Howell handles tax burdens for small businesses

The Memphis Daily News/The Memphis News

Nov. 16, 2013

Imagine having to calculate the sales tax for your product sold across every state in the country.

Within those states, sales tax rates may vary from county to county, so imagine figuring that in as well. Most people don’t have the laser-like focus to comprehend such formulas.

This is where Anna Howell, director of state and local tax for CBIZ Memphis comes in. CBIZ is one of the largest tax, accounting and consulting providers in Memphis. Howell is a certified public accountant and a specialist in sales tax compliance and personal property tax.

Things are about to get a whole lot busier for Howell if the Marketplace Fairness Act, already passed in the U.S. Senate, is approved by the House of Representatives. The act, sometimes referred to as the “Internet tax bill,” will require online and catalog retailers to collect sales tax from consumers regardless of where they are, provided the company has sales of more than $1 million.

Simply put, under the current law, a supplier in Memphis shipping its product via common carrier to Arkansas is not required to collect sales tax from the customer. This will change with the Marketplace Fairness Act, and that supplier will be compelled to register and collect tax from that customer. It’s a heady, complex proposition for small businesses and large corporations alike.

“That’s why people would call me,” Howell said. “Because I have a practice that can prepare sales tax returns for every jurisdiction in the country, we do that for our clients. So a small business that doesn’t have a tax department or even know what the rates are – and especially can’t handle filing all of those returns – it’s a big burden.”

Howell grew up in nearby New Albany, Miss., and, coming from a family of Rebels, attended the University of Mississippi herself. She went with the intention of a medical career with sights set on pharmacy school, but a single class in accounting was enough to switch her from a life as pill counter to one as bean counter . . . (read more)