Avoid Expensive Sales Tax Compliance Software Mistakes with Avalara Skip to main content

In today’s complex business landscape, navigating sales tax compliance can be a daunting challenge. Sales tax laws are ever-evolving, and making costly mistakes in this area can lead to severe financial and legal repercussions. This article explores the complexities of sales tax compliance, highlights the benefits of partnering with Avalara, delves into common sales tax compliance mistakes, and discusses Avalara’s solutions to streamline the sales tax compliance process.

The Complexity of Sales Tax Compliance

To appreciate the full scope of sales tax compliance complexities, we must acknowledge that the landscape extends beyond just the United States. It encompasses various countries and regions worldwide, each with its set of rules and regulations. Within the U.S., the complexity deepens as not only are there different state laws to consider, but local jurisdictions often impose additional taxes and exemptions. As a result, the challenges in sales tax compliance intensify.

The nuances in sales tax compliance don’t stop there. Understanding the taxability of goods and services is a key aspect. For instance, some items may be taxable in one state but exempt in another. This intricacy requires constant vigilance and monitoring to ensure accurate tax calculations.

One prime example of this complexity is in the realm of “nexus.” Nexus refers to the connection between a business and a state that obligates the business to collect and remit sales tax in that state. The definition and criteria for nexus vary across jurisdictions, and businesses must stay abreast of changes or risk non-compliance.

Sales tax rates are subject to frequent modifications. Keeping track of these changes and applying the correct rate to each transaction is a considerable challenge. Consider a scenario where a business operates in multiple states with varying tax rates. Calculating the right tax rate for each transaction across these regions manually is an error-prone task.

The Benefits of Partnering with Avalara

Avalara is a leading provider of sales tax compliance outsourcing solutions, making it easier for businesses to navigate the complex landscape of retail sales tax compliance. Avalara sales tax compliance software can help companies streamline their operations and ensure they remain in full compliance with the ever-changing tax regulations. Whether it’s automating tax calculations, filing returns, or managing exemptions, Avalara’s comprehensive suite of services simplifies the process, enabling businesses to focus on their core operations while leaving the intricacies of sales tax compliance to the experts. Here are some key benefits of partnering with Avalara:

1. Expertise and Automation

Avalara’s software leverages cutting-edge technology to automate many aspects of the compliance process. This automation significantly lessens the chances of human error, making sure you get accurate and up-to-date tax calculations. This expertise and automation save businesses time and effort, allowing them to focus on their core operations.

2. Real-time Updates

Sales tax laws are continually evolving, making it critical for businesses to keep up with changes in tax regulations. Avalara’s software is regularly updated to reflect these changes, which means businesses using their solutions can rest assured that their tax calculations remain compliant, even as regulations evolve.

3. Efficient Exemption Management

Managing exemptions can be a complex process, but Avalara’s software streamlines this by making it easier to manage and document customer exemptions. This reduces the risk of overlooking valid exemptions and ensures that businesses only pay the taxes they are legally obligated to.

4. Returns and Filing

Avalara simplifies the process of preparing and filing sales tax returns. By automating this task, businesses can minimize the risk of errors and late submissions. Avalara’s software can handle various filing frequencies and integrate with popular accounting and e-commerce platforms to streamline the process.

5. Audit Defense

In the unfortunate event of an audit, Avalara can provide businesses with valuable support. They offer documentation and assistance during the audit process, which can significantly minimize the impact of an audit on a business. This peace of mind is invaluable for companies of all sizes.

Common Sales Tax Compliance Mistakes

Understanding the pitfalls of sales tax compliance begins with recognizing the common mistakes that businesses often make. Such errors can be costly and may cause legal trouble. Here are some examples:

  1. Misclassifying Products and Services

Misclassifying products and services is a common error. Different states have different definitions for what is considered taxable, exempt, or subject to a reduced rate. Misclassifying items can result in underpayment or overpayment of taxes.

Consider a business selling digital products and services. The taxability of digital goods varies from state to state. Misclassifying a digital product can lead to incorrect tax calculations, impacting the business’s financials.

  1. Missing Exemptions

Overlooking valid tax exemptions is another significant mistake. Exemptions can apply to certain industries, organizations, or types of transactions. For instance, resellers often have exemption status. Failing to identify and apply these exemptions results in businesses paying unnecessary taxes.

  1. Incorrect Sales Tax Rates

Using outdated tax rates or failing to account for local tax rates can lead to errors in tax calculations. The variance in tax rates between states, counties, and municipalities adds complexity to tax compliance. A common mistake is using outdated rates, which can result in overcharging or undercharging customers.

  1. Late or Incorrect Filing

Filing sales tax returns in a timely and accurate manner is crucial. Missing deadlines or submitting incorrect returns can lead to penalties and interest charges. In some cases, businesses may not realize they made mistakes until they are audited, incurring additional costs and scrutiny.

  1. Inadequate Record Keeping

Inadequate record-keeping practices can be detrimental during an audit. When businesses are unable to provide comprehensive and accurate records, it becomes challenging to prove compliance. Businesses must maintain records of sales, exemptions, and tax returns for each jurisdiction they operate in.

These common mistakes emphasize the intricacies of sales tax compliance and the importance of vigilance and precision in the compliance process.

Avalara’s Solutions To Look For

Avalara provides a suite of solutions to help businesses overcome the challenges associated with sales tax compliance. These solutions offer practical ways to streamline the compliance process and mitigate risks. Here’s an in-depth look at Avalara’s key offerings:

  1. AvaTax

Avalara’s AvaTax is a cloud-based sales tax automation software that serves as the cornerstone of their solutions. AvaTax works smoothly with different accounting and online selling systems to make sure that it calculates taxes accurately and with the latest information.

For instance, if a company sells something online that’s supposed to be taxed, AvaTax figures out the right tax rate for that sale by considering where the customer is, what’s being sold, and the current tax rules, all in real-time. This automation minimizes the chances of error and keeps businesses consistently compliant.

  1. Exemption Certificate Management

Avalara’s Exemption Certificate Management solution simplifies the complex process of verifying and documenting customer exemptions. Businesses can collect and store exemption certificates digitally, reducing the risk of overlooking valid exemptions.

For instance, consider a business that sells to resellers who have tax-exempt status. With Exemption Certificate Management, the business can easily verify the exemption status of these customers and store their exemption certificates, ensuring they only pay taxes when required.

  1. Returns and Filing

Filing sales tax returns can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task, especially for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions. Avalara simplifies this process by automating returns and integrating with various platforms, such as QuickBooks and Shopify.

Imagine a business that operates in five states and has a significant volume of transactions. With Avalara’s Returns and Filing solution, the business can easily generate and file accurate sales tax returns for each jurisdiction without the burden of manual data entry and calculations.

  1. Audit Defense

Avalara’s support extends to audit defense. In the unfortunate event of an audit, businesses can rely on Avalara to provide documentation, support, and expertise. This reduces the stress and uncertainty associated with audits and enhances the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Consider a scenario where a business is audited for its sales tax compliance. Avalara’s Audit Defense support can assist the business in providing the necessary documentation and addressing auditor inquiries, ultimately streamlining the audit process and minimizing disruptions.

  1. Compliance Monitoring and Reporting

Avalara’s solutions also offer robust compliance monitoring and reporting features. Businesses can gain valuable insights into their compliance status, access detailed reports, and use data-driven information to make informed decisions.

For instance, a business expanding into new regions can use Avalara’s compliance monitoring tools to assess its compliance with local tax regulations. The reporting capabilities enable the business to gauge its tax liabilities and make adjustments as necessary, thereby reducing the risk of non-compliance.


In summary, the complexities of sales tax compliance encompass a multitude of factors, including varying regulations, product taxability, nexus criteria, and ever-changing tax rates. These intricacies can make it challenging for businesses to stay compliant, resulting in costly mistakes.

The common sales tax compliance mistakes that businesses often make, such as misclassifying products, missing exemptions, using incorrect tax rates, filing late or incorrectly, and maintaining inadequate records, highlight the critical need for precision in the compliance process.

Partnering with Avalara offers businesses the opportunity to navigate these complexities with confidence. Avalara’s solutions, including AvaTax, Exemption Certificate Management, Returns and Filing, Audit Defense, and Compliance Monitoring, provide a comprehensive suite of tools to streamline the sales tax compliance process and minimize risks.

As the comedian Chris Rock humorously stated, “You don’t pay taxes. They take taxes.” However, with the right partner like Avalara, businesses can ensure that the taxes they pay are accurate and in compliance with the ever-evolving tax laws.

In the dynamic world of sales tax compliance, Avalara stands as a trusted ally, offering not only software but also expertise and support. This investment is not just in compliance but in peace of mind, enabling businesses to focus on their core operations while leaving the intricacies of tax compliance to the experts.

To further explore this topic, you can refer to related articles like Sales Tax Pitfalls: Avoid Costly Mistakes and Stay Compliant and Top Five Mistakes People Make with Sales Tax. These resources offer valuable insights into the challenges of sales tax compliance and the importance of effective solutions like those provided by Avalara.

Contact the author, Stephen Bradshaw, partner in charge of State and Local Taxes (SALT), at stephen.bradshaw@btcpa.net. You can also register to see Stephen’s free, on-demand webinar: Avoiding Interstate Taxation Pitfalls