Online tax-filing company saves time, money and trees
A chance encounter leads Grand Rapids firm to do business on a national scale.
In 2001, after several years of ordering thousands of tax forms online from Scott Zubrickas’ Grand Rapids-based business, Bob Miner received a phone call.
Zubrickas was on the other line.
“He’d order like $10,000 worth of forms every year,” Zubrickas said. “Finally, I just asked him what he was doing with them all.”
It turned out Miner was a software developer in Corpus Christi, Texas, who had developed a tax-filing software program — his clients included the National Football League, Google and Coca-Cola — but he still needed the printed forms and would sort them to find what he needed and then mail them out to his customers.
Miner has worked with the IRS directly with his software — 1099-MISC Express — for more than 25 years.
The two struck up a relationship, and eventually Zubrickas asked Miner to meet with him and his brother, Jon.
“My brother is a builder and he worked for me part-time in the winter,” Zubrickas said. “I bought him a suit and tie and called him my marketing manager.
“Within five minutes of meeting, they’re playing guitar together.”
Over the next year, Zubrickas and Miner discussed how they might be able to work together. Zubrickas realized the printed tax forms could be eliminated altogether. At the time, Miner was selling his software to companies for $300, including roughly 15 tax forms.
Zubrickas originally had started his e-commerce tax-form company in an effort to update the process of businesses having to order tax forms and other accounting supplies from catalogs. He thought pairing tax-filing software and online tax forms into an easy-to-use website would move the industry even further into the future.
Together, they started a new online company called WageFiling LLC.
Miner put his 1099-MISC Express software on a website, wagefiling.com, along with W-2 and 1099 forms, security features and credit-card processing abilities. The online forms sell for $3.49 each and carry over year-to-year.
“You plug the information in, and we take care of the rest,” Zubrickas said. “It took off. We were probably one of the first to the market with the ability to do it all without forms or software.”
Before long, some of their customers pointed out how they weren’t wasting nearly as much paper as they once had.
“It brought a new dimension to our business, and we started looking at it outside of just processing,” Zubrickas said. “You have to file taxes anyway, but forms you buy are good only one year. Then they go to the trash or recycling.”
That prompted WageFiling to contact the Environmental Protection Agency and ask to be a Power Partner. The company fit the renewable energy criteria the EPA was looking for, but added another layer with the paper saving.
With the Save 3 Million campaign, WageFiling has pledged to save 3 million tax forms from the landfill. In the previous three years, the company has saved more than 5 million from the trash heap. Three million forms is the paper equivalent of 60 trees.
“It added validity to what we’re offering,” Zubrickas said.
Currently, WageFiling has approximately 42,000 active users, including some large companies such as Jack Daniel, IBM and several tax-service franchises.
Most of WageFiling’s clients are comprised of organizations and businesses that use a lot of contractors such as churches, real estate companies and construction. For some of these companies, Zubrickas said a deal often can be struck to offer the forms for “a buck or two.”
“They’re filing hundreds of forms, and it’s costly,” he said. “They’ll call with a question, and we had no idea how many they were dealing with.”
WageFiling’s business customers are spread across the country, with California being one of the largest markets for the company. WageFiling has far fewer customers in Michigan, however. The lack of Michigan customers is something of a “head scratcher,” Zubrickas said.
“We’re part of the Family Business Alliance and several chambers,” he said. “Our business is one of those you hear about in June and then you don’t think about it again. It’s a timing thing.”
He said it’s understandably hard to get people excited about filing taxes, and the company’s busiest days are the two days prior to the Jan. 31 filing deadline for businesses.
“People are so happy to be done with it, they don’t want to start it again until they absolutely have to,” he said.
As the Michigan business increases, Zubrickas hopes the company’s community giveback to area organizations also will increase. Along with the Save 3 Million campaign, the company donates 2 percent of its sales to the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project.
Previously, WageFiling had donated to the Green Business Bureau, but Zubrickas said he’d like the impact to be felt more locally.
“We’re a company based here and always have been here,” he said. “The Green Business Bureau was doing good overall, but it’s not local and we’re jumbled in with 800 other businesses.
“We help companies nationwide, but we like to benefit causes we can enjoy.”