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Tax compliance firm Avalara has agreed to be acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $8.4 billion.
Avalara has more than 30,000 customers in 95 countries.
The transaction will take Avalara private, removing it from the New York Stock Exchange.
Avalara is starting the week with a big move. The tax compliance firm has agreed to be acquired by global investment firm Vista Equity Partners for $8.4 billion. Vista Equity Partners is acquiring Avalara at $93.50 per share, which represents a 27% premium of Avalara’s closing share price on July 6, 2022.
Founded in 2004, Avalara helps its more than 30,000 customers in 95 countries comply with tax regulations. The Washington-based company offers compliance solutions for various transaction taxes, including sales and use, VAT, GST, excise, communications, lodging, and other indirect tax types. In addition to tax compliance, Avalara also helps companies secure business licenses and provides sales tax data analysis that offer business insights. Among the company’s clients are Zillow, Pinterest, and Roku.
“Avalara is a mission-critical platform serving customers in a variety of end-markets, including retail, manufacturing, hospitality, and software,” said Vista Equity Partners Managing Director Adrian Alonso. “Avalara’s solutions, its commitment to product innovation, and its network of extensive partner integrations, resellers, and accountants make it a true leader in the space.”
Once complete, the transaction will take Avalara private, removing it from the New York Stock Exchange. Prior to going public in 2018, Avalara had raised $341 million. Scott McFarlane is co-founder and CEO.
Taxes, especially in the U.S., can be anxiety-inducing not only for consumers but also for small businesses. And even though this year’s tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, the filing and payment requirements remain unchanged.
“The daunting task of gathering documents for a year that has passed is one that is difficult for small business owners, especially when they already feel overwhelmed at tax time,” said Lil Roberts, CEO and founder of Xendoo. “Coupling that pain point with small businesses feeling that federal tax is a “black box” and understanding how to maximize tax savings is also extremely frustrating.”
Fortunately, where there is a financial problem there is a fintech solution. There are many fintechs available to help both individuals and businesses not only understand their taxes but also to facilitate tax payment. Below, we’ve highlighted the top 10 tax-focused fintechs.
ANNA offers a business bank account and mobile tax app that help merchants with their invoicing, expense tracking, and taxes. The company’s app reminds businesses about tax deadlines and helps them prepare by estimating how much they owe as they earn revenue. ANNA also has a team of accountants to help prepare and submit tax returns.
Avalara offers tax compliance tools for a range of businesses. The Seattle-based company, which counts customers such as Pinterest, Adidas, and Bed Bath & Beyond, offers products to help companies calculate sales tax, gather data to prepare and file tax returns, as well as collect, store, and manage tax documents on behalf of the business. Avalara offers products tailored to specific businesses, including ecommerce, lodging, communications, and restaurants.
In 2016, financial health company Credit Karmalaunched a free tax filing service. Interestingly, the company was recently purchased by TurboTax parent Intuit for $7 billion. In comparison with Credit Karma’s free service, TurboTax charges users anywhere from $60 to $120 for a federal return and $45 for a state return.
DAVO launched in 2011 to be the ADP for merchants’ sales tax. In other words, DAVO automates the entire sales tax process on a business’ behalf. The company connects to the merchant’s point-of-sale technology to collect sales data and sets aside taxes on a daily basis. When sales tax is due, DAVO files and pays on the small business’ behalf.
HR and payroll company Gusto has a robust set of services to make small business owners’ lives easier. The company automatically files payroll taxes and distributes I-9s, 1099s, and W-2s to employees. Gusto also helps businesses stay compliant by staying up-to-date on changing tax laws and doing all tax-related calculations on the business’ behalf.
Refundo offers a suite of solutions to help tax preparers bring their operations into the digital age. Among the company’s products are mobile document transfers, audit assistance, tax preparation fee collection service, payment acceptance tools, and refund advance technology. At the end of the day, the company’s solutions not only make the tax preparer’s life easier, they make the lives of their taxpaying clients easier, as well.
With a mission to make self-employment easier, RoamHR automatically removes tax withholdings from users’ accounts once they get paid and places the funds into a RoamHR Tax Withholding Account. The company also offers tools that help users track deductible expenses, such as mileage, and helps them file their business taxes each quarter.
Taxnology has built a digital tax compliance center, a web-based solution to help businesses manage their taxes digitally. The company stores business’ historical tax data in the cloud so that it can be used for future cash flow planning and budget purposes or retrieved in the event of an audit. Taxnology is currently only available in Hungary.
Xendoo offers bookkeeping and CPA services that connect with businesses’ financial accounts to deliver monthly reports, business insights, and tax filing. Because Xendoo has a comprehensive view of the merchant’s financials, the company is able to provide tax consulting services, as well.
Cloud accounting software company Xero has been helping small businesses with their bookkeeping since it was founded in 2006. The company also offers solutions to help tax preparers who have Xero clients automate and customize tax-related tasks. For businesses who prepare taxes on their own, Xero offers tools to file taxes online, as well as prepare sales tax returns using software that leverages a company’s sales data to automatically calculate the taxes.
Roberts added one final thought for those businesses working toward that July 15 deadline. “For a smooth process, best practice is to have monthly bookkeeping done so tax benefits are being collected all year, and having books in order to make tax time more peaceful.” And during a pandemic, anything that can make a process more peaceful is worth doing.
Avalara announced this week that billing and revenue automation platform Ordway is the latest company to join its Certified Partner program. Ordway customers will now be able to choose Avalara’s AvaTax to ensure accurate, real-time calculation of all applicable taxes, fees, and surcharges for every billed item.
“We’re excited to partner with Avalara to provide our customers with an option to automatically calculate sales tax,” Ordway founder and CEO Sameer Gulati said. “Our out-of-the-box tax calculations work for many of our customers, but for those that desire the additional power of AvaTax, our integration makes effortless tax calculation and collection possible.”
The integration will lower the amount of manual work typically involved in determining and collecting state and local taxes by providing sales and use tax calculations within existing business apps at the time of checkout or billing. Avalara’s systems keeps track of the most current tax rules and rates, covering more than 12,000 U.S. sales and use tax jurisdictions. The cloud-based, SaaS technology features 700+ prebuilt integrations into ERP, ecommerce, and other systems, as well as an advanced API.
“Ordway understands the needs of its customers, and their billing revenue automation platform reduces accounts receivable complexity for their customers along many fronts,” SVP of Business Development for Avalara Greg Chapman said. “We understand that digitization of business processes is not an option it is essential. We are proud to offer more accurate and efficient tax compliance solutions to our shared customers.”
In addition to the benefits of the AvaTax integration, Ordway customers who also use Ava CertCapture will also be able to seamlessly link to exception certificates collected and maintained within Avalara’s system.
A specialist in bringing tax compliance automation to businesses, Avalara presented “The Wacky World of Sales Tax” at our developers conference, FinDEVr Silicon Valley in 2015. The company’s senior manager for developer relations showed how the Avalara’s APIs help businesses navigate the complicated world of transactional sales taxes.
More recently, Avalara announced the acquisition of Portway International, a Canada-based firm that provides Harmonized System classifications and outsourced customs brokerage services. Earlier this month, the company reported second quarter revenue growth of 43% over the previous year, and more than 10,000 “core customers.”
“We continue to believe that the automation of transaction tax compliance will be adopted over an extended period,” Avalara founder and CEO Scott McFarlane said in a statement, “as customers upgrade systems, expand their businesses both domestically and internationally, and respond to changing government rules, such as the recent legislative responses to the Supreme Court’s Wayfair decision.” The Wayfair decision refers to the 2018 ruling that states can collect sales tax from internet retailers.
Avalara began the year with a bang. In January, the company acquired the “operational assets” of a firm called Compli that helps alcoholic beverage makers comply with regulations with regard to alcohol production, distribution, and sale. A month later, Avalara was back in the acquisition business with a purchase of Seattle-based AI technology company Indix. Also that month, Avalara announced a trio of major executive hires: appointing Amit Mathradas as president and Chief Operating Officer, Sanjay Parthasarathy as Chief Product Officer, and Ross Tennenbaum as EVP of Strategic Initiatives.
Founded in 2004, Avalara trades as AVLR on the New York Stock Exchange following its 2018 IPO. The company has a market capitalization of $6 billion.
According to the document, Avalara plans to raise $150 million in common stock proceeds for the IPO. In the S-1 registration statement, the company said its plans for the funds are “to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes” which it expects will include “headcount expansion, continued investment in our sales and marketing efforts, product development, general and administrative matters, and working capital.” Avalara also plans to use a portion of the proceeds to “repay the outstanding balance under our revolving credit facility.”
While the timing of the IPO has not been disclosed, Avalara intends to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker AVLR.
Since it was founded in 2004, Avalara has grown to serve 7,760 core customers and has raised $340 million from investors such as TCV, Battery Ventures, and Sageview Capital. The company has made four acquisitions, including VATlive, VAT Applications, HotSpot Tax, and EZTax.
Avalara presented at our developers conference at FinDEVr San Francisco 2015 on “The Wacky World of Sales Tax,” showing its APIs available for developers. Earlier this month, the company won QAD’s Solution Partner of the Year award.
This week, CB Insights unveiled its Fintech 250 list. The research outfit selected 250 emerging, private companies in 17 sub-sectors of fintech that are changing the face of financial services. The roster includes 44 Finovate and FinDEVr alums that were selected using CB Insights’ data-driven process that analyzes company momentum, market participation, funds raised, and investor quality.
Starting in 2017 former Microsoft executive Jeremy Korst will be the man driving the message at tax compliance innovator and FinDEVr alum, Avalara. The Seattle-based company announced this week that Korst will join Avalara as its new chief marketing officer and executive vice president. Coming onboard at what Korst called “an exciting inflection point” for the company, he praised Avalara’s “ideal combination (of) a terrific executive team; a cohesive, unique culture that embraces the ‘power of Orange;’ a proven platform; and a massive global market opportunity.”
Korst (pictured) arrives at Avalara after several years at Microsoft where he led planning and execution of the global launch of Windows 10. Previous to Microsoft, Korst served as vice president and general manager at T-Mobile, and senior product marketing manager at AT&T Wireless/Cingular. A member of the board of a number of companies including Shoelace Wireless and 9104 Studios, Korst is a mentor for Seattle-area technology accelerator, 9Mile Labs. He has a BA in Economics, Politics, and Government from the University of Puget Sound, and a MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.
At Avalara, Korst will be responsible for brand, demand generation, as well as channel, international, product, and customer marketing. Avalara general manager and CRO Pascal Van Dooren said Korst’s experience in marketing “some of the most storied names in tech … make(s) him an ideal fit for Avalara.”
To its credit, Deloitte is aware of the “old-is-new-again” aspect of regtech. The report notes that “while the name is new, the marriage of technology and regulation to address regulatory challenges has existed for some time with varying degrees of success.”
Indeed. Consider companies like Gremln (F14), which demonstrated a social media platform specifically for regulated industries, and Finect (F13), which unveiled a compliant communication platform for financial professionals. Qumram (F16) provides software that helps ensure complaint communication by recording digital interactions from web, social, and mobile channels.
My Virtual Strongbox (F14) introduced the kind of secure document-storage technology that can help FIs better manage customer documentation. Global Debt Registry, another F14 presenter, provides compliance and risk-management solutions to the account-management industry. OutsideIQ (F16) enables FIs to uncover regulatory risk using a combination of machine learning and human analysis. FundAmerica (F15), arguably one of the most explicitly regtech companies to demo at Finovate, provides crowdfunding platforms with APIs for a wide variety of “mission-critical, back-end regulatory requirements.”
Additionally, there are a sizeable number of credit risk analysis innovators such as QCR (F15), CreditHQ (F16), and FICO (FD16); companies like Avalara (FD15) that help merchants recognize and satisfy sales-tax requirements (or by that token, even a VATBox (F15) that helps recover VAT fees for international travelers); and cloud-based auditing technologies like those available from Auvenir (F16), whose identity as a fintech company was a topic of our deliberations.
And all of this is to say nothing of the even larger number of security and authentication specialists whose technologies—at least by Deloitte’s definition—can be considered regtech. Note that Deloitte’s Ireland-based rundown of regtech companies includes Finovate alum Trustev (F14), whose online ID-verification technology is very much in the same category as dozens of other security, authentication, verification, anti-fraud innovators.
The question as to whether regtech as a “thing” (as the millennials say) can be separated from the broader fintech discussion is likely more of a marketing decision than anything else. Clearly regtech has the ranks; the issue is to what degree does distinguishing them as a type of innovator apart from the larger fintech world make it easier for these companies to attract top talent, develop necessary solutions, and raise the capital to drive and grow their businesses. From the perspective of fintech in general—and Finovate/FinDEVr in specific—we’re happier having regtech innovating from “inside the tent,” as opposed to being outside the tent trying to find a way in.
Two more major players jumped on the blockchain bandwagon. IBM (FD16) showed its Hyperledger at FinDEVr last week and Visa (FD14) announced its cross-border payment system built on blockchain-like distributed ledgers, an apparent challenge to Swift. The technology is powered by Chain (FD15) which counts Visa, Capital One (FD15) and Citibank as investors. According to Javelin Strategy, banks will invest $1 billion this year in blockchain initiatives.
Mobile payments gets another huge player
Speaking of IBM, one of the more surprising announcements at Money2020 was the launch of IBM Pay, a private-label mobile payments and POS system. Details are sketchy, but in the IBM video below, it appears to be a Starbucks-like QR code system. It’s part of IBM’s Watson Commerce initiative.