Our mission to build a better financial world.
The world today:
“The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes” - Albert Einstein
In today’s world, Americans at lower income levels are disproportionately hurt by a complicated tax system and current product offerings. High-net-worth individuals have teams of accountants and lawyers to help them navigate and avoid taxes. In the same country, 3/4 of Americans don’t have access to any financial or tax advice and are forced to wade into the complex world of taxes with inadequate support.
The tax refund plays a central role in the lives of those who live paycheck-to-paycheck. Every year, US taxpayers receive over $350B in refunds. For many folks, their tax refund is the single biggest check they see all year. And 73% of Americans report that they rely on their tax refund to pay off debt and catch up on bills every year.
The advice given to most Americans (who can’t afford to hire a CPA or pay for high-end tax products) is, at best, lacking and, at worst, malicious. We live in a country where access to potentially life-changing tax advice is limited based on your income. It’s not right.
How this impacts the most vulnerable Americans
One of our current partnerships is focused on helping people claim their Earned Income Tax Credit (eligible for families making <$50,000 annual household income).
We recently prepared a return for a single mother living in Pennsylvania. When return season started, she wanted to file the first day she was eligible so she could get her refund as early as possible. This is common among the people we serve since >50% of refund dollars in this country go to paying off debt & catching up on bills.
After preparing her return, we learned that the previous tax service she used had calculated a significantly smaller refund than she was eligible for based on her potential Earned Income and Child Tax Credits. By using Column Tax, she was able to get a $2300 larger refund, without paying a fee.
This is a perfect example of the broken nature of the tax industry in the U.S.
In the same way that we believe Neobanks have changed the banking industry for the better, Column Tax wants to do the same for the tax industry. Taxes don’t have to be complex, stressful, or dated. There is a solution. And we’re building it.
How we’re building a better way
At Column Tax, we are building a better experience for that single mother in Pennsylvania and every American struggling to make ends meet.
To get there, we are we are building the infrastructure and APIs to power year-round income tax products for all mobile banking and fintech companies. This approach is uniquely suited to change the industry.
Today, the $15B tax market is structured where tax companies sell directly to customers. Their incentives are to maximize upsells, raise prices and sell more products since this is what drives this revenue. So, this is exactly what they do (source, source).
What we unlock with our API approach: An incentive to deliver high quality, low-cost, efficient & reliable products to end users that make our partners look great. In this new model, our partner pays us and offers our tax products for lower, transparent prices to their users.
This is the shift. By changing the incentives (partner pays vs end user pays) we can erase billions of dollars in fees, build a better product for people and build a large business here at Column Tax. We have a unique opportunity here to reimagine the status quo of tax products from the ground up. Specifically this includes:
- Better UX. By connecting with financial apps that already have a lot of information we can pre-populate relevant fields & cut down on the number of questions needed to do your taxes
- No dark pattern upsells.
- Year-round relationships. By embedding where peoples’ financials lives already are, we have an opportunity to help people beyond just filing season.
Column Tax software engineering
To deliver on this, we’re tackling some fascinating technical challenges.
- How do you simplify the complex and intimidating tax filing process? We’re building a unique UX & design from the ground-up to reimagine the status quo.
- How do you reliably turn the 75k-pages of federal tax code (+50 states!) into software code? We’re building our own domain-specific programming language and an IDE to go with it.
- How do you make decisions about which questions & screens to show the user when there are literally millions of possible branching permutations? We’re designing our own graph-based UI navigation system.
We’re growing quickly to try and keep pace with our customer demand! We’ve grown 15x YoY and are expanding so we can support the interest we’re seeing across the board. Here’s one screenshot from one current partner conversation that gives a glimpse into the pull we have on sales.
Our team and what we value
We’re fortunate to work with some incredibly smart, hardworking, and kind people every day. We all dream big, but are also ready to roll up our sleeves and get into the details.
Our team has experience across both tech and tax. We’ve worked at places like Waymo/Google, Amazon, Khan Academy, Dropbox, Intuit, Twitter, Slack, CashApp Taxes, and TaxAct.
Tax is a complicated and sometimes deceitful industry. We’re determined to make the tax industry more transparent, honest, and equal. Our team values guide who we hire and what we expect of each other as we build something new together. Our Team Values:
- Focus: we know that doing great work takes long blocks of uninterrupted time
- Ownership: everyone at Column Tax is empowered to make big decisions
- Transparency: expect honest & vulnerable communication
- Vision: everyone on our team dreams big about solving complex problems
- Doing the right thing: Tax is an industry with a history of predatory practices; we’re determined to fix that
Column Tax is a remote-first team with a physical office in New York. We meet together annually for an all team offsite and each teammate has dedicated budget for two additional trips to work with one another.
Taking on an industry this broken and this large is no small feat. We’ve raised over $26m dollars from an amazing group of investors & partners to help us achieve our mission.
Investors in LinkedIn, DocuSign, SendGrid, Jet.com
Early investors in Plaid, Shopify, Credit Karma, Gusto
Early investors in Nerdwallet, Ripple, Fundera, One
Early investors in Pilot, Empower, Unit21, Titan
Angel investors & Advisors
- Eric Wu (founder & CEO of Opendoor)
- Keri Gohman (former President of Xero & EVP at Capital One)
- Gokul Rajaram (board member at Coinbase & Pinterest)
- Ruchi Sanghvi (former eng Facebook, Dropbox)
- Mike Vaughan (former COO at Venmo)
- Adam Nash (former CEO of Wealthfront)
- Cristina Cordova (former BD @ Stripe, Notion)
- Ariana Poursartip (Product lead at Shopify)
- And many more...