October 22, 2012, 12:50 PM

A top government expert on online sales tax joins tax vendor Avalara

Scott Peterson has been executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax project.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

Scott Peterson

Scott Peterson,  a central figure in the federal government’s efforts to develop policy on collecting online sales tax, will join automated sales tax services provider Avalara on Nov. 12 as its director of government affairs. Avalara sells web-based software that integrates with e-retailers’ accounting and business systems to automatically calculate sales taxand manage tax compliance and filing.

“As sales and use tax regulation becomes more complex, the need for Avalara’s [software-as-a-service]-based solution only intensifies,” Peterson says. “I’m glad to join the industry leader in their quest to eliminate this pain point.”

Peterson most recently served as executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board Inc., a group founded in 2000 in order “to simplify and modernize sales and use tax administration in order to substantially reduce the burden of tax compliance.”

The group created a set of standardized state sales tax guidelines, called the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which 24 states have since adopted, it says. States that follow the Streamlined Sales Tax and Use Agreement would require web and catalog retailers to collect sales tax on in-state orders and remit the collected revenue to the states if the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bipartisan bill introduced to the U.S. Senate last November, is passed.

Avalara provides tax services in accordance with the agreement.

Prior to working with the group, Peterson was director of the business tax division for the South Dakota Department of Revenue and regulation. Before that, he worked on tax policy for the South Dakota Legislature.

“If the Congress and President decide to pass and sign an online sales tax bill, we want to ensure every seller who has to obey the new law can choose their own service provider,” says Scott McFarlane, Avalara founder and CEO. “Scott’s unmatched sales tax management perspective at the state and national level, combined with his understanding of how technology can ease the burden, will play a key role when representing Avalara’s practical solution.”

Comments | 1 Response

  • Retailers should be wary about the coziness between members of the Governing Board of the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement and any sales tax vendor. The Governing Board has the ability to change the sales tax collection rules without any method of recourse or review by the retailers. This equates to taxation without representation. Any retailer who signs up with the SSTA they are signing away a good portion of their autonomy. The associated sales tax vendors providing services to the SSTA automatically monitor and record all retail transactions, collect sales tax, deduct the sales tax from the retailer's account, remit it to all states signed on, and file the tax returns on behalf of the retailer - overriding any questions about nexus or the legality of what they are doing. The states pay for these services out of the huge sales tax profits gained in this non-negotiable deal. A former SSTA board member going to work for Avalara is little different than a congressman going to work for a lobbying firm. It's a conflict of interest and something every retailer should be informed about prior to signing on with the SSTA.

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