Digital payments giant Stripe launches new software to simplify how companies work out sales taxes

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The Stripe logo pictured on a smartphone with U.S. dollar banknotes in in the background.

Budrul Chukrut | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

LONDON — Stripe on Thursday debuted a new product that it says will make it easier for businesses to calculate and collect sales taxes, marking the digital payment giant’s latest push into other areas of finance.

The service, called Stripe Tax, will automate the calculation and collection of sales tax, value-added tax and goods and services tax for transactions made through Stripe’s platform. British newspaper publisher News UK and Dutch start-up Routetitan are among those already using the service.

Matt Henderson, Stripe’s EMEA lead, said working out how much sales tax needs to be paid on certain transactions can be a complex process, with rules varying across different countries. In the U.S., there are over 11,000 different sales tax jurisdictions, “often the size of a small town,” Henderson told CNBC.

“There’s a lot of different variables that go into determining what’s the right rate and when is it due for collection and payment,” he added. “In Germany, for example, a pet rabbit is 19% VAT and a pet guinea pig is 7% VAT, whereas in the U.K. or Ireland you wouldn’t make a distinction on such things.”

Businesses can enable Stripe Tax by adding a single line of code to their website, the company said. Stripe will use data like a customer’s location and the product or service being sold to work out how much tax is due. Stripe makes money by taking a small cut of the transaction from its merchants.

Stripe, which competes with the likes of Square, Adyen and Checkout.com, got a big boost from the coronavirus pandemic last year as many businesses moved online due to lockdown restrictions around the world.

Stripe attracted more than 500,000 new clients in Europe alone since the start of the pandemic, according to Henderson. The company has been increasingly expanding into areas beyond payments, such as lending and bank accounts from partners like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

However, Stripe ruled out any intention of becoming a fully-fledged bank, with President John Collison saying last year he doesn’t believe in the Silicon Valley mentality of “doing everything themselves.”

Stripe was last privately valued at $95 billion in a March funding round. The company said it would use the fresh funds to expand its European operations. Stripe’s sales tax software was developed out of Dublin, where it employs about 80 engineers.

“We really need to be in investment mode, partly because there is still unfinished business in payments but also because there’s just so many other things adjacent to payments that are obstacles for businesses to grow online,” Henderson said.

The launch of the company’s new product comes after it acquired U.S. start-up TaxJar, which specializes in sales tax software, in April.

According to Bank of America, the total addressable market for sales tax is estimated to be worth $24 billion. A number of companies compete in the space, including sales tax specialists Avalara and accounting software provider Intuit.

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