When businesses outsource their sales tax process, they become reliant on the service provider for the delivery of the service. In turn, the service provider has a staff of employees (or preparers) that are responsible for servicing the engagements. Too often, I’ve seen a lack of accountability to the client at the preparer level. It’s no fault of the preparer. Quite frankly, they’re caught in the middle.
Allow me to elaborate. In most of the return preparation factories, the design of the process is really at the core of the accountability problem. Specifically, you’ll find multiple departments involved in the monthly process with one person (the preparer) that oversees the process. You’re likely to find a department that manages data import, another department that manages return preparation, a third department for treasury, a fourth department for notices, a fifth department for IT changes, etc. When a problem occurs, it’s difficult to determine who’s at fault. Was it the preparer? Was it the data import process? Was there a problem with the software? Did the notice not get logged quickly enough? As a customer, you don’t really care and it can be frustrating when your preparer doesn’t accept ownership of the problem. This type of process breeds a lack of accountability and poor service often results.
So what’s the alternative? I believe that a process that is more fully managed by an individual rather than a process distributed across multiple department yields a greater level of accountability. If one person is responsible for the data import, the return preparation, the notice activity, etc. there are far fewer opportunities for finger pointing. In this type of process, a more talented person needs to manage the process as they are wearing multiple hats. I’ve found that this type of process and access to the talented individual is a better fit for the small and mid-sized business.
So as you’re looking at sales tax outsourcing options, be sure to understand how each vendor creates accountability to you within their process.
Other recent “Sales Tax Outsourcing” posts by Robert Dumas:
- Outsourcing the Sales Tax Department: 4 Key Factors to Consider
- Sales Tax Outsourcing - You Can't Be Half Committed
- Sales Tax Outsourcing – Walking the Performance Tightrope
- Sales Tax Outsourcing - Cost Reduction Not the Priority
- What Does KPMG Sales Tax Buy Mean to Small – Midmarket?