Welcome to the first in our profile series of Sales Tax Institute faculty members. For our first profile, we’re talking to B.J. Pritchett, founder of Pritchett Sales and Use Tax Consulting, located in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.
If you’ve attended one of our Basics of Sales and Use Tax courses, there’s a very good chance that you’re already familiar with B.J. She has been a Sales Tax Institute faculty member since I started the company 20 years ago and has been teaching Basics with me that entire time. B.J. is a terrific teacher, and Basics students always come away with great insights from her sessions.
Not only is B.J. a valued faculty member, but she’s also a close friend of mine. I recently sat down with B.J. to discuss her history in the sales tax field, her experience with the Sales Tax Institute, her advice for beginning sales tax professionals, and more.
Tell us a little about yourself and how your career path lead you to working with sales tax.
B.J.: I started out my career as a Cost Accountant for a luggage manufacturer. I then moved to a Controller’s position with a hospital in Memphis, TN. This is when I began to see auditors show up at my door around 9:00 am – leave for lunch at 11:00 am – return at 1:00 pm and out of my office by 3:30 pm. It looked like an easy job, so I sought out the tax auditing job and became a tax auditor for the state of Arkansas. I stayed with the state of Arkansas for 10 years.
Then I moved to the other side as a Senior Tax Consultant for a nationwide consulting firm. After three years with that firm I joined Arthur Andersen & Co as a State and Local Tax Manager for their SALT (State and Local Taxes) pilot group out of Baltimore, MD. Two years later, I moved back to Arkansas and started my own practice in 1992. In 2003 I started the Arkansas Sales and Use Tax School which holds three seminars a year in the state of Arkansas.
We’ve had very similar career paths – state auditors, industry, consulting including meeting at Arthur Andersen, and starting our own firms and sales tax schools. What do you find most compelling about working with sales tax?
B.J.: Sales and use taxes are constantly in flux and up for interpretation. I am very passionate about making sure the information is provided in an easy and understandable way.
That’s one of the core principles of the Sales Tax Institute. Speaking of which, what is your area of expertise and what sales tax topic are you most passionate about teaching?
B.J.: My practice includes refund reviews, audit defense work and educational seminars. I love teaching the manufacturing portions of sales and use taxes as each state has their own definition. While some seem to be similar, the states always have some little quirks in them. The more information a person has, the better the bottom line profit will be. Knowledge is power. I love sharing information with anyone because you can never stop learning about the laws.
Do you remember your first time teaching a Sales Tax Institute course? What do you recall about the experience? Do you remember us being in Scottsdale oh so long ago at that first Sales Tax Institute class?
B.J.: I was so excited that there were so many people who wanted to know more about sales and use taxes! This area seems to be the least known and yet most approached topic of discussion. Yet, I didn’t learn my craft from college. In fact, when I was in college, they never mentioned sales tax, use tax, escheat tax, and property tax! And yet, when the real world called, sales and use taxes were the top taxes to deal with.
I couldn’t agree more – sales tax is frequently ignored but it’s everywhere and affects everyone, whether they realize it or not. Why do you teach for the Sales Tax Institute?
B.J.: You present a comprehensive view of sales and use taxes, from beginners to advanced tax professionals. The Sales Tax Institute provides a platform for learning and growing in the SALT field. I learn from every Sales Tax Institute course I teach at since the professionals Diane connects with help explain the overall impact of the SALT message. The best part about the Basics course is that it stays active in the here and now. The text materials and slide presentations along with the experience of the presenters provides an optimum learning experience.
What advice do you have for professionals who are just getting started in sales tax?
B.J.: Learn at your own pace – don’t rush through thinking you know the words you are reading in tax laws and rules. Try to keep cheat sheets on states that you deal with on a permanent basis. Reach out and begin networking with other sales and use tax professionals in your same position. No one knows it all – we all have to keep on top of sales and use taxes. It isn’t a one-shot deal. Sales and use taxes are always evolving.
That’s all terrific advice. What do you see for the future of sales tax?
B.J.: Sales tax is a permanent fixture in the accounting world. In fact, it grows day-by-day as new laws and rules are made. With so many state and local governments feeling the need to grow their tax base, I can see more services will be subject to tax. State governments are feeling their oats as they try to reach across state lines and require businesses that have no tax connection – nexus – to register and collect their taxes from their residents. This evolving issue will continue to be a highlight of the sales tax arena.
Thanks for your insights – I think you’re right on target with what we can expect to see more of in the coming years. For our last question, we’ll step away from sales tax. What do you like to do in your free time?
B.J.: My free time is spent with my family who live very close to me. I’ve got four dogs and one cat, which make for a lot of vacuuming every day! I look forward to volunteering time with the Hot Springs Village Animal Welfare League, which is a “no-kill” shelter for cats and dogs.
Many thanks to B.J. for participating in our first Sales Tax Institute faculty profile! It’s always a pleasure talking with B.J. as well as co-presenting with her at all of our Sales Tax Institute classes. I always come away with great insights after watching her teach.