This week, there is a good possibility the Senate will pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, often called the “internet sales tax bill”. Here’s what this bill will do:
Online sellers will be required to collect, report and pay sales taxes in all of the states (once the states meet certain requirements), rather than only the states the seller has a physical presence in.
Each state that wants “remote sellers” to collect sales tax must establish a single entity to manage tax collection and audits for the entire state. Sellers won’t have to deal with all 5,900+ separate taxing municipalities in the country, just 50.
Each state must provide a database indicating the types of products and services taxed, and at what rates and with what boundaries. If this is implemented like previous “internet sales tax” proposals, that means the database should map 5- and 9-digit zip codes to tax rates for each category of product or service to be taxed.
Each state must provide free software for both the calculation of sales taxes due at the time a transaction is being completed, and software to prepare sales tax returns.
There is a “small seller exemption”. If you collect less than $1,000,000 a year from out-of-state customers (based on the previous year), you will have no new obligations under this bill.
Many startups are exempt from collecting sales tax in their home states as they only sell services rather than tangible goods. Even if you’re exempt in your home state, you may not be exempt in others. Several states charge sales tax on all services, others charge sales tax on certain categories of service, and any of them could change their taxable classifications as part of opting in to the new systems this bill creates.
It’s very likely states will be providing APIs for computing sales tax; the bill requires their software be able to provide a tax rate for a specific online transaction as it’s taking place.
These APIs will all have to follow the same rules for determining whose tax applies to a specific customer: based on the delivery address provided by the customer; if not provided, then based on the customer’s address; if not provided, then the address of the customer’s payment instrument; if not provided, then the tax will be based on the location of the seller.
The bill encourages a new type of business into existence: “certified software providers”. These new software businesses can become certified by each state in computing and filing sales tax using that state’s APIs.
The bill creates a benefit for businesses to use these new certified services rather than integrate with all 50 states on their own. A business will not be liable for errors in its tax returns if they were prepared by a certified provider. That means no penalties or fees for mistakes.
The providers in turn have no liability for errors in the taxes they calculate and returns they prepare if the errors are a result of inaccurate information from a seller (i.e. miscategorized products or services), or inaccurate information from a state (i.e. the state’s API returning the wrong rate).
There’s little else contained in this relatively straightforward bill. Should it pass, online sellers will eventually be collecting sales tax for most of their US customers.
Since integrating 50 different software packages into every online store, filing 50 different sales tax returns, cutting 50 checks, and getting audited by 50 states is not an appealing idea to most small businesses, they’re almost guaranteed to pay a certified software provider to handle it.
I’m still waiting for the World of Warcraft live-action film that was promised back in 2006. Legendary Pictures only chose a director for it this week, 7 years later, and announced a 2015 release date. The game it’s based on will be 11 years old at that point — no doubt still popular, though, given the franchise is already 19 years old and still 10 million subscribers strong.
Every couple of months I re-evaluate my hosting choices to ensure they still makes sense in terms of cost, stability and service. Curious as to what choices other technology companies are making, I decided to conduct an independent survey of who hosts the Y Combinator-funded startups. Armed with only this spreadsheet listing the over 300 websites, my terminal and nslookup, I compiled this graph:
In all, I found 289 websites that weren’t dead or merged into another company’s website. Almost 3/4 of all sites were hosted by Amazon, Rackspace, Softlayer or Linode.
I’m terrible at naming products. Meaningful one- and two-word .com domains that aren’t already owned by someone are virtually nonexistant. Combine these things and I spent almost 3 entire days trying to find a name for my latest app without coming up with a single viable domain.
They exist solely to solve this exact problem — brand packages for startups with brandable names, matching .com domains and logos. Within minutes I found Improvely among their available names and knew it would be better than anything I’d come up with myself, and snapped it up for only $250. Compared to spending another few days searching names on my own, and likely coming up with some unbrandable combination of words, Stylate was a bargain.
Yesterday, the post about the Date Range Picker that I created for Improvely spent almost 24 hours on the front page of Hacker News. That led to 20,910 new unique visits to this blog with, at the peak, over 800 concurrent people with the post open in a browser.
Of course, I have W3Counter collecting analytics on my sites, which made this a great opportunity to discover what kinds of systems Hacker News users use during their work days. I filtered out the visits from other sources and compiled a couple graphics.
Nearly half of HN readers are working on Macs, with Windows used by just 27%. 1 in 10 are browsing the web on Linux systems, while the remaining nearly 20% are on mobile devices. Not shown in the chart are the 16 Windows Phone 7 owners and 7 people on ChromeBooks.
Chrome was the browser of choice by 63% of the new visitors. Surprisingly, there were more people reading from an iPad or iPhone than users of Firefox on the desktop, and less than 200 people in the 21,000 used any version of Internet Explorer.
Some flavor of MacBook appears to be the most popular system among Hacker News readers, with 1440×900 displays and OS X as the most common combination.
I was in need of a dropdown menu to choose date ranges for reports, and wanted something that would match
the existing dropdown and button styles of Bootstrap: thus came about this date range picker component.
Download it at GitHub.
For basic use cases like collecting event or reservation dates, you can attach it to a text input to pop up two
clickable calendars to choose dates from. For more advanced use cases, you can attach a date range picker to
any element, pre-define your own date ranges for the user to choose from, and set a custom callback function
to receive the chosen dates.
The date range picker relies on jQuery, Datejs for parsing strings into dates and defining custom ranges, and the Twitter Bootstrap CSS.
The examples below show how to use the (optional) options and callback parameters.
Compared to the cost of buying chips or making sure that you have a plant that can turn out thousands of these things a day or being able to get strengthened glass cut exactly right within, you know, two days of this thing being due, that’s what’s important. Labor is almost insignificant. What is really important are supply chains and flexibility of factories. You want to be able to be located right next to the plant that makes the screws so that when you need a small change to that screw factory, you can go next door and say, “Give it to me in six hours,” and they can say, “Here you go.” Because if that factory was in another state or on another continent, it would take two weeks. It’s the flexibility within the Chinese manufacturing system, that’s what you can do in Asia that you can’t do in the United States.