Founder Spotlight: Ginger Arboleda and EJ Arboleda of Taxumo

How we save time, money, and by automating the manual

By Glacer Barnett

                EJ and Ginger Arbodela are a married couple that decided to create Taxumo— an end-to-end DIY tax assistance system for small sized businesses and professionals that simplifies tax computation, submission and payment, and makes current tax costs known to the user anytime, anywhere, thus, eliminating tax bill shock!

The idea came to EJ when he’d see his wife fretting every tax season, when he’d witness her and their accountant work over the incredibly mundane process of taxing: ‘’ It’s really a pain; a lot of paperwork and a lot of attachments to do. You submit it online and still have to go to the bank; the process is just so long’’, Ginger expressed. So why not just automate everything?

               And so they did. Taxumo aims to serve both licensed and non-licensed professionals (freelancers, doctors, engineers, etc.) and owners of small businesses. Through the system, everything will surely be submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenues (BIR) along with the necessary payment to the banks. It was not surprising that Ginger got into this type of business, government tech, with a background of working for a bank for 7 years handling cash management products—financial systems offered to large corporate clients in exchange for the average daily balance requirement. Taxumo is now working with that particular bank employer who was open to tapping this new market after Ginger came to them to ask the bank to form a partnership with her team.

               Taxumo also provides transparency, in the sense that you can see everything that happens regarding the taxing process, as opposed to a situation where you are just going to have to have to rely on an accountant to do everything by telling you to pay this and that, and pay them for their services without really understanding how things in the process really work rendering you prone to unknowingly being taken advantage of. Even with great accountants, the system provides the flexibility of knowing your tax costs at any given time, thus, eliminating “tax bill shock”!

               EJ and Ginger only count as two of the five-membered team that is the foundation of Taxumo. With them, there is also Mark Ong, a Certified Public Accountant whom Ginger met when he came back to the Philippines after working for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Bermuda. Atty. Kevin Baldonado, a tax lawyer, is also part of the team and has done some consultancy work for a hospital and some businesses in the Philippines. The fifth member is Evan Tan, the former Regional Communications Director of for Southeast Asia. All five of them had a session dedicated to deciding on the brand name that is Taxumo: Firstly, the brand needed to contain the word ‘’tax’’ to avoid the confusion of people thinking that they had an accounting system, as they only handle the tax component; secondly, they thought of the emotions that they wanted people to feel upon hearing the word—it needed to sound fun, to take away the heaviness of the nature of tax; lastly, the brand name needed to have a sense of formality into it—so the team came up with a list of names, struck out the ones already taken in terms of domain, asked a multitude of friends and acquaintances of what they liked the most, and the end result was the name Taxumo.


The balance of a couple: One is grounded for the goal, the other excited for the process

               Ginger is an entrepreneur by nature. At the ripe age of six, she remembers telling her nanny to go to the market to buy her headband frames and she’d decorate them before selling the headbands to her classmates. As a high school student, she recalls going into business with her sister by selling self-decorated stickers at the gym they’d go to, their customers being the mothers who would use these stickers for their children to use. In 2008, Ginger started to run a professional blog meant to feature different businesses and events and Manila. After college, her first legal business would center on social entrepreneurship—she and her friend sought to become talent agents of graduating fashion designers. The business only lasted for a year, however, ‘’ because we didn’t really think about the quality of the work in depth. It was a good learning experience. Starting a business truly wasn’t easy’’, Ginger told.

               Whereas Ginger is more enthusiastic by the process of running a business, EJ, on the other hand, believes in the end goal of it all. The purpose of it really isn’t just about the money, but the feeling of making a good difference, the reward of having your legacy become bigger than you. When he looked to Ginger’s predicament and how it had the potential to help the Philippines, he felt that it was a difference that he could make, something that he had been preparing his 12 years of experience in taxing for, to apply everything that he had learned so far in order to make sure that he was leaving a mark on society.

               There are a lot of advantages to starting a business as a couple, one of them being the sense of commitment—in the business, either they are all in or all out. This is how Ginger and EJ are forcing themselves, in a way, since they don’t have a fall-back. ‘’ People should go into business with people they trust, and who could you trust more than your spouse?’’, Ginger said. They are totally open to critiquing each other’s ideas if necessary, which improves the quality of their work. Also, they perfectly understand why the other spends so much time on his or her work, and misunderstandings are less likely to occur.

               As a couple, EJ and Ginger balance each other out—EJ is more grounded, relaxed, and logical, whereas Ginger is more extroverted, expressive, and passionate. Ginger is the one who comes up with the ideas while EJ would be the one to look over these ideas and examine them for their practical value.


Taxumo and its potential to develop government practices


              The long-term plan for Taxumo would be to have it extend to and gain traction in different countries—for example, looking through the World Bank, Vietnam spends 770 hours per year just on the manual side of taxing. The vision would be to have the Philippines become a foundation for Taxumo, and once foreign organizations see its impact, they might plan to invite EJ and Ginger’s team to do their work. It is especially the case in Southeast Asia, as a lot of government agencies are looking for automation.

               EJ believes that Taxumo will help the relationship of the people with the government—the current one has an adversarial, ‘’Hey do this for me’’, nature to it—it feels like you are being ordered around. Taxumo can help smoothen things out by promoting a partnership of eye-to-eye duty. Nowadays, a lot more people are active when it comes to wanting changes within the government. People want to have a bigger say, to share their opinion. EJ wants the Philippines to have its economy based on its knowledge instead of its labor, for Filipinos to create their own material and not just be the support for other countries. ‘’There are a lot of people who are naturally creative; and they just don’t have the opportunity to export that creativity’’, EJ expressed. To the world, the Philippines shouldn’t just be known for their labor, but also for the ingenuity of their exporting products.