Posts Tagged ‘sales and use tax’

Better Sales Tax Matches with New FastTax Improvements

Service Objects has been returning location-based tax rates in the DOTS FastTax API since 2001. Back then, we identified sales tax rates using only zip code. Since zip codes could cross multiple city and county borders, we were returning the rate most likely to be accurate based on preferred city and county. That evolved to returning multiple results based on a zip code, with each result containing a unique city, county and state. This was more accurate, but still involved a level of human intervention as multiple rates could be returned.

The service improved further as Service Objects developed its DOTS Address Validation services, which allowed us to get even more precise in determining the right area for the tax rates. Users could now submit a full address to the API and in most cases get a single accurate result, pinpointing the result to a location that had a clear tax rate.

However, if a given address was bad – or maybe even good but too messy to validate – it would not return a result and users would need to failover to the zip code level operations. Rural addresses which fall outside of city boundaries could wreak havoc if the proper location is not identified.

Last year, Service Objects introduced a new operation, GetBestMatch, to solve these challenges.

GetBestMatch in FastTax is designed to find the best rate possible and return a clean result. It uses the latest algorithms from Address Validation – US to clean and validate the toughest addresses and failing that, validates that the other data points are valid in order to return a zip level rate.

The service can also return an address level rate through the analysis of the nearby area, even if the address is bad. If an area can be proven to have a consistent rate for a zip, city or county and we know the address would be within one of those areas with 100% certainty, it can be deduced that since any address within that area has the same rate, the rate we return would be accurate at the address level. This extra analysis means that GetBestMatch can more precisely return accurate rates more often than its predecessor operations.

Additional returns offer more insight

To add even more accuracy to the service, GetBestMatch also does boundary analysis to ensure the most accurate location is used in the tax calculations. The main piece of information returned to users here is the “IsUnincorporated” note. IsUnincorporated helps users identify locations that might be considered part of the city but actually are not. This example shows what that might look like:

823 Holiday Dam Rd, Honea Path, SC, 29654

This is a partial return of the operation including the Note IsUnincorporated. This notifies the user that the CityRate, if it exists, should not be used in the final TaxRate. We have decided not to modify the original found result (TaxRate and CityRate) but return the IsUnincorporated result so that the user can handle it however they wish. In an upcoming release we will be adding a new return “UnincorporatedTaxRate” to simplify all of this.

The improved rates of return for address level checks also come with a few new challenges. Since we can return accurate rates even if the address is extremely messy, there might be times when we do not always have an accurate city or county to return. We know the rate is accurate but not necessarily exactly where the location is located. For example:

11900 Hunting, Pickerington, OH, 34147

This is a bad address. However, through extra validation we know the other parts of the address are good. We know the zip code and county are good, but it’s possible for multiple cities to fall within these boundaries. Analysis shows the rates would be the same regardless so while we are not able to accurately tell what city is attached to the address, we still know every address in the potential area would have the same rate, so we can confidently say the rate would be good for the address. Another example shows an even more obvious reason why we might not have a value:

8538 Smith Street, Wales, MI, 48027

Again, the address is bad, but this one is easy. Michigan only has a state rate, which means that all addresses within Michigan will have the same state rate. The analysis of city, county and zip shows a consistent city and zip, but the county could be multiple results. So, we can display city and zip code but not county. FastTax is not intended to be an address validation service, but a helpful tip is to look at the Zip return. If the Zip is 5 digits, it meant something happened during validation and the address did not pass inspection.

The latest GetBestMatch updates also added support for the US Territories (Guam, Micronesia, American Samoa etc.) Here is an abbreviated example of an address in Guam:

Bldg 30 Farenholt, Tutahan, 96910

In addition, we already supported military locations within the United States, but now there is support for all of the remote bases around the world as well. An abbreviated example of that can be seen here:

Unit 28103, USAG Graf Chaplain, APO, AE, 09002

Since all of these locations, even the ones abroad, had US assigned postal codes; making sure we could return results was of utmost importance. We now have a complete list of results covering all areas associated with the United States.

Finally, the latest operation also now supports JSON responses as one of our last services to be converted. This operation was also created to be more dynamic, information components outputs allow us to add new results on the fly without breaking any client integrations, like those using SOAP. Fields such as CountyFIPs have already been added, and the new field UnincorporatedTaxRate will also be added here. These fields allow us to work with our clients to add custom logic or results that might not otherwise be available.

Is there a custom logic you’d like to see in FastTax? Reach out and let us know, or get your free trial key and start testing today.

Best Practices for FastTax

Service Objects’ DOTS FastTax service is now more powerful than ever – particularly for areas that have multiple tax jurisdictions. This means that a few tweaks to your implementation can do a lot more of the sales and use tax calculation work for you. So here are some pro tips to elevate your tax game:

Determine where you have “nexus”

In order to hit the ground running, you will first want to look into your own business’ tax requirements. Often this is done by determining states where your business has sufficient physical presence to require the collection of sales tax, also known as “nexus”, and then charging the appropriate tax based on that information. After determining where you will need to charge tax, and what types of taxes are involved (such as sales or use tax), it is time to head over to our FastTax API.

Search for tax rates by address

FastTax gives you the ability to search tax rates by city and state, city, county and state, ZIP code, or (for Canadian addresses) by province. However, the current version also gives you the ability to search tax rates by address, using an operation called GetBestMatch.

To get the most out of your FastTax subscription, we recommend using this latest operation, which will take your address and return the best available tax rate match. This service will even go as far as returning a ZIP code level match when the specific address level information is not available. In addition to the city/state/county/special tax rates that are returned, we will provide you with information about the location’s unincorporated status., discussed next.

Account for unincorporated areas

If you are interested in properly accounting for areas within a city that are unincorporated, we have you covered. We offer a flag that is called IsUncorporated, and it will have either a true or false value. If the flag is set to true all you have to do is take the total tax rate and subtract off any existing city and city district rates. You will be left with the unincorporated address’ accurate tax rate.

With all of these pieces of information in hand, you will now able to select the rates that are relevant to your business and apply the specific sales and use tax rates that fit your needs.

Let us do the work for you

With the latest version of FastTax, you can harness a real-time tax rate lookup service based on contact addresses that are validated, geocoded, and then matched with a corresponding tax rate. This means that the quickest way to get accurate tax information is to now look up tax rates by address.

Compared with searching for tax rates by city, county or ZIP code, searching by address takes advantage of the deep-rooted integration between FastTax and our address validation and geocoding engines. This is particularly important because tax rates can vary within a municipality or ZIP code, based on factors such as incorporation status, so letting us validate and geocode your contact addresses helps us provide you with the most accurate tax rate data.

While the saying “garbage in, garbage out” still applies, this service will also do its best to correct your input to its proper form. Minor spelling mistakes, standardizations, or even non-deliverable addresses can sometimes be geocoded or corrected to provide you an accurate tax rate for your input address. In total, the combination of your predetermined nexus information and our tax rate lookup service allows for a quick and seamless workflow for your business.

As always, we are here to answer any questions that you may have. If you would like clarification on any aspect of our FastTax web service, please feel free to reach out to us. Our sales and support teams are here to find a solution that works for your business. And if you are a current customer and find a rate that is incorrect, shoot us an email and we will get the discrepancy addressed immediately.