Stripe, the privately-held payments company now valued at $95 billion, has made an acquisition to expand the range of tools (and services) that it provides to online businesses. It has acquired TaxJar, a popular provider of a cloud-based suite of tax services, which can be used to automatically calculate, report and file sales taxes.
One key point about TaxJar is that it works across a number of geographies and the many different sales tax regimes that each uses — a complex area for a lot of companies that do business online.
Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but for some context the company was valued at $179 million post-money when it last raised money, in January 2019, according to PitchBook data.
Stripe has confirmed that all 200 employees of Woburn, Massachusetts-based TaxJar are joining the company.
Stripe will be integrating TaxJar technology into its revenue platform — where it will sit alongside Stripe Billing (its subscription tools) and Radar (its fraud prevention technology), and potentially build new services using AI and other technology to automate more functions — but businesses can continue to use TaxJar directly, too.
“There’s a reason TaxJar has been a top choice for businesses: their software tools make it incredibly easy to handle sales tax,” said Dhivya Suryadevara, Stripe’s CFO, in a statement. “With TaxJar, we will help millions of internet businesses running on Stripe with their sales tax and make it easier for them to sell internationally. And as a CFO, I’m delighted to welcome so many new colleagues who care deeply about tax calculation and reporting!”
When TaxJar last raised money — a $60 million round in 2019 led by Insight Partners — it mentioned that it had been profitable since 2016 (fueled by a $2 million investment in 2014 from Rincon Venture Partners and Daher Capital), and said it had 15,000 customers, so that base has been growing (specifically, 53% in two years).
Stripe has actually made some moves in the area of tax before, buying Payable back in 2017 to help with 1099 reporting for customers who pay contractors, and partnering with Intuit to help on-demand workers manage their finances. The TaxJar acquisition, however, is filling a noticeable gap in its native product set, as well as a pain point for its customers, specifically in the area of sales tax.
Stripe says that adding sales tax collection and remittance — a complex system that covers as much as 11,000 tax jurisdictions in the U.S. alone — was one of the most-requested features among users, a fact that users themselves have lamented openly:
Ironically, if you link through on the above Tweet, you’ll see in one thread, TaxJar comes up in the conversation.
Indeed, TaxJar was already “fully integrated” with Stripe as a partner, meaning businesses could use TaxJar to calculate and manage sales taxes on transactions powered by Stripe. But using the two together required logging into TaxJar, creating a separate account, and then getting a unique URL to paste into your Stripe Orders settings to run the services together: not the picture of simplicity that Stripe generally presents to users.
Some of that will now become smoother for Stripe customers as part of its bigger push for more automated tools to cover the more repetitive aspects of the online sales transactions process. (Other automated areas include algorithms around payment rejection, billing methods and so on.)
“Like everyone at Stripe, we think every day about how we can help startups and multinational companies alike remove barriers to growing their business,” said Mark Faggiano, CEO and founder of TaxJar, in a statement. “And what that means is making the complicated work of sales tax compliance as straightforward as possible. We know that to grow the GDP of the internet, compliance is critical. We couldn’t be more excited to join Stripe and help power millions of businesses around the world.”
Stripe noted that the sorts of services that TaxJar covers include providing accurate, localized sales tax rates at checkout, submitting tax returns to local jurisdictions and remitting the sales tax collected, producing itemized, local jurisdiction reports to show sales and sales tax collected, and suggesting the right product tax code based on a company’s products.
That TaxJar is coming into the deal with its own customer base and revenue model is important for another reason: it’s a sign of more diversification for Stripe — key as the $95 billion company continues to grow and inch potentially toward a public listing, now being considered for late 2021 or early 2022, according to rumors. Other signs of that diversification strategy include Stripe’s acquisition of Paystack last year out of Nigeria to help it break into payments in Africa, a deal it made for over $200 million.
Stripe made revenues of $1.6 billion (or as much as $7.6 billion!… Stripe declined to comment on both numbers) in 2020, according to this profile in the WSJ, but it was also buffeted pretty significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some sectors where Stripe has played strong, like travel, saw a big drop in transactions, while others, like e-commerce, saw a much bigger surge.
One takeaway from that might be: regardless of what our “new normal” will look like, it seems that e-commerce in one form or another will continue to grow, so offering a wider range of services, like automatic sales tax calculations and reporting around its core business of payments will help Stripe grow revenues per user to offset the ups and downs of specific business lines when and if they arise again.
The area of tax-tech sits somewhere between e-commerce and fintech and has found its own steam in recent years, following both the growing size of the e-commerce market and the evolution in fintech, where startups are building the complex processes that are not the core competency of their target customers and putting them into products that are easy to use and integrate. Others in the same space as TaxJar include Avalara, Vertx and Sovos, among a wider field of startups.
Updated to correct that TaxJar’s last round was led by Insight Partners