This week we bring you an interview with Monika Miles, President of Labhart Miles Consulting Group:
What inspired you to start your business?
My early inspirations were my mother and my grandfather. My grandfather owned a business that engaged in sewing machine sales and industrial manufacturing in Germany after WWII, and my mom still owns and operates a travel agency. Both were very successful. Growing up, I always felt the entrepreneurial spirit and knew that someday I wanted to own a business as well. My business partner and I met at a large public accounting firm and worked together in the multi-state tax group. I tell people that we just had one too many lunches together where we convinced ourselves that we could build the better consulting mousetrap on our own. And we believed it! So we started the firm in 2002. People thought we were crazy to leave well-paid positions during an economic downturn. But the business has thrived, and I’ve never looked back. Although my partner retired earlier this year, I’m thrilled to continue to set lofty goals and move the firm forward into its next phase, where we might change things up a bit!
What about your business do you wish more people understood?
My firm helps companies deal with multi-state tax issues like income tax and sales tax filing responsibilities. I’m a CPA, so I’ve done my share of tax returns. But now, my business is consulting based. We focus on assisting clients who are selling products or services across state lines in dealing with the many state tax issues that come from establishing taxable presence (“nexus”) in a given state. It doesn’t take much to create nexus. Companies that send salespeople into multiple states, or have inventory (even small amounts) in various states can trip into situations where they need assistance. We often assist clients in determining where they should be filing, which of their products and services are subject to tax (income tax and/or sales tax), and how to determine where to remit the proper taxes. We can assist clients to set the stage correctly ahead of time (before they create nexus), or we can assist with fixing non-compliance issues on the back end. We help companies of almost any size, but a sweet-spot for us is a company with revenue of between $25 million and $100 million and 25 or more employees. At that level, companies are usually selling into many states and/or moving people across state lines. I wish that people understood that if they are engaging in business in other states besides their home state, eventually revenue departments in those states are going to “reach out and touch” them too. We can help clients sleep better by addressing those issues before they get that audit notice.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your business?
Due to the consulting nature of my business, much of our work with clients is on a project by project basis, so once we fix a problem, the work with a given client may not be ongoing. Therefore, we are consistently looking for the next project. Because of the tax specific nature of our work, many of our clients come by referral from CPAs or attorneys, although we have had some success in direct sales and marketing efforts. With the ever-changing tax laws across the states, there are plenty of companies that can benefit from our consulting services. The challenge is in letting them know we’re out here and that we can help. They must perceive that they have a problem or a need for our services, and then we need to be there at the right place at the right time when they feel that pain. (The pain, incidentally, often comes from that first audit notice from a given state!)
If your business was a superhero, who would it be and why?
As a proud, woman-owned business, who else but Wonder Woman? Like Wonder Woman, we can fly into a business in our invisible plane and represent our clients with states on an anonymous basis when negotiating for penalty abatements or special considerations. We can use my special bracelets to deflect state audit notices and help clients sleep better at night as a result. And we lasso our knowledge of multi-state tax issues to identify areas of savings, taxability and even exposure, but then unleash our skills to get the best outcome for our clients – whether it be in planning, compliance, or tax strategies.
Any advice for companies reading this?
If your company is doing business in multiple states, it’s likely that you’ve tripped into a potential state tax issue of some sort. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so be careful to hire an experienced professional to gain understanding of the issues before the problem gets too large. Every company is unique and so are the potential state taxability issues. It’s our job to help companies navigate their unique facts to be in compliance with the state tax laws.
Posted on Wed, December 18, 2013
by Rita Ortloff