We don’t usually spend too long thinking about stuff like taxes here at Idealog. But every now and then, along comes someone who makes us rethink our opinions on things. Like Lani Evans, the always-smiling chief executive officer of Thankyou Payroll, a company that offers free tax services to charities and small businesses.
The Dunedin-based company is arguably one of the country’s most innovative social enterprises and Evans, who joined in June, says she’s stoked to be a part of it.
Thankyou Payroll was started by former IRD design advisor Hugh Davidson with the goal of bridging the gap between businesses and the community, while at the same time taking away the hassle of sorting out staff payroll.
The result is a free payroll intermediary service for organisations and small businesses in New Zealand. Yes, free. Free! The company uses a government subsidy to pay their staff, who sort out taxes and all the other boring stuff for businesses so they can then concentrate on being awesome.
Once a company signs up with Thankyou Payroll, it has to notify the IRD that the team in Dunedin is now overseeing their payroll obligations. The charity or business will then transfer the total amount to be paid to Thankyou Payroll, which then pays employees and transfers tax obligations to the IRD. If companies can cope with a two-day processing time, the service is completely free, with no setup costs, hidden fees or tiny print to stress about. If a business can deal with a one-day or overnight processing time, then Thankyou Payroll costs 50 or 75 cents per employee per pay period. The social enterprise puts up to $5 per pay back into community projects.
“The biggest challenge is convincing people that there’s no catch,” says Evans.
We’re talking about a win-win-win type of system that sees charities and small businesses getting a free service, the government getting its tax data and Thankyou Payroll trickling the money down to the community in New Zealand.
“We operate in a society that doesn’t encourage generosity,” Evans points out. “That’s a core part of our business – figuring out how we can provide a service that can be free and useful for businesses, useful for the government and be run as a profitable company, while still providing benefits to communities.”
Thankyou Payroll manages the payroll on the subsidy it gets from the IRD, which most payroll intermediaries use as extra income but for this company, it’s the main income.
“It’s all about efficiency and keeping costs low,” Evans says.
So what communities is the money going to? Good question. The team expects the first round of community grants to launch very soon.
“We’ll decide who gets the grants through our trust. But in the second year, those who received it in the previous year will decide. We’re going to use a pay-it-forward model, which will be led by the community and in response to community needs.”
Using this method, the company is aiming to raise millions of dollars for charities in New Zealand. Evans points out that, if 10 percent of Kiwi businesses used the service, the team could be raising about $500,000 a year.
Thankyou Payroll uses a web-based solution that is fully built in-house and is currently on its second version (released in June this year).
The company is now in full client recruitment mode. With more than 300 businesses signed up, Evans expects the business to continue to grow and is already thinking about expanding the team by hiring a fourth staff member this year.