Taxes Made Easy: Taxumo’s EJ and Ginger Arboleda

EJ and Ginger Arboleda, the husband-and-wife team behind online tax assistance system Taxumo, share their secrets to a strong partnership—and easy tax filing! By Liana Smith Bautista

Taxumo's EJ and Ginger Arboleda with their daughter Zeeka

They say nothing is certain but death and taxes, but EJ and Ginger Arboleda, CEO and COO of Taxumo, would probably substitute “death” with “love” to describe their partnership.

Their company is in its second year, and already it’s helped many small businesses and professionals deal with their tax requirements online. Plus, if eight years of marriage is anything to go by, they know a few things about making a partnership work.

Of course, it also helps that neither EJ nor Ginger is a stranger to doing business on a digital landscape. EJ went from a job specializing in SAP service and project management to working for a digital marketing company before taking on the reins of Taxumo full time. Ginger is a “serial entrepreneur,” with her main businesses being her blog, Mommy GingerManila Workshops, and Taxumo, where she serves as COO. Plus, they help their daughter Zeeka maintain her very own YouTube channel!

Keep reading to learn more about the couple and their business.

What inspired you to start your business?

EJ: Ginger’s a serial entrepreneur. One of her main pain points is her taxes. She’s seen it all: disappearing accountants, surprise tax penalties, and attempting to fill out those complicated forms herself.

Ginger: It got so bad that it started taking over my business. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do anymore, which is talk to new inspiring trainers and help people to go for their dreams of being an entrepreneur.

EJ: So bad that she would argue with me for a week every month…about her taxes! I asked her how she was doing things and we automated things for her. It worked! She was now spending less time on the “business” of her business and more time on what she really wanted to do.

Ginger: It was just a solution that ran on my PC. So we thought of extending it into a more scalable solution so more people can benefit. Because I basically automated my primary pain point, I was able to build Manila Workshops from a team of three event directors to a team that’s 20 directors strong.

EJ: And because Manila Workshops grew, [her directors] grew with the business. That’s the reason we focused on SMEs—we saw that they have a more measurable impact on the people and communities around them. By helping SMEs, we thought we would be helping create a truly inclusive economy.

What are some of the taxation problems you help your customers with?

EJ: Tax compliance in the Philippines is a tedious, complicated process. It’s like they don’t want you to pay your taxes! But we’ve seen that people are actually willing to pay their taxes, we just have to make sure it’s easy for them. That’s where we come in. In Taxumo, you just enter your income and expenses and, voila, forms are filled out, and you can submit and pay without leaving your seat.

Ginger: Another challenge we encountered is that we don’t know how much we have to pay until the time comes to pay. There have been months when we were shocked by how much we had to pay and we had to find a way to pay it. Taxumo addresses that because it has a Real Time Tax Calculation function. This way, you always know how much you have to set aside! No more Tax Bill Shock!

What challenges do you see people facing with taxes in 2018?

EJ: In broad strokes, we know the changes coming in due to TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, or RA 10963). [TRAIN was passed just before the 2017 end-of-year holidays, but] the exact process is still undefined as we’re still waiting for BIR to release the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). Transitioning to the new change means learning a whole new set of forms and formulae—it’s a challenge in itself. In Taxumo, our aim is that there is minimal, if any, change that happens on the user’s side—no heavy decision making: all the heavy lifting and adjustments will be done on the Taxumo side.

For couples looking to start a business together, the Arboleda’s advice: communicate and set boundaries.

Can you offer a few tips for taxation newbies?

EJ: Don’t be afraid to register your business. People seem to view taxes as a regular bill they have to pay. Yes, it’s partly true, but it’s a bill that goes up and down depending on your income. If you earn zero, you also don’t pay a cent. Also, having an Income Tax Return (ITR) opens up financial instruments that you can use, such as health insurance, credit cards, and home loans.

Ginger: And visas! To get a visa, you have to show proof that you have enough money to go on vacation and return. If you don’t have a certificate of employment, the other official document is your ITR.

What about tips for couples looking to start a business together?

Ginger: Communicate. Make sure you’re both on the same page with what you’re planning to do. Make sure you both understand the tradeoffs you are making by pursuing your business.

EJ: Be sure to set boundaries. You should have a “no shop talk” zone or “no shop talk” time—you both to forget about work and recharge. When you’re working together, the most obvious conversation started is work. So make sure you nurture your other interests and make sure you’re interesting beyond that.

What passions do you have that you both share or that complement each other and help you in your business?

EJ: I’m very particular about details—especially technical and process details. I guess it’s part of being an introvert.

Ginger: I am, obviously, an extrovert. It’s easy for me to get into a conversation, start deals with people…negotiation is fun for me. Things that EJ hates are things that I enjoy doing.

EJ: The nice thing about going into business with your SO is that there is no other person you’ll trust more than him/her. And that’s the most important thing when going into business with someone.

 

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