At the end of every month, he saw his entrepreneur wife struggling and stressing about filing taxes for her startup, Manila Workshops. The filing process was so cumbersome and time-consuming that it took her attention away from her business, affecting its operations. Alas, in one instance, her previous accountant forgot to file her quarterly taxes in time and accomplish the bookkeeping requirements, which resulted in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) imposing hefty penalties on the company.
“My wife’s was not an isolated incident, but is a common problem across the Philippines,” EJ Arboleda told e27. “Many established and aspiring small business owners, as well as self-employed professionals are struggling with the company registration and tax filing formalities. In order to solve this problem, I built a simple online platform that automatically computed and filed her tax dues. To my delight, the solution worked.”
This is when Arboleda decided to convert the platform into a serious business venture.
Taxumo — established in December 2016 by the husband-wife duo of Arboleda (CEO) and Ginger Arboleda (CTO) — describes itself as an end-to-end online business registration and tax computation, filing and payment platform suited for self-employed professionals, sole proprietors and freelancers. One can easily register and renew her business and also compute, file and pay taxes with a few clicks. This, claims Arboleda, effectively reduces the time taken to file taxes from hours and even days to just a few minutes.
“With Taxumo in place, entrepreneurs can now focus on their core work; that is, building their careers and businesses, and stop worrying about the compliance side of their work,” he said.
In his on words, Taxumo’s advantage is that the founders understand the market well as they have gone through the same problems in the past. The platform basically caters to serve self-employed professionals, solo proprietors and freelancers (mixed income earners).
As a startup, Taxumo faces many challenges, including catalysing and sustaining the momentum of growth. More than raising funds and hitting the profit targets, Taxumo wants to quickly address the needs of its intended market by offering more features that simplify the process for them.
“We also are big believers in investing in our people because we understand that their passion to serve the market will help in creating the best service for our subscribers. This means wisely allocating resources to achieve the goal, which frankly sounds easy for larger companies, but can be a challenge for a startup like us,” he shared.
Hiring is a major challenge for many startups. But for Taxumo, it was relatively easy since most of its team members were hired from the founders’ own networks. “The most important trait we want in a team member is her passionate belief in our purpose: to create inclusive economic growth by helping small businesses succeed and grow. This means we look for people who possess integrity. Our word is our bond. When we make a commitment, we do everything in our power to ensure that commitment is delivered,” he stated.
“We believe in people who possess healthy discontentment. We are not content with the status quo, and we constantly look for ways of working for ourselves and our customers that enable greater effectiveness and productivity,” shared Arboleda.
Asked about the Philippine startup community, Arboleda said it is on the right track, but there is still a huge room for improvement: “There’s still a huge room for improvement. While we see more innovative startups sprouting up, and we are glad to witness the success of Filipino startups getting substantial investments (like Coins.ph’s funding from Go-Jek), the Philippines still lags behind neighbouring Southeast Asian countries. Data from CB Insights revealed that the Philippines only received US$18 million worth of outsourced funding sometime in 2017, versus Indonesia’s US$2.9 billion.”
As he said funding is still a big challenge for Philippine startup. This is why Arboleda urges his fellow entrepreneurs to prepare themselves to dip into their own personal resources. “I suggest that people build their networks extensively before even deciding to found their startup; it gives you a necessary head-start that will determine the success of your company.”
He also feels that the startup community in the Philippines needs more support from the government, in order to compete with the likes of Singapore or Malaysia. He was, however, quick to add that the local startup community is lucky to have been given a tax break incentive through the Board of Investments’ Investment Priority Plan in 2017. “We hope more startups get to enjoy these, since the first few years are really the most difficult for any startup.”
Explaining his vision for Taxumo, Arbeloda said that the venture aims to be the number one regulatory technology company in the Philippines: fuelling inclusive economic growth by helping small businesses succeed and grow.
“As of 2016, 63 per cent of the labour force in the Philippines are employed by MSMEs. By helping them focus on their core business and removing the pain and cost of compliance, we would be able to help them start and and thrive. In that way, Taxumo will become a key enabler to UNDP Goal No. 8: full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030,” he noted.
However, challenges to achieve this goal are galore. “We must keep constantly abreast with the changing needs of our intended market. Also, the government must continue supporting and encouraging the startup industry to thrive in the country, and make it easier for us to operate and reach our growth targets,” said the CEO.
What does the startup have in store for 2019? “Well, we have a lot of exciting new products and partnerships in the pipeline in 2019. Watch out for these,” Arboleda smiled, concluding the interview.
(Lyra Reyes significantly contributed to this story)
Image Credit: Taxumo