Software integration with Maria Tringali
Hosts & Guests
Maria Tringali, Avalara
Software integration with Maria Tringali
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 thank you for joining us for another episode of this SALTovation podcast. Today, we are joined by Maria Tringali, who is in new business sales at Avalara focusing on smart capture and API integrations. We want to speak with Maria regarding the benefits of technology and what the needs for businesses are. Maria, thank you so much for being here with us today.
Maria Tringali [00:00:35] Hi, Meredith. I'm thrilled to be here with you today.
Meredith Smith [00:00:38] And as always, Miss Judy Vorndran SALTovation. Hello. Hello. All right, Maria, you are with Eva Lara and you've been there for a while now, but you didn't start your career there or certainly with a sales tax software company. So how did you get there?
Maria Tringali [00:00:53] How did I get here? So I did spend many years in sales and marketing in the hospitality business and opted to move out of hospitality after many years and into software. I live in Seattle, so there's a lot of technology here. And so technology sales just seem to make sense. I started out working with a company that automates a very manual process and so the next logical thing was a bigger company and there was just a perfect fit.
Judy Vorndran [00:01:23] But how does hospitalities Segway to software
Maria Tringali [00:01:28] finally used to that?
Judy Vorndran [00:01:30] So it does have some issues.
Maria Tringali [00:01:32] Yeah, I mean, it really, though, if you understand sales in the sales process and you understand, you know, using an Excel spreadsheet or something manual and automating it, the only thing I really had to learn was sales tax, which I know you spent a million years and Judy, but yeah, I definitely had to learn the sales tax language. I will admit that.
Judy Vorndran [00:01:52] Yeah. And then there was much of that in the hospitality industry pre Ameera. OK, so really, what were you doing in hospitality?
Maria Tringali [00:01:59] Still space sales and marketing. So group sales.
Judy Vorndran [00:02:02] OK, ok. And things
Maria Tringali [00:02:04] like that. Conventions, group rates, corporate rates, everything, all the revenue coming in basically.
Judy Vorndran [00:02:10] OK, because I was thinking maybe you were doing things like fixtures and all that procurement and all that stuff. Right.
Maria Tringali [00:02:15] Which wouldn't know I was on the sales side. Yeah, not on the catering side, not on the food side, but on that definitely the sales closing, the conference, the deal writing, the contracts, that sort of thing.
Judy Vorndran [00:02:26] But you want to have issues on the conferences with, like exempt entities holding their galas and. Oh, we had those for. Right. So there are some issues there when it comes to sales tax. Like do they get the benefit of the exemption on the buy of the Gaila space? Absolutely.
Maria Tringali [00:02:39] Anyway, as a sales person I need to collect those certificates.
Judy Vorndran [00:02:45] See, there's a little bit of it even in any day use say. Yeah.
Meredith Smith [00:02:49] So then Maria, as a sales person, you listen for a living and you hear a lot of stories. So what problems do you commonly see that businesses struggle with when it comes to technology,
Maria Tringali [00:03:03] when it comes to technology meetings? I would say a lot, but probably what comes to mind is related to our conversation today as people tend to be afraid to move their manual process into technology because they might lose control. They might find out they were doing something wrong and they don't want to deal with that. But in a lot of cases, people also feel like they've concluded this one little scenario. And how are we going to Cluj this one little scenario when we have software that automates everything and it's sort of a cart before the horse, but that's a minor problem in the grand scheme of compliance so that those three things I hear
Judy Vorndran [00:03:46] right now feels like they can't solve everything, but they are like, I can't solve this one thing, I'm going to give up.
Maria Tringali [00:03:52] So I'm not going to automate the rest of my business. Yeah, exactly. I hear a lot of that. Yeah.
Meredith Smith [00:03:57] So then how do you get people over that hump or are there some where you're just like, I got to give up on you because you're just not ready or want to talk to someone.
Maria Tringali [00:04:09] Yeah, that does actually happen. That's funny. Yeah. Sometimes people just give up like they're just not willing to take that leap so you probably know this. They're just not willing to take that leap into automating their business. But as far as how we do it, I usually do it, Judy. I imagine you do the same thing. We try to take a couple steps back and go, you know, we're talking about your compliance here. We're talking about your business. We're talking about it in our world. I think the conversation today is around the value of those exemption certificates and what each one means to your business. One of the very first questions I ask everybody I talk to is what percentage of your business is exempt? I just put that right out there and I keep reminding them the entire conversation. But this is seventy five percent of your business, right? It's a heavy risk for your business. You really, I guess, Meridith, have to take a step back and start talking about overall compliance. A lot of things that are another thing that we get as people only want to automate parts. They don't want to automate everything. They only want to help with this one little thing that's begging them. And so it's our job as salespeople and consultants and also CPAs to say, but we need to look at the whole umbrella here. We need to look at where that one little thing you think you're struggling with fits into the bigger picture and people that don't get the bigger picture and the bigger risk, you're probably right. Probably aren't going to automate the whole thing. They'll just get a tax rate document or they'll just keep looking on the Apple website for tax rates and not.
Meredith Smith [00:05:41] Right. So then who typically within organizations are you talking to to try to get the information? And like, do they kind of default you to like, oh, here's talk to our invoicing person, our revenue manager, who's kind of like, well, because they would be the ones putting tax on an invoice. Right. But it doesn't really start there. Right. Like going back to the hospitality conversation of like the salesperson is the one getting the exemption certificate potentially full circle of people. Right. You know, getting the certificate because they're having those face to face conversations. So who do you find that you're having a lot of these conversations with? And do you have to kind of balance between multiple people within the organization to get the right answers or to get to the right people, to get the right answers or to be able to really help problem solve?
Maria Tringali [00:06:31] That's a really good question. I would say in a lot of cases you do need to bounce around or you need to have everybody's buy in at the end of the day. So the conversation might have started from an e-commerce manager who's adding a shopping cart and needs to now add tax rates. And then that stems back to, oh, we have this whole B2B side of our business as well. If we're automating this, we have to automate the B2B side as well. Might start there. It might start with a CFO who is aware of risk, might start with an accounting manager. When it comes to certificates, though, I think that one of the key people tends to be the credit manager because the credit manager is usually the one that is creating new B2B accounts and is also responsible for physically touching those certificates and doesn't know what they look like. So even if we have the CFO or the e-commerce person on the phone, one of the things that I trained salespeople, one of the things that's tough to do, but we always try to do is get everyone that touches compliance across the organization at some point on the phone. And that's usually for a demo or at least a group conversation, because there are a lot of people that touch compliance in some way. You've got that the I.T. guy running a custom shopping cart who had to get tax rates. And there you've got the ERP person. You had a person in charge, that ERP, and then you had the controller and then you had the people signing up. Then you have the people doing the darn credits and rebuilding on invoices when you didn't get the certificate. Right. So, yeah, there's a lot of people and sometimes it's tough. I will say sometimes it's tough to get everyone on the same page. But the most successful projects are when everybody is on the same page or at least listening at least willing to listen.
Meredith Smith [00:08:10] Right, because you've got to get buy in. Right. So if one person is making a decision regarding technology, a sales tax outsourcing system that's going to be Tigist or capture or whatnot or certificate management system, you know, it only works. And their values only exist if the people who are going to use it and they're going to use it effectively and correctly and are willing to implement it or problem solver issues spot on. So it's not like it's just one person in charge of everything unless, you know, you're dealing with a sole proprietor and, you know, poor things doing everything from start to finish.
Maria Tringali [00:08:44] But there are those. The meaning is when you bring those other people in. So if you bring a credit manager in on a phone call with a CFO or even with the e-commerce folks, the I.T. folks, they didn't even realize how this poor person was struggling to collect these things, to do credits and rebels, to talk with customers who want their order now and they don't know what paperwork to submit. Those other folks often didn't even know what was going on in that poor credit department's world. So bringing them together also brings out issues that others weren't necessarily aware of being a challenge we have in the B2B world. We have accepted a lot of manual processes for our biggest customers. Really, we have and it's kind of silly. These are our biggest customers and we've accepted just all this mess. We make them jump through hoops to do business with us, yet they're our biggest customers.
Judy Vorndran [00:09:38] And then there is a culture, I think, around certificate's. If you say it's seventy five percent or 90 percent of your business, I find they don't care. They don't. I don't do anything about it. They're like 90 percent of my business. I don't have any risk. I'm like, you understand that the document or the lack thereof is the risk actually. But you think, why don't you collect any tax? Because nine percent of my customers are retail, wholesale, whatever. And it's like. Right, but that is that I feel like that is a huge culture in our nation. Like why not some kind of serve half the time you find starts aren't even accurate. They're not even for the right state. So that's I find that to be a really frightening issue, actually, and the customer has been set up, is exempt in the system for everything for
Maria Tringali [00:10:23] ever and ever. That's so true. I get that a lot. I will try to use an example. I don't know if you use this on Judy, but I try to use the example of even if I don't owe anything to the federal government at the end of the year, even if weirdly, I actually O0. Right. I still have to go through the whole process of everything I did during the year and fill out all the forms. I own a house. I have a child. I still have to fill out all the forms and report my income and what was already paid to you. I still have to go through the process, but somehow people think that it's not that important. My other favorite one is, well, there's zero dollar returns. They don't take me any time. What do you think you do? You just leave the form blank and put a zero at the bottom. No, you still have to report all your income and no other marketplaces. You have to report with the marketplace paid on. I mean, it's just a silly answer. And sometimes I have to just kind of pause a second and think of how to work with someone who thinks that I don't have any risk. Actually, you have more risk than everybody
Judy Vorndran [00:11:29] else substantiating a negative. It's very difficult to prove a negative. Yeah, exemptions are narrowly construed against taxpayers by law. So that's actually a higher burden than a tax collection.
Maria Tringali [00:11:41] Exactly. Exactly. I know. I wish everyone saw it our way to say.
Meredith Smith [00:11:48] Well, what's interesting, too, is it's really hard to find good information about exempt entities or what's exempt, what's not, what's the right form. We subscribe to a software to help us facilitate that. Shoebat, which
Judy Vorndran [00:12:09] we have on it, they just bought them
Maria Tringali [00:12:12] to do time at TTR. Yeah, yeah. They have done great research. Yeah, they have a fantastic research product. Yeah. Yeah. Service. It's amazing.
Meredith Smith [00:12:23] So we've, we've spent, we've been engaged by some clients to just validate their certificates because they have a lot of inflow outflow. They deal with schools and you know, people within PTA's and they're volunteers. Right. And they're like, here's what we got. And it's like, well, thanks, but this is literally a letter from the PTA Society of Georgia that says thanks for thanks for being a member. And it's like, well, that's not good enough. It's a lot of money. And Georgia has weird rules. But even reading the law, you don't get good answers. And I've even reached out to the department in some instances of places in there like, I don't know, that's really weird. We changed our form. And you think, well, what's interesting, it's like on some of the exemption certificates, they literally took out one word. And so it's like, OK, well, does that mean it's not in your law anymore? Why would you specifically remove this word? And they're just like so it's like how do you manage that without a tax background, just as like the intake itself?
Maria Tringali [00:13:30] That's the problem is they really don't. I really don't. The other thing that I really struggle with well, Judy mentioned this already, but, you know, people collect something once and they just collected a one dimensional and they just just did. Friday, I had this guy, pretty sharp guy seem to be, he goes, well, we have them all electronically because he scanned a copy into what he called a share drive, whatever. They collected it thirteen years ago. Like, dude, that's not electronic. That's an image that's an image of something that you collected. And this guy is super sharp. But these guys are really savvy business owners. But I don't know. It's interesting, Merideth. I don't know how people think they just don't, they just think it's so complex that they just don't do it. It's how you get personalized. Ah, you get to a point where, like, I can't even can't even conceptualize that. So I'm just going to stop. So I think they just don't even don't even do it and just take the risk. And there are a lot of people who will just take the risk, like I'll just take the risk if I get out of it. It's a very interesting world.
Meredith Smith [00:14:33] Yes. So then what is automating your exemption certificates? Because it is so hard, there are so many rules and there are so many differences between all of the states. So how do you streamline that? How do you automate that? How do you get that into a software to help you at least be better than you were?
Maria Tringali [00:14:51] Well, the best thing is I mean, the hardest thing you've already mentioned is knowing what to complete. Most people, that credit manager we were just talking about, don't know what they're looking at. And you can't say you're going to hire. I always thought about my niece Chloe under the bus. You can't say you're going to hire my niece. Chloe, who's eighteen, goes to college in Greeley. Ladies, you can't hire. Yeah. You can't hire Chloe to go collect. All these because she wouldn't know what she's looking at, and that's the biggest challenge. So when you automate the automation systems like a Valera's have a portal, the good ones have a portal that will literally direct the buyer, the purchaser to a form to be filled out so they, the provider, make much fewer mistakes. They don't send in their business license instead of their sales tax exemption certificate because the portal is literally directing them towards what to send. I'm in Washington and I need resale and so it literally serves up the certificate. So it allows what I always say is it pushes the responsibility from the seller, from that poor credit manager person to the buyer to provide me with the right documentation. So when it comes in that way, you're much more
Judy Vorndran [00:16:03] and then you have the right form, the right information, the right attestations, statements, the right signatory. And the reasoning is all incorporated in that. And it's searchable.
Maria Tringali [00:16:13] Yes, and it's searchable and it applies
Judy Vorndran [00:16:16] to all it all depends on how you
Maria Tringali [00:16:18] look. That's not electronic. I don't know why we think so, don't get me started on that subject to why we think an image is an electronic document. It is because
Judy Vorndran [00:16:27] people used to have them in giant file folders on their desk. Right.
Maria Tringali [00:16:30] So now that I stand there, it's electronic. I'm sure it's a photo. Yeah. One guy was talking to me the other day. Oh. Someone could literally just send in a picture of their dog, his lady said. And I was like, yeah, exactly. And my boy wouldn't even question it. She'd just scan, identify it. Right. Oh, that must be their certificate in Alabama. I don't know. So, yeah. So you have to, you have to move. I think the biggest thing Marada that I see is you need to move from paper to digital or paper to pixels. Those images and that paper that you stick in the folder that doesn't I don't know. Why didn't you tell me? Why are those things still on paper? We've made most everything else. I can buy a house now digitally. Right. I don't have to sign all those forms anymore. You know, I sell software digitally. There's no paper. Why are those certificates still on paper? And especially with covid, right. With all of us working remote, where are those pieces of paper now? Who's got them? If someone's actually sending them in, where are they?
Judy Vorndran [00:17:30] But if it ain't broke, why fix it? That's the view. I really do believe that we have it. And then also I find that a lot of businesses have limited resources. They don't have a sales tax department. So the person is in charge of AP and closing the books. The comptroller has a full time job doing just that. Now you leap on this other stuff and then how many people are in accounting have to be H.R.? So I just think they have to wear a lot of hats and then the tax side is like the last thing that they want to do.
Meredith Smith [00:17:57] Well, but it's interesting, though, and wouldn't I mean, that tax burden is there, whether you want to accept it or not, you'll accept it when you get a giant Jeopardy assessment for one hundred grand. Right. But wouldn't automating provide one less, like give that person kind of one less thing to do?
Maria Tringali [00:18:15] Oh, for sure. Yeah. If you can send them a link. So if I'm setting out for a basic example in the example Judy is talking about, you've got someone who's a one armed paper hanger. Do people still say that, you know, who's wearing multiple hats? Are we getting to that age duty where we say
Judy Vorndran [00:18:29] things like I think it might be all to soften was an old one, too. That was a quite a few years ago when thongs or something or my feet, you know,
Maria Tringali [00:18:39] you're a nutcase
Judy Vorndran [00:18:42] like, oh, I get it. So I don't even think we use Fabray paper clips, much less paper or wallpaper.
Maria Tringali [00:18:50] You know our parents well, our house was wallpapered everywhere. OK, anyway, we were just talking about so that a person who has to wear multiple hats can send a link instead of asking, looking, receiving, filing. All they have to do is literally send a link. And most it's just push a button, send a request, it sends a request and it comes back.
Judy Vorndran [00:19:14] There's also issues that I find because well, we've done it. We've done a lot of search capture campaigns which have gone great. Once we get Brian, there's this fear with the sales team, the countries like we've gotta get this, but sales might not want to do it to the customer. So there's this touchy feely silly. Isn't it funny?
Maria Tringali [00:19:32] It's silly. Yeah, I think you need that. Meredith, I think you mentioned that earlier before about slowing down the sales cycle. Yeah, you can. I mean, one of the advantages of super capture duty is the buy -in, but a salesperson can send that same link. There is a public link to absolutely any any customer above their customer can just ask their salespeople, hey, if I used to give my last software job, I was working with universities and colleges. All right. So I could have as part of my sales process when they were about to sign a contract, I easily could have sent them a link and said, send this back with your contract. If you're exempt, it's the buy. And that's the problem. It would not have added a lot of work for me as a sales person, but the company had asked me to do it. The company up here had to buy in and tell salespeople to do that. And that's, I think, where some of this struggle is.
Judy Vorndran [00:20:26] No, that's what I was saying. Like, my best, most successful sales tax integration was with the CFO telling sales, if you don't get the certificate, your commission will be lowered by the amount of this cert, I mean, any time soon. Are you saying so? I thought, wow, that was a really great tool. But you find some people at the CFO level are not don't want to do that. They don't want to set their sales team. They need their sales team. They don't realize they're whining, complaining, whatever. But what I want to get the salespeople to realize is it's all money to the business, which is all money to share, to make the business better. It's more successful. So if we all buy it and work together as we you know, the customers and I do think the Wayfair conversation does make that conversation a little better than it used to be, because there's a little bit of shame, I think, with people said, oh, I. Should have taxed it correctly, which is so silly, like why would they think that shame that they should understand all this? But there is a little bit of that. And I'm like, there's no shame and not understanding this. Nobody really understands that even the biggest companies of this nation don't understand it because they're doing something different.
Maria Tringali [00:21:29] That's what I said. Yeah. There's so many different laws. And then when you're talking exempt, right. People don't even know if they fit the economic nexxus laws. Now, you're right. But it has definitely opened the eyes of a lot of people that these certificates are way more valuable than they ever thought they would be in the past. And they are paying a little bit more attention. But there's still a lot of companies at risk. Just going back to duty. When you and I met years ago when I was working on the stage team, it was like pulling teeth to get people to even think about compliance. If you're running stage one hundred and your mom and pop manufacture regional actors, something they didn't want to talk about, tax compliance. You remember our conversations back. So, yeah, Wayfair has definitely on all the laws, marketplace facilitator laws as well has definitely brought that.
Judy Vorndran [00:22:17] It's been good for the conversation nationally and right. Because I came to the conclusion that some of the biggest tax payers in the nation bear the brunt of the small business. That isn't complying because it is a lot for them. They perceive it's a lot more to do than they really have to do. And then they didn't do it. So now it's like, how do I start? Right. But now it's come a long way to make it easier and more tactile. And you can do it on the fly on the web.
Maria Tringali [00:22:41] So it goes back to the same conversation we've always had. It's just like payroll. Who does their own payroll. It's too risky. Nobody does. Even the smallest of companies use a payroll resource of some sort. Right. No one sits there and does their own payroll. It's the same thing with sales tax now. It has gotten down to the requirements and the smallest of businesses need to automate this.
Meredith Smith [00:23:05] Well, yeah. And as you know, we've helped a lot of clients over the years become compliant and kind of get them to a point. You know, we fix their past. We help transition. We have some clients that, for whatever reason, still kind of do some sales tax manually. And it's like it's just. It's impossible, like the only reason we can really help affect that's not true. You know, it's a lot easier for us and more cost efficient for our clients to help effectively because they've automated and they've embraced technology in whatever capacity. And we have the reports that say, OK, here are all the random, you know, thousand jurisdictions that you need to put 14 cents in Texas. And we do that because of technology.
Maria Tringali [00:23:50] You can do that because of technology.
Meredith Smith [00:23:52] Right. Otherwise, like, if you were going to pay me to do it by hand at like a rate per hour, you're going to you're I'm going to charge you 20 grand to put this silly little number, like 14 cents in the right bucket, because I have to look it up and it's broken out into forty seven different jurisdictions that are all finally name from a northerner like me. How do you really reconcile old processes and new technology? What does that look like? Just like sending a link and not just scanning, because that's not that still paper.
Maria Tringali [00:24:31] It's kind of funny. I actually have conversations. Sometimes you have to have kind of conversations with people like, yeah, this is automation. So you're not going to be able to do everything exactly. Exactly as you did before, because by definition, that's automation. Right. So let's just admit that we first started there. We are talking about automated processes, which makes it easier overall. Are there a couple of things that you do manually because you do this one little thing? Are those maybe not going to be able to fit into this? Or maybe you still have some manual intervention in your process for these of your top customers or whatever you can work those in? I don't think that there might be a misconception that automation forces you to do things you don't want to do. I like to tell people that eviler software is built to make you one hundred percent compliant. That doesn't mean you have to do all of it. If you want to still manually mark a customer exempt because it's target and you can't get their certificate for whatever reason. And you want to take the risk of not having Target's exemption certificate. The automation is not going to restrict you from doing in some cases with the access to the program, it will know everything in general. But in general, automation is not going to be so strict that you won't be able to also leverage some of your favorite or whatever workarounds or unique situations that you need to. I think that's a misconception. People think it's an all or nothing thing. You still can hand intervene in an invoice. You still can hand intervene in the tax calculation if you want to. In your you know, there's things you can still do. It's not so strict that you won't be able to run your business like you traditionally have. And Judy, I don't know if you've heard that, too, but I think that's what people think.
Judy Vorndran [00:26:13] Well, I think there's just a lot of fear about anything new. Right. I just think there's that, you know, and then also I think a lot of people just don't even realize what they're doing. They're not robotic, but just sort of just that. That's what I do. And it's been so long that if you're going to, like, go, you know, and that's when you end up finding out, like, the process could be better. And then that's the kick back to, like, rethink and then go forward. And that's where the Push-Pull lies, like time, ability, all that. So, you know, speaking of which, I was mentioning sage customers, a lot of factors at all that. So, I mean, how did you get success with them to buy into the need for the CERT project or what product or was that not part of what you needed to do at that time?
Maria Tringali [00:26:55] I mean, back before Wayfair or bowsprit fair?
Judy Vorndran [00:26:58] Well, yeah,
Maria Tringali [00:27:00] it's really different because the answer is different, right? Yes. Free way fair. If people were very regional. And here's what I would say for both, actually. When you when your business expands outside of your home state or maybe you're in a tri state area that you're pretty familiar with, or maybe you're in Denver, in Arvada, you know, if you're when you kind of get out of your comfort zone, that's when you really need to think about automation, because that's when you those tax rates, Meridith, that you're not familiar with. And then that's when you have to start collecting certificates. So you're not familiar with or maybe you expanded your business into a different product. And that goes a different way. Maybe it goes to the government marketplace and you're not used to those certificates. So that's the leverage I always took. Did something happen in your business to change? Sure. And I still say if I'm only in Illinois, if I have a buyer or a business, it's only in Illinois and their only resale, all they have to worry about is the Illinois resale certificate. All right. They might be able to manage those themselves because they know what it is. They're familiar with it and they know the laws in Illinois. But once they start selling in Ohio and Kentucky and all the states and Missouri, all the states in that area, they have more risk because they don't know what they're looking at in and out of state. I think the same thing applies in the economic nexus just compounded by the fact that I do webinars. You and I both do webinars all the time. And one of the poll questions that I ask when I have businesses on the phone is how many new states did you or are you planning on registering? And because of the laws, it's always twenty plus twenty plus beats every single time, and quite often it's more than thirty five. I mean it's a lot for these businesses, even if you're that manufacturer in the tri state area, but because you've been shipping products at a high dollar, maybe you make machines, you know, I don't know.
Meredith Smith [00:28:50] Or a lot of stuff.
Maria Tringali [00:28:52] Yeah. A lot of stuff. And you're selling hundreds of orders to people all the time to Target stores and Walgreens. You can hit that really easily. And that's where I think that's where the stress is. Right. Can we actually do this themselves or are we out of our knowledge? Give my credit manager actually know how to do this and have the time to do this. So. The unfamiliar territory is usually where I start talking about how and I always support Missouri under the bus along with my niece, Chloe, but how are you going to know what the resale certificate looks like in Missouri? And I just look right out of my camera. I don't. And I do this for a living, so I don't know how you would expect your poor credit manager to know. And so I asked them what percent of your business is exempt. And I asked them how many reasons, like what are the different reasons why people would be exempt? When somebody tells me I have resellers I manufacture and I have some government entities, I'm like, whoa, dude, you're out. I mean, you're out of your capabilities, right? You have to add twenty one states and you have three different reasons. There's just no way I can imagine. So I will just try to talk about this.
Judy Vorndran [00:29:59] But there is a view, there is that view of like it's just just a piece of paper and there isn't enough enforcement that's negative enough and hits enough people for them to see. Unfortunately the consequence isn't widely felt. And so there people are willing to roll the dice. And I, I hope that I mean, I was I was thought with Wayfair exemption certificate was just going to become so much more important because so many people don't even get the right ones because they'll get it for the one state and not five states that they're shipping to that like, oh, this is my reseller of ah, save an example value reseller, shipping all these places.
Maria Tringali [00:30:34] There is a drop shipping too. Right. Don't get me started there.
Judy Vorndran [00:30:38] Except I'm like that state won't accept that certificate. So you are wrong actually. Yeah. And then, and then the onus falls back on you. So there's just a whole, a whole whole amount of, like , a lack of understanding of where you need the service, where the customer's getting the good or the service and who's selling it. Yeah, no. And I think that I hope we'll see more of that transparency with taxpayers choosing to do that. And I also think more people are going to get licensed because of the welfare rolls. Right. When they it we're
Maria Tringali [00:31:06] seeing that for sure. I mean, our eighteen years probably is because our team is super busy with people trying to catch up and get registered and move forward. But one of the other things that I hear that I think is sort of unrealistic is, oh, we'll just collect the certificate next time we sell them something. Right. That is not practical. You're going to stop the presses at the time of an order. When someone wants something, they're urgent, they need it shipped. And you're going to say, wait, I can't sell it to you until you give me a certificate and then I'm going to do that. It is not neither one neither side is going to do it right. The salesperson, as you just talked about earlier, is not going to hold up their sale for a certificate. Then we're going to invoice everybody with a taxable invoice because now we know we are registered in that state and then you're going to irritate your best customers. This is really not a good plan. I just can't see it working when people say that, oh, we'll just collect it next time.
Judy Vorndran [00:31:59] Well, we have a client now that didn't get certs at the time for various reasons. Certain numbers changed. They can't get the old one right or they can't ballot. We got to be validated.
Meredith Smith [00:32:09] And it was the reason it was for a reseller. So their vendor. So they're the middleman. Right. And this is the exact example, because we had this conversation this morning and you thought our client is the middleman. They bought something, you know, and paid tax on it and then ended up reselling it. And we're doing some mitigation and cleanup and whatnot. So they got there like, OK, you've got exemption certificates. I'm going to go back and try to get them from our reseller. I am licensed. I'm now going to try to recoup the thirteen thousand dollars of sales tax I paid my vendor. So she's got a current certificate. She can't validate the other one. So now the vendors like well, I can't tell if that's a real start. Right, because I can't validate because I'm old and they expire after three years or whatever. Yeah. So now she's like, well
Judy Vorndran [00:32:58] it's thirteen thousand dollars. Interesting. Wow. I mean it's real money. That's not something like you say. Seventy five percent of your business is resale. OK, but what if one hundred percent was taxed and because you don't get a search on audit, you know, and also the challenge and what we do is, is split among the states. We have a client now that has some issues with tax. And we look at it like it's really broken out about 14 states. It's not all forty six. Right. So they're like the big ones, this one versus that one. So the minutiae that gets people like and my view is always like, you can just fix all of it if you automate and process around it. And it's cheaper than fighting one fight. But yeah,
Maria Tringali [00:33:43] said that about the certificates, too. I have a lot of people that only want to collect the certificates for the states they have Nexxus in right now. But with all these economic laws, you know, if your business is growing and especially since covid, there's been a lot of people who have changed their business model substantially. Either nature did it to them or they're doing it in an outgoing way. Right. So you might as well just start collecting these certificates if you think your business is growing in this direction. Where are you going to stop in June and go send an email out to the Ohio customers that you never sold to before like that too. So we might as well just do this whole thing and there's programs like the assist program, which you probably recommend that really help with that that really can help you save the cost and effort and not make you feel. So I think people still think they're exposed if they register. And that's actually a good question, Judy. How do you respond to that when people die? Well, we didn't want to register for sales tax because it exposes us. How do you
Judy Vorndran [00:34:38] respond? Why do you just say they can find you, your website, all these things if you think you're not looking like you're everywhere a government Ozturk has figured out. So what you're really doing is avoiding having a statute of limitations. And so you have to file anything. So you've left yourself exposed. So to me, I would mitigate risk by filing correctly as best as you can, never going to get a hundred percent, but you can get close and then, you know, you've got that you could just sleep at night. So, yeah, but I, I know there are so many conversations I've had over my twenty five years of like it's really clerical. Like Chloe shouldn't be doing that because it isn't really a clerical system.
Maria Tringali [00:35:18] She's adorable but I don't think she knows how to do this.
Judy Vorndran [00:35:21] Yeah.
Maria Tringali [00:35:21] And I'm sure she wants a summer job too. If anyone's hiring out there, I'm sure Chloe would love a summer job validating certificates
Meredith Smith [00:35:28] or like inputting any sort of transition to the here's what it says here is I'll get it in there, too, with the automation it's impossible even for practice practitioners. It's impossible to know all the laws and all of the states. And so if you don't do this on a regular recurring basis, how do you know that California has a reduced rate for manufacturing? So if you exempt your customer because they're manufacturing, you've basically just through your girl. You've just told your girl, don't charge tax on this customer because they're a manufacturer when really it's just that I don't pay six percent, I pay two percent. Yeah. And so you're kind of when you override things, you're making assumptions that it's going to be applicable in all states, all cases, and they're not drop shipping somewhere else. And there's no you know, that automation at least gives you some sort of like connection to the applicable law
Maria Tringali [00:36:27] with the case. Yeah, and that's that's true. Judy always reminds me of that. If you just mark someone exempt in your ERP, that does not solve the problem because of things like that, because of different state laws, because different states have different expirations. I mean, there's no
Judy Vorndran [00:36:42] they don't exempt everything you buy either. Right.
Maria Tringali [00:36:45] Many reasons why that is not a good solution. It just happens to be the solution that was available. And it is just the easiest one in the ERP platforms sorry, HP platforms listening out there. But you'll tell people that, oh, look, you can make Markoe a customer exempt. But when you look at it from our side of things, it's not a best practice. It's not really a recommended practice.
Judy Vorndran [00:37:08] Well, Lara, I mean, kind of upset the apple cart, you know. Fifteen years. I mean, none of the other providers were integrating with quick books or sage or any of that. No, they started that. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, you didn't have the option. So it was manual, you know. And so now we're not, we're a long way from that, thank goodness. But there's still that hurdle of understanding and having the right integrations and all that good stuff. So it is an interesting world. We're still living with everybody. I get asked, do we think we're done with that? Funny, I do too. We don't even talk about that. We don't try to stir. Everybody's good. I'm like, are you kidding me?
Maria Tringali [00:37:50] As I mentioned earlier, I don't know about your firm, but our team is busier than ever this year and I'm on a lot of calls with manufacturers and distributors. It's mostly what I do just like you. It's what I do is I get on those and kind of consult about everything that we're talking about right now. And nobody has registered. It's like the manufacturers and distributors missed the message the first time. They didn't write the first taxable sales.
Meredith Smith [00:38:12] It's like that doesn't work and it doesn't
Maria Tringali [00:38:14] matters for some reason. It may be you know, I don't know why this year. I don't know why it is the two year anniversary. I don't know why it has it. All of a sudden they figured it out. I have no clue. But it is all I see in manufacturers and distributors as people who did not register yet or did not think the law applied to them, or they're now adding e-commerce, as we talked about earlier, because we're all at home. So now they're adding e-commerce for B2C or B2B or the reverse, whichever one they were doing before. They're now doing the other. Yeah. And I think perhaps that's why they're thinking more of it, because there is still a belief out there that the laws or for e-commerce sellers, when you and I know they weren't there for everybody. But I think there's just still that misconception
Judy Vorndran [00:38:59] about the marketplace. Like people think Shopify is a marketplace, it's a software program. It's not a marketplace, but people think that's still is. So there is definitely some misconception, misconceptions. Plus, I wonder if, as you mentioned this, I'm thinking no wonder people think the Marketplace is somebody who sells something. Authorities apply to me, I have no idea, but it is interesting, that was always like, well, I thought it was taxable sales. I don't have any taxable sales and a reason like where'd you get that idea? I didn't pick the same roll. That's not the rule. I thought it was this. You know, it's just nobody looks at the details. That's the problem. Nobody wants to go. I don't really care that much about Delaware or they're like those same exact sales. I just don't care. Yeah. Now, it's a fascinating world that I struggle with to try to explain to people the value. And I also think for me, my biggest reasons for automation are you have a system of record for that thing. Right? If you rely on NetSuite market customers, except you don't have taxability, you don't have rights, it's all manual. You don't have any information that you can gather from a system that is managing your sales taxes. That's important to my mind. It's part of your business process.
Maria Tringali [00:40:07] So that's so true. So true.
Meredith Smith [00:40:11] Well, and as you know, we come to the end of the year and you say
Judy Vorndran [00:40:17] no taxes are being made it
Meredith Smith [00:40:23] twenty, twenty, and that's fine. But do you see as kind of thinking into what may be coming in twenty, twenty one, what challenges we might expect moving forward for taxpayers?
Maria Tringali [00:40:38] You're asking me, are you asking Judy?
Judy Vorndran [00:40:40] I'm asking all of you.
Meredith Smith [00:40:41] We're asking you but feel free to let you know or are we all just thinking about what a great year twenty twenty was like? You know, we're all just redirected protects
Maria Tringali [00:40:49] as far as sales tax, just kind of the obvious. Maybe it's not so obvious to people that states everybody is short of their tax money. Right. We're not shopping in the same way we used to. You know, things just aren't funded. Everything has changed. And I live in Washington and we don't have state income tax here. So if you are even remotely turned on the radio, you know that sales tax is how our state gets money to fix our roads and do everything because we don't have state income tax. So sales tax, a huge focus here. And it was. I don't know if this is current, but as of maybe six months or a year ago fifty three percent of our state's budget came from sales tax. So we're pretty aware that sales tax is what pays for things. And there's often stories on the news that someone wants to pass a bill to tax Blenkinsopp insert product here to generate more revenue. But not all states have that kind of awareness. But I think that, to answer your question, Meredith, there's going to be so much more of that. Where is the state going to make up the money that they didn't get this year? It's going to be in sales tax revenue. And so that means that things are going to be changed. How they tax we just put out. And if you have seen it yet, Judy, I haven't watched a video yet, but we just put out our twenty twenty one tax changes webinar, which is wildly popular. That's our favorite webinar of the year. That and everyone moving to e-commerce and changing their type of business. They're going to have to be way more compliant and the states are going to increase auditors. Sorry, they're going to increase. I mean, where would you go if it were your business to hire more salespeople, to collect more revenue? Right. They're going to hire more auditors and they're going to be auditing businesses, especially my guess, as I don't work for the state. But my guess is especially those that have been wildly successful. I tell people all the time, like you do, because I can go on your website and see what you're selling. And I'm not an auditor. Chloe can go on your website, Parklife, and she can go on the website and just see your success, see where you're selling, see your region so you can see this stuff. It is not rocket science to figure out that you're doing well and you probably owe me a lot of money. It's not rocket science. So I think
Meredith Smith [00:42:57] politically I'd rather get the money from my ad from out of state taxpayers than my in-state constituents who are the ones who are struggling and we've been in this together. But like I would
Maria Tringali [00:43:09] likes to do, perhaps. Right. Who elected you as
Meredith Smith [00:43:11] the forty nine other states?
Judy Vorndran [00:43:13] Oh, yeah, nonvoters. That's what we want. Well I noticed in two thousand seven hundred twenty five years, like I said, so I remember in 07, 08, 09 and I'm thinking I never see more sales tax this in my life and nonresident audits and nexxus questionnaires and they're just out of the woodwork after the recession, the Great Depression, whatever
Maria Tringali [00:43:32] depression with the mortgage, the mortgage meltdown thing. When I got
Judy Vorndran [00:43:37] into my gosh, I have such job security. Right, because when things are good, people fix their stuff. When things are bad, the government comes, they find that,
Maria Tringali [00:43:45] you know, that we are in a pretty good business like
Judy Vorndran [00:43:48] the tax rate right now. Kind of ironic, but I did it when, like Colorado, our Department of Revenue sent it to us last week. And he said we weren't looking to increase enforcement here in Colorado, but we're doing the system. So we got all kinds of crazy stuff going on with our locals on rules. So, you know, there's still change and we just decided to tax dreaming. So we're taxing streaming, which means Netflix and chill are taxable now. Next year at the state level, and that means digital goods, e-books, all those we had sort of been silent on at the state level, and they're going to tax it. So we're going to pay more.
Maria Tringali [00:44:25] So we've seen that already in some other states. And that's what the 20 21 tax changes webinar goes over. We have seen I get a little bit of notification to those, and those are things we have to quickly build into the software. I mean, where are the states going to get money? So an economic nexus is not going away like it's now here. We passed it. It is now here to stay. So I can also see people getting way even more behind people who still are not willing to do it like we've been talking about, who are just kind of sticking their head in the sand. They're just going to owe more and more. And it's going to be a problem. It's a problem.
Judy Vorndran [00:45:01] Yeah, it's a sad thing to have to eat that tax. I mean, when I tell some of my clients that I have to do, Vida's like, whoa, you did get one hundred percent deduction for the tax you didn't collect from your customers as opposed to a 50 percent haircut on a charitable contribution. My fees are deductible. The penalties are not so low, you know, I mean, you weren't planning to give the state of Vermont any money, but you are.
Maria Tringali [00:45:23] I think one of the things you taught me and I use this a lot, was that your penalties can be double what you owe.
Judy Vorndran [00:45:29] I mean, always, always, always double.
Maria Tringali [00:45:32] And people don't realize that they think a penalty means like 10 percent, like I'm going to owe 10 percent. You owe me every time I talk to you, you remind me. No, it's where you owe. Just double it.
Judy Vorndran [00:45:41] Just just double it. It's so depressing, really. I mean, I can't tell you many times that someone said it's like a box. I'm like eight hundred blocks extrapolated over thirty six months is twenty thousand eight hundred dollars. Multiply that to fifty something thousand dollars. Yep. Well there's a few hundred dollar error.
Maria Tringali [00:45:56] I channel my energy.
Judy Vorndran [00:45:59] Yeah but you're right, people like that then it resonates with them. That's how you get sales to buy and that's how you get the CEO to buy and CFO accounting. Accounting is always buying in because they're always the one but they're like gosh, just put something else on my plate. Right. But I just said, you're right.
Maria Tringali [00:46:12] I'm for leadership. And I can't tell you how many times I've been on the phone with the accounting department. And they all want to do this. But when it goes past, you know, to the CEO or CEO or the board or the guy watching the numbers, you know, the budget, and they're like, no, dude, you just go back and keep doing what you're doing. We're not going to invest in this. And you're just you're flawed. And so is the accounting team just Lord. Right. I see that like,
Judy Vorndran [00:46:36] I don't get to decide. And I'm like, yeah. Interesting, though. Interesting that that's a perception. I wonder if the government, like you said, provides roads. It provides a lot of safety nets. Who's getting ahead of the virus distribution? It sure as heck not me. So like, isn't that sort of a governmental Push-Pull with health care to make sure that, like, that's not someone's got to orchestrate those large scale things. And, you know, I just think that is the role of the government. And I don't think they're you know, maybe they're not horribly efficient, but they also have rules and boundaries. So they're not terrible. And they are people, by the way, just like you, me. So they're not. I don't think they mean ill. They are a little hamstrung by the process, I would argue.
Maria Tringali [00:47:15] Yes, that's what I would say. Yeah.
Meredith Smith [00:47:18] Well, Maria, thank you so much. We are going to end with a few little fun things and lifting us back up about how we're not complying with sales tax and we've got to integrate and do all this stuff. So let's see if we can keep these rabbits, because usually Judy and I aren't very good at that. We have to talk. Right? We're on a podcast. So are you ready? Ready. All right. Dark regular or white chocolate? Darkness makes you see what wakes you up in the morning. Coffee, tea or something else.
Maria Tringali [00:47:51] I'm taking it.
Judy Vorndran [00:47:53] No coffee. Oh, OK.
Maria Tringali [00:47:55] Yeah. Never learned to let coffee.
Judy Vorndran [00:47:58] I drink coffee in my forties. Forty one. Never really didn't like it after I had my last kid.
Maria Tringali [00:48:06] Oh that's funny.
Meredith Smith [00:48:07] OK, if you could choose a title for a book about your career, what would it be?
Maria Tringali [00:48:13] Uh it would be on the fence and I'll tell you why. Cause as a career sales and marketing person I've always been in sales or involved in sales in some way. I don't sell right now, but in some way I've always been in that arena as if you're a really good sales person. You live your life on the fence. Half of you has to please have to talk to that customer and please that customer and find a solution. But the other half of you has to make your business profitable, make the business happy, make sure that that solution works for the business. So you have to, you can't do one or the other. You work for both. You work for your customer and you work for the business that employs you. So it's one of the hard things, I think, to teach salespeople anyway. Get to do that.
Meredith Smith [00:48:59] That's awesome. And then what are you reading today and why?
Maria Tringali [00:49:03] I am reading a book called The Castle on Sunset, which is about if you've ever been to Hollywood. I grew up in Southern California. When you go down the one on one freeway into Holly. There's this big, gorgeous castle looking chateau building that kind of looms over the freeway, and this book is about the history of that building, who built it and what it's been doing there all these years. And ironically, back to hospitality. It started as a long term stay hotel like apartments are. And it's been through like iterations over the years. And it was also a kind of my heart, my hospitality interest, plus just growing up in California. But it has a little bit of gossip about what happened. Yeah, the stuff that happened
Judy Vorndran [00:49:46] there, like the Castle Marmont or whatever, that it's a
Maria Tringali [00:49:48] castle. That's what it is. That's the same thing
Judy Vorndran [00:49:52] of history there. Or Château Château Momento. Yes. And then. Oh, yeah. People have died there. Yes.
Maria Tringali [00:50:00] That's what it's kind of most famous for. But it's just been through a lot of iterations and it's still there like no one but bulldozed it down. You can still see it in. The big thing is Lims right over the freeway.
Judy Vorndran [00:50:11] It's a beautiful building. I love historic buildings. It's got a lot of local history.
Meredith Smith [00:50:15] We'll see. Now you can add it to your quarantine. I'm not going anywhere for the holidays, Booklist.
Judy Vorndran [00:50:21] So you go, oh, I like that kind of stuff especially.
Maria Tringali [00:50:24] Yeah, because it's true. And if you've got a little bit of Hollywood gossip in there that you like, so you like who went there.
Judy Vorndran [00:50:29] And I read The Housewives
Meredith Smith [00:50:31] of Beverly Hills, you know, literary style
Judy Vorndran [00:50:36] with a little architecture thrown, I'm
Maria Tringali [00:50:37] told, from the perspective of the House.
Judy Vorndran [00:50:40] Oh, OK.
Meredith Smith [00:50:43] All right. Well, we are no, watch what happens live. But Maria, thank you so much for being here and sharing your experience and your knowledge. We really appreciate it. This has been another episode of this automation podcast. I Married Smith until next time. 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 presented.
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Questions asked and answered in this Episode:
- How did Maria Tringali end up at Avalara?
- What problems have Maria seen with businesses in regards to technology?
- How does she help people overcome these problems?
- How do you streamline automating exemptions certificates?
- How do you reconcile old processes and new technologies?
- How did she get success in getting companies to buy in the certificate product?
- How do they respond to those who don’t want to register and be exposed to sales tax?
- What challenges does Maria see for taxpayers in 2021?
What You Will Discover:
- [00:44] How Maria Tringali end up at Avalara
- [02:49] The technology problems Maria has seen business struggle with
- [05:42] Who she is talking to in the organization to get the information
- [11:48] How they use software to help facilitate exemptions
- [14:34] How to streamline automating exemptions certificates
- [19:43] One advantage of CertCapture
- [24:17] How to reconcile old processes and new technologies
- [26:47] How she got businesses to buy into the certificate product
- [34:33] How they respond to people who don’t want to register
- [37:37] The effects of the Wayfair decision
- [40:11] The challenges Maria sees for taxpayers in 2021
- [47:18] Some fun facts about Maria
- “Another thing that we get is that people only want to automate part. They don’t want to automate everything. They only want help with this one little thing that’s bugging them and so it’s our job as salespeople and consultants and also as CPAs to say ‘but we need to look at the whole umbrella here.’” – Maria Tringali [05:07]
- “What I want to get the sales people to realize is it’s all money to the business, which is all money to share to make the business better, to be more successful.” – Judy Vorndran [20:54]
- “In general, automation is not going to be so strict that you won’t be able to also leverage some of your favorite, or whatever, workarounds or unique situations that you need to.” – Maria Tringali [25:39]
- “I think that’s where the stress is, right? Can we actually do this ourselves or are we out of our knowledge? Can my credit manager actually know how to do this and have the time to do this?” – Maria Tringali [29:03]
- “To me, I would mitigate risk by filing, doing it correctly as fast as you can. Never going to get 100%, but you can get close, and then you can just sleep at night.” – Judy Vorndran [34:54]