. We wouldn't situs it correctly. We wouldn't know where they were. We wouldn't apply the right rate. They would get their money fast enough. And as you are, you certainly it was interesting to me, Erin, all the time you would do presentations, how simple it was to them. I think everybody's like, there's no way it's this easy. But if you gold all the age and all the money. Right. And then the portal. And then that allows them to validate and get their money instantaneously within a very short period of time. So it just gave assurance. But I think that was also just the technology advances that have occurred over the last ten years. I mean, I have a Venmo account because of Meredith, because I paid my dog walker with it, and didn't even know what Venmo was. Now, you and I give money to each other for babysitting or splitting the bill through a whole new technology, which is mainstream for Americans. PayPal, I feel like was kind of the beginning of that. So I think that's really helped to make it easier for your solution to be adopted. But it certainly wasn't like they were just going to use you. That was another issue. You patients have been incredibly patient because it took the state and the cities. I think it was good that we have a third party meeting you because there's a different layer of accountability that doesn't exist at the government level. There's that layering of governments engaging with you. Cities are engaging with you, with taxpayers, engaging with you through a portal with the state. And there's just a little bit of a Push-Pull of like private and public, which I think is a hand in hand thing. And it creates a layer of accountability that gives assurance and builds trust. That's my sense of it. But I can't believe it took four or five years. I mean, people told me at the beginning I was going to take that long. I guess I didn't believe it, but it did.
Erin Neer [00:14:29] It sure did.
Meredith Smith [00:14:31] We have some of the home rule jurisdictions already using the Muni Rev's platform. Yes. To collect their municipalities sales tax and licensing and all that. Do you think that helped get some of the other jurisdictions over the hump or to establish that level of trust, to get those jurisdictions to sign on to the overall Colorado system? Because whatever jurisdiction can raise their hand and be like, hey, we've used them, it works. You know, our taxpayers love it. We love it. As a practitioner, I've reached out to munier us with a question and like have had an answer like right away and have just been really happy with just like a single jurisdiction system. So do you think that helped you get there on that system and get those municipalities like all of the other jurisdictions signed up?
Erin Neer [00:15:25] I do. You know, our clients were very vocal about that because they wanted to make sure, as Judy said, that the right solution was brought in, that they still maintain their home authority, that they still maintain the timeliness of their tax delivery. And they had worked with us for a decade. And so they were very vocal about recommending us and as you said, transferring that trust, so to speak. You know, it really helps. We serve, I think, 40 percent of the home roles they are in. And then I think it's forty five years too. Jones in Colorado, overall, that utilized many reps or lodging reps, and so that does help, you know, the community, the fine instructors all talk and the community planners talk. And once they know that we're the preferred resource are our clients trust us as much as they do, it really it really helped overcome any concerns there
Meredith Smith [00:16:14] if they're not on muni roofs, because that's kind of where I think it is generally like a home grown system that, like the city and county of Denver has built their own portal or log in? Or is it kind of because I don't hear of other kinds of software providers out there that are similar to munier EVs? Is it just more of that, like they just grow their own system because they have you know, prior to 2010, they maybe had some Web services and they just kind of like to continue to build on to that.
Erin Neer [00:16:44] Yeah, but, you know, there are a few products out there. A lot of them, the smaller communities really use their ERP system and kind of a glorified accounts receivable module with that. And then they can get the online payment aspect of it through almost like that. They go through their own gateway versus it being a whole system like many reps. Right. So they just really want to be able to get to that point of accepting an online payment. So they go just to kind of the gateway side versus the software side and having it as a full package. And then there are a couple of systems that are true. Sales tax systems like that, like the larger cities, use the same thing that the state uses, but it's for the other sixty five municipalities in the state that's just not within a budget scope for them. Right. And so we really wanted to fit that niche for them.
Judy Vorndran [00:17:27] What about Denver? Let's talk about that. It took them a little bit longer to get on board. They just recently inked their deal. They were part of the process all along about choosing you because this was a public private engagement. I represented, like the CPA community there was a little earlier. And then there were a bunch of us that got all the tactical team to choose whether to buy or build. And Denver agreed that you guys were the right option. I'm assuming we all went that way and that's how we picked you. But it took them a while to kind of deal with that. Do you know what the logistics were with that as it was a parallel system? Was it how they pointed to you? Because it's our biggest city. I'm just curious how you got through that, right?
Erin Neer [00:18:04] Absolutely. So all of the cities were really engaged. So we contracted with Cedar in January and then we met with every single home city in February and March and addressed questions and just really got them up to speed so that by May six for the launch we had, I think, six cities on board at that point. And so Denver was very much a part of that process. They were really helpful in the agreement that the cities need to do with the Department of Revenue. All the large cities we looked over did a great job making sure they were part of editing that document until everybody was comfortable with it. That probably took a month, maybe six weeks. Sure. But Denver was really crucial in that. And then, as I understand it, Denver just signed maybe three weeks ago and they had a couple of readings and they may have had an ordinance amendment I can't remember in order to adopt. But at that point it was OK, now let's get it through the council approval process. Not that there were any others really.
Judy Vorndran [00:19:03] And then we had covered. So hello. Yeah. So it's OK. So what you're saying is because they have to have an agreement to say we are willing to take our filings through this as opposed to through our own website portal or mail. And so we're at a point here or there. And so that's that's you know, they got to do some legal stuff for that stuff, just like, hey, just go ahead and get it from wherever you want. And then I'm assuming the back end is really just a matter of or whatever, whatever it is, uploaded to their bank account. I mean, how do you get them the money or I guess the states getting the money? I mean, yeah,
Meredith Smith [00:19:37] there's a trust account.
Erin Neer [00:19:38] I go to the bank account, to the Utah system. And then what happens is our system, what a taxpayer goes through and files. It takes three days for the money to actually hit that account. So we're able to then see that the money actually cleared, and get returned for any reason. And then at that point, we initiate the exchange and all of them will see this as the on board. We encrypt where we're sending that to as part of their onboarding process. And our system just knows to go out and send that back out for them and then for the returns, we've actually batch them. All of the cities have adopted a universal sales tax form format insights as part of their agreement. So we batch them into a PDF package and then they can also download it in an Excel file because they still need to go and book it. And there's no record. Our clients have a direct API, so it posts over automatically. But for someone that does have those other systems you were talking about, they need to log in and grab the returns. We are offering an option that Aurora is taking advantage of and then Denver is as well, where if a city wants us to do custom output to them so that they can automated
Meredith Smith [00:20:43] a little bit better, our
Erin Neer [00:20:45] our engineering teams have worked with them to create that custom output so that they don't have to actually manually key in the return
Meredith Smith [00:20:51] product in their external. Let's let's go up to Alaska, because you had
Judy Vorndran [00:21:01] mentioned that
Meredith Smith [00:21:02] you are working with Alaska and Alaska typically is one of our nomad states. Of the however, the few that don't have a sales tax. Alaska is one of them, however. There are, you know, rules with the locals and you know what Munira is doing there and then what's going on in Alaska?
Erin Neer [00:21:31] Great question. Alaska is very unique in that there's no state sales tax, but there's one hundred and six municipalities that have a local sales tax.
Judy Vorndran [00:21:40] That is one hundred fifty six. OK, that's
Meredith Smith [00:21:42] good to clarify.
Erin Neer [00:21:44] And so what we have addressed first with them is the remote Sellar piece of it. It is the Wayfair situation that caused them to move forward quickly. And so what happened was they formed a remote seller, sales tax commission. And much like the system here in Colorado, if the municipality goes through their ordinance process and agrees to the terms of the commission, they then agree to let the commission collect remote Celltex for deliveries into Alaska. So an Amazon or a Walmart that ships something would log into this single portal and be able to file for all the participating cities with the taxes that they collected. Again, that single remittance portal was really key to the Weafer ruling. And so that's what we have solved for them today. I think we have delivered almost five million dollars and new revenue to those cities in the past five months. I think it is about maybe six months.
Judy Vorndran [00:22:38] OK, seriously, there's not that many humans that live there. They buy a lot of stuff.
Erin Neer [00:22:42] What do they
Judy Vorndran [00:22:43] thinks it's what they buy?
Meredith Smith [00:22:46] All right, let's not get a fence. We don't want to isolate our Glascott. It kind of. Well, it's not that clever here. It's cold
Judy Vorndran [00:22:54] here. No, it's cold here. That's true.
Meredith Smith [00:22:57] So does that mean all one hundred and five are in this system? And so you're not collecting money for one hundred and five.
Erin Neer [00:23:10] Yes. So just for the remote seller and I think volume wise, in terms of the largest sales tax jurisdictions, we have but ninety percent of the volume and population covered with who's participating. But there's a lot. There's like fifty cities in Alaska that are very small. They hardly have a sales tax division. Right. They don't they don't have an attorney much like here in Colorado. They have to go through an ordinance review process with their council and make sure that they can agree to the agreement. They may have to change some of their charter, that kind of thing. Right. And so those 50 smaller cities have not come on board yet. I don't know how many cities we have on board, but like I said, it represents 90 percent of the population and the shipping in Alaska in terms of the volume.
Judy Vorndran [00:23:51] So it's interesting that you're getting remote sellers, though, because how do they even know to do this? I wonder how they're figuring that out.
Erin Neer [00:23:58] The commission is doing a lot of outreach. They are reaching out to folks. They've done a lot of press, a lot of news announcements and just really making sure that they're aware, you know, working with folks like the Appalachians and those kinds of folks to make sure that Alaska is on the map in terms of this rule being in the books and the commission kind of serving that state level, the way that they've mapped it all out, it's really, really clever. And it does fulfill what it's not the state doing it. It's similar to Superleague. But officials, what business is we're looking at through Wayfair. Yeah.
Judy Vorndran [00:24:29] Wow. So they're just turning on the nexus and collecting tax and all that, all the destination cities. That's amazing. I mean, really, I bet you there just can't even believe they're having such a windfall. I'm sure nobody really even realizes just how much commerce is transacted, especially know a couple that I mean, gosh, the highlight of the day is that Amazon delivery, I assume, or UPS
Meredith Smith [00:24:51] are Alaska's rules because generally you think you know, with favorites, we're going to use the hundred thousand dollars. It's one hundred thousand dollars to the jurisdiction and it's the collecting, you know, so then they have to collect on all of those that they collect for Colorado. You know, in the beginning, there were some questions. Well, it's like, do I have to have one hundred thousand dollars into Denver or Boulder or Forten or whatever? But if you hit that one hundred thousand dollars within Colorado, then you have to collect. Once all the jurisdictions are on sets and signed up, you have to collect for all of them. Is that similar in Alaska? So if you had one hundred thousand dollars. Into Alaska. Do you collect then, do you have to charge? Do you have Nexxus now from remote cellars and all of the jurisdictions, or is it just you have one hundred thousand dollars into Juneau, so now you just have Nexxus in Juneau, I believe.
Erin Neer [00:25:49] And I'd have to go back and look at the commission documents to double check. But that is really the intent of the commission, is that the commission defined the threshold into the entire state again to kind of step into our shoes. Right. So that that business, that it is all of the jurisdictions, but only those that have signed up for the commission and similar results to that. You know, the way that the businesses are looking at that is there are two things that a community here in Colorado needs to do for a remote cellar to start remitting to them, and that is to join sets. And the second is to do marketplace facilitator legislation. And CML has produced a model ordinance on that. So we hear it time and again from these large filers that they actually watch the CMA website and our website. And as soon as the city does both, then they're going to start collecting. And so the commission in Alaska really addressed it the same way is that you need to be part of the commission and agree to all the rules of the commission. So it's not complicated for the seller. And then, of course, through that, you're going to then file through our portal to handle the single remains.
Judy Vorndran [00:26:49] But the rule is in Alaska, like it will be in Colorado is if you beat 100000 sales in the state and once those home rolls on sets, all those home rolls are the filters that we have destination reporting at the state level for all the statutory cities and counties are just adding 71 more on for Colorado. Same thing in Alaska. It's not just acreage versus Seward. It's the entire state. One hundred thousand sales you file in all the jurisdictional jurisdictions that are a part of the thing you said, whatever that word was, the league lagu, the Justice League, the Tax League, the Alaska Tax League, Avengers, Avenger tax, anyway.
Meredith Smith [00:27:32] Well, what's fascinating is just how flexible it sounds like you all have to be, you know, to one move quickly, write like this Alaska thing is pretty new. And the fact that it's like there is incredible. So then how, you know, we've come a long way just in technology in general since 2010 when you had this brainchild. What are your thoughts about how many developers you have? How do you know, I'm sure they come in not knowing anything about sales tax. Do they leave kind of having some basis of sales tax knowledge? And just how do you see certain things, but what's that? What's the back end look like? Like what's that technology look like? And your developers and just how do you make it all happen?
Erin Neer [00:28:21] You know, really, one of the biggest things that helps us make it happen is the way that we design the system from day one was to be nimble. So as much as we can bring into the user interface to make it a tool and not need a developer, we've built as much of that as we possibly can. And so, for instance, when we launch a community Website like we do, I don't know, ten launches a month or somewhere in that ballpark when we do that, our conversion specialists, not a developer, actually set up a lot of that site, whether it's a different license, workflow or an approval with different departments approving it, the the tax data and the automation that goes with that. We've put all that into the tools so we are able to hire, you know, accountant types and computer skilled and engineering type people, but not necessarily a programmer. Right. A lot of our conversion folks have business or accounting backgrounds to help with that process versus it being an actual developer. So that's one thing about how we make it really nimble. And then and then basically that same architecture is used for every one of our products. So our lodging web system where we identify the rental products, same thing. There's tools to build that whole thing out. One city may have a different compliance requirement than another. In Telluride, you have to post your business license number on the business. So our system knows that that's a requirement in Telluride, but maybe it's not a requirement in Hawaii. And so that way it can be used across the board again without going to an engineering mode. Every time we launch a new community with the same products, it's the same foundation. It's our core product and we're basically designed in mind. We launched our pilot project back in twenty eighteen to really demonstrate to these states that the technology is here and we have businesses subscribe to use that product. And when we designed that again, we made sure that it could handle different rates all in one system and then of course, the matching process and all of that so that it could drop into Alaska to drop into Colorado or drop into other states as well. We're actually looking at creating a lodging tax tool for that so that the businesses that are really struggling with filing lodging tax in many different cities have a single portal. I guess I'm going to be an architect. You're right, it's making sure that we designed it with the needs of 12 different cities and what they're different requirements are and can be handled readily in the system. And then in terms of our team, we do have we actually have four Kuai people that just tested design and then we have it rotates between six and 10 programmers that are on the team all the time, you know, innovating, launching new products, know kind of staying ahead of the next thing that we want to deliver as well.
Judy Vorndran [00:30:57] How do you keep up with, like, the legislative changes? You have people who do that as well. So you're kind of tracking that.
Erin Neer [00:31:04] Yeah, we have a national community partnership person that's tracking those rules. And what's really interesting is that we work so closely with such key businesses, whether it's a really big online travel marketplace or really big sellers, that they see us as a resource for them too. So they also reach out when something's coming and they would like us to be the solution or when something is coming and they want us to see if we could do something different and an existing product to help them because it's coming right up. So that's a really big dialog for us as the end users needs as well. And legislation falls right in there, too, because we're going to design products for that.
Judy Vorndran [00:31:38] Well, and you had internal experience. So you know what it was like, the trouble to get it in. You've done that with the government. So you know what? It's trying to get it out. And now you can build something that kind of meets needs. So you kind of have like all customer experience in your toolkit, which I think is really instrumental to build something that is effective and to win people over to not. I'm saying I think sometimes technology people don't have a clue. I find that there are software products out there that don't really understand sales tax. Right. But they built software, but now they become experts on a lot of things about it and they're kind of learning as they go. But you have something kind of a little bit unique in your background and then you have the impetus to do it, which is not very common for a CPA.
Meredith Smith [00:32:26] So then how long did it take you to get that initial launch? So you had the idea you found the developers, like how long did it take you to get to a marketable product and who was your first jurisdiction to sign on?
Erin Neer [00:32:37] So let's see here. I incorporated many reps on July 11 and we started programming immediately. And our first site was like that in December. So five months to build the first product. And we had our first customer in August. It was actually the village where I used to work. And then Telluride came on right after that. So we started locally with the community that I'd already been doing audit services for.
Judy Vorndran [00:32:59] I mean, that's a hurdle to get them to buy it. I mean, I realize you had a trust relationship historically, but I mean, I signed many meetings where it was like there was so much fear, you know what I mean? It really wasn't even understanding. It was just fear. There was institutional bias against the state, you know, from years of whatever based on historical beats and bones and paper and whatever things did, there was just a tremendous amount of fear, which I would argue is unfounded in today's world. But it was based on preconceived notions that were legitimate many, many years ago. And so is that how you were able to get them to buy into this government we're talking about here?
Erin Neer [00:33:41] Yeah, you know, I won't lie. I mean, the first sales pitches are difficult. First of all, again, it's a decade ago and I'm breaking ground not just on the way to collect delivery that never existed. Right. But they're going to trust this new company to process their money and work for them. And so there were definitely and and to say that we would get them to ninety five percent paperless, we would eliminate all but five percent of all this paper they were processing. That was what my goal was. And we did it. Our clients average paperless percentages and ninety five percent. And so they were hard conversations at first. But what's really interesting is here we are a decade later and we've processed well over a billion dollars. We have fifty to seventy five thousand businesses losing track of that number, but using and trusting and filing in the system. And so that conversation is very different today. We had to gain that trust for those initial few and then deliver and prove it out and show that we can do this over and over again. The conversation this year with Cofan has been really interesting. You no longer have to explain the payment process and everything that's more commonplace today that we have cities that are calling us because we're part of their covid resiliency plan. They never went online and they had checks sitting in a bank deposit that nobody could go and take care of when they had to shut their offices down. So they had an actual stop of taxes getting deposited. And then as they go back and as we're dealing with budget cuts and or just trying to make sure that you're never in that situation again, these cities are realizing why are we doing license's online? Why aren't we taking taxes online or any payment from a business online? And so that's really interesting that it's come full circle and they're saying our pitch, so to speak, for us. Right, because they've seen those that haven't. On a line at four in Koban, how much they needed it,
Meredith Smith [00:35:33] and that's really interesting that you say that there are just checks sitting in an empty mailbox in an empty office because we were working with a state and doing something like a voluntary disclosure agreement that was mailed in July. And the taxpayers, like we have a hundred thousand dollar check that we wrote in July that's sitting there. When are you going to cash us? Because we want it off our books. Like they're like, well, it has to be a check. And it's like we go in every once in a while to, like, open the mail and then it sits in a processing thing. And we don't know when the processing people are going to show up there. So that's really interesting. Just how in general and this has been a common theme of the conversations that we had for the podcast of just how covid has just like shifted so many just traditional ways of thinking, especially in an environment in which we deal with governments who are typically really slow to change.
Judy Vorndran [00:36:28] Yes. Well, yeah, I was going to say it was so. I mean, we've got everybody on board. I mean everybody's playing a game like that's crazy to me, like, you know, because we were stressing as part of the coalition like why don't we have more traction, why aren't there more businesses on them, because it takes time. And some of the smaller cities were first to market. Denver just signed on three weeks ago. This thing's been around since January, but it takes time. But now, like the momentum, like already I get the updates from the state. I'm like, everybody's in there, nobody is not playing ball right now. Like it's going to happen, which I have to warn my clients, like now you're all going to have Wayfair. You have to get somebody on homegirls city licenses. Are you ready? And you have Nexxus prior. So that's a big issue for me in terms of like what the heck do you do if you license late and all that good stuff if you work. But if you're remote, no worries. If you never, ever set foot in Colorado or any of those cities, then fine, we'll just turn them on. But if there's people that have not complied in the greater metro areas, there's some risk to them on late registrations. But I just think that's a trap. We'll wait. There was a trip. I mean, what? Forty five plus D.C. we have forty four states that have a way law. And I think the same about the marketplace law, who would have thought two years in we would have this and this is free covid. Right. This is already recovered and now it's like OK, we're all, we're all alive. Yeah. It's amazing to see that transformation. But you know, just every time I talk to you, Erin, I almost feel like everything's like, yeah, we can do it. No problem. I mean, I don't see any stress. I don't see any fear. I just see like, yep, we're ready. And that, I think, is kind of incredible. It obviously bodes confidence, but it is because you are confident. And that, I think is fascinating as I look back on you to do two thousand ten. That's a good option, I think.
Meredith Smith [00:38:13] And Erin, you were recognized in 2014 as one of Colorado's top twenty five most influential young professionals by Colorado Business magazine. So what advice do you have about just going all in and seeing a need and going for it? Like what? What can you leave our listeners with? Because you are confident and you know what you're doing and you're nimble and you're great at what you're doing and you are doing it. You're doing it.
Erin Neer [00:38:47] I think it really goes back to that adage where you begin with the end in mind. So you need to know what you're building if you're going to go solve something. I worked, as you said, Judy. I worked in a hotel. I dealt with their compliance, and then I worked for the town on the other side, you know, knowing the needs and the pain points was important from day one to make sure that I knew that. And then building the system, making sure I built it. Maybe it's the CPA, me, the frugal CPA thing. I need to know how to use this system. I am not a programmer, but I'm going to learn it and I'm going to know it. And I want everything in the user interface as much as possible so that I don't have to be a programmer forever. Right. And so you have to begin with that end in mind. And I needed to make sure that the product could be nimble, knowing how different every city could be. And so I just think it's really important to know your industry, know what problem we're trying to solve and make sure you really ask those questions and know it thoroughly so that you can build the right solution and go all in.
Judy Vorndran [00:39:45] But that was seventy one cities, Erin.
Meredith Smith [00:39:49] Let's not just do the math. Let's not forget that. Just talking pre-recording. You have an eleven in your thirteen year old. You have little ones at home and also while pregnant probably. So Bravo bike, right. Yeah. We're going to, we're not going to put that behind because it's hard enough when you've got little to wake up and like dress yourself. So and you've created this thing that's been transformative to, you know, our tax collection. So that's the I want to make sure you get that credit because
Judy Vorndran [00:40:24] it's not like that's all you did, right? My personal life.
Erin Neer [00:40:29] Well, I really. Like you, my husband hasn't worked the last, I mean, I think it's going on actually the most of the media reps lifecycle here and that I couldn't do it without him. I mean, he delivers me lunch to my office every day and takes care of everything, kid and kid related school, everything. You know, after he delivers lunch, you ask me what we'd like for dinner. I mean, he's just tireless and amazing. And, you know, if I had to do all that, we wouldn't have groceries because I'm still working. Right. So I'm not quite sure how that magic happens, but Jeremy gets it all done.
Judy Vorndran [00:41:01] You're like Aaberg or her husband. I mean, they were like, you know, a very egalitarian family where it wasn't the man who was the primary breadwinner. It was a shared responsibility. I know he cooks because she did not cook Ruth Bader Ginsburg and they didn't want her to cook, which is kind of my life, too. Nobody wants me to cook. I burn tomato soup in a can. It's not bueno anyway. But, yeah, it's that interesting, egalitarian thinking about family rearing and you're kind of a transformative human in that regard. And a business owner, CEO likes. There you go.
Erin Neer [00:41:32] Yeah, it's really interesting. You know, we talked about the women thing at the very beginning about the females on your podcast. And I was at yet another meeting yesterday where I was the only female. There were a bunch of engineers right in my team and on the other teams in the city and the only female in that room. And we actually just renewed our certificate as a female owned and controlled business. I'm the majority stockholder. We do have investors, but I'm the majority voting stockholder. And I sent it out to my team this week and reminded them that, you know, that it's something that we should be really proud of and that I'm very personally proud of. It's different and as you say, than to raise a family and have a husband that's doing everything, literally everything else.
Judy Vorndran [00:42:15] Yeah, it's a team.
Meredith Smith [00:42:16] Yeah. And then as we wrap up, is there anything you feel we need to know that we don't already talk about?
Erin Neer [00:42:22] Well, I think one of the things that really sets us apart in terms of how we understand sales tax and how we deliver is that we actually support the business users in our systems. So I mentioned to all the businesses that use it throughout the country, we have a whole team that answers their questions. And as you said, Meredith, that you get immediate responses and that really helps us. The fact that we listen not to our clients only, but we take that user feedback and we're talking to the people using our system every day and helping them. And it's just something that has really set us apart in terms of knowing what is needed next in the industry and then also just knowing sales tax inside it out.
Meredith Smith [00:42:59] That's yeah, that's, you know, an incredible story. And again, it's transformative. And so we're going to wrap with just a few little fun questions just to get to know you outside of Munira. So are you ready for rapid? Not so rapid because we can't shut our mouths. What are you reading right now?
Erin Neer [00:43:23] I love reading holiday books since it's the Christmas season right now. So I'm reading The Christmas Train by David Bellati.
Meredith Smith [00:43:29] You may not be doing as much driving as you maybe once were, but what do you listen to in the car?
Erin Neer [00:43:34] If I'm by myself, I love silence. I have nothing on because it's when I do my best thinking.
Meredith Smith [00:43:39] And then I'm assuming when you're with your children at some iteration of something else. Quiet.
Erin Neer [00:43:45] Yeah. Oh, my daughter is always like Pandora.
Judy Vorndran [00:43:47] And are we going to listen to Hamilton or are we going to listen to some kind of other stuff? I need Melody, Marc. I know all kinds of current stuff because of her.
Meredith Smith [00:43:59] What is your favorite movie?
Erin Neer [00:44:02] Again, this time of year, my favorite is White Christmas. I always watch it with my kids and usually when we run.
Judy Vorndran [00:44:09] Yeah, that's a great story, isn't it?
Meredith Smith [00:44:12] We got our five year old. We got our five year old into that last year. And my husband and I really like the movie as well. And we call it the singing, dancing Christmas movie. Oh, coffee or Tea
Erin Neer [00:44:24] Party whipped cream. Yeah. Oh, sorry. How are
Meredith Smith [00:44:28] you. Very nice. Three words or phrases that a family member would use to describe you.
Erin Neer [00:44:34] So when I asked my sons this, they said smart, funny and creative.
Meredith Smith [00:44:39] Oh, nice question. Like always gets me and I get a little misty eyed, like, all right.
Judy Vorndran [00:44:48] See the way your children see you. What an example. And you have two boys, right?
Erin Neer [00:44:51] So I do. Yeah.
Judy Vorndran [00:44:53] So that's a whole different thing, too. Like they're seeing a mom example and a dad example, which is going to transform them as they become adults, you know, and fathers and partners. You know what I mean? Like, that'll be that's I think it's kind of encompassing on us to like help everybody grow, to be together and take care of one another and all that. So that's the mom and the dad. So neat.
Erin Neer [00:45:16] So true. Yeah.
Meredith Smith [00:45:18] All right. So last question. One thing you've learned during stay at home,
Erin Neer [00:45:23] how lucky I am to live where I am and how grateful I am for my family, then hunkered down together for all these months and just feeling very, very lucky.
Meredith Smith [00:45:32] The Couture's. Well, A'Hearn, we really appreciate your time and thank you so much for being with us today and educating us. This has been SALTovation. I'm Meredith Smith until next time. Thank you. This podcast is for educational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be relied upon as legal tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult with a competent professional to discuss specifics of your situation and the applicability of the information present to.
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Questions asked and answered in this Episode:
- How did Erin get to where she is today?
- What is MUNIRevs? Is the product as it is today what she was hoping it would become? Did it start out as something else?
- What has it been like to work with the state to facilitate the ability to fund the cities and make it easier for cities and taxpayers?
- Does Erin think having other jurisdictions use MUNIRevs help them get other jurisdictions to sign on to the platform?
- What type of products do they provide?
- How did they get Denver to choose MUNIRevs?
- How is MUNIRevs working with Alaska?
- How many developers do they have? Do they learn some basics of sales tax?
- How do they keep up with the legislative changes?
- How long did it take to get that initial launch? Who was the first jurisdiction to sign on?
What You Will Discover:
- [00:48] Erin’s career trajectory
- [04:39] What is MUNIRevs
- [08:17] What it’s been like to work with state
- [14:31] How they established themselves as the preferred resource
- [16:14] The various systems
- [17:27] How they got Denver on board
- [20:55] Working with Alaska
- [27:33] How flexible they have to be to
- [27:33] The back end of MUNIRevs’ technology
- [30:57] Keeping up with the legislative changes
- [32:26] The initial launch and the first jurisdiction to sign on
- [38:15] Erin’s advice to go all in
- [42:17] A team to answer questions
- [43:06] A few fun facts about Erin
- “That’s where it’s grown. It’s just more modules and more needs because we listened to what our businesses and our clients needed us to build next.” – Erin Neer [08:11]
- “Enforcement shouldn’t be a negative way to get tax out of vendors.” – Judy Vorndran [12:33]
- “One of the biggest things that helps us make it happen is the way that we design the system from day one was to be nimble.” – Erin Neer [28:22]
- “The conversation this year with COVID has been really interesting. You no longer have to explain the payment process and everything. It’s more commonplace today, but we have cities that are calling us because we are part of their COVID resiliency plan.” – Erin Neer [34:41]
- “You need to know what you’re building if you’re going to go solve something.” – Erin Neer [38:52]
- Website: https://munirevs.com/