Case Study: Symmetry Determines Proper Tax Withholding Using Melissa Data’s Rooftop Geocoding

By Greg Brown


Symmetry Software
, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a payroll software applications firm specializing in payroll withholding tax solutions for the Internet and corporate intranets. Every week, millions of paychecks are issued using Symmetry Software products.


Determination of payroll withholding taxes is an incredibly complex process in the United States. Some states collect no taxes, while other states offer thousands of tax deductions even down to the municipal and school district level. Simply put, calculating various payroll tax deductions based on location requires extreme accuracy.

Case in point – Symmetry’s Payroll Point. The solution helps employers determine the proper withholding tax settings based on an employee’s residence or work address.

Figure 1. Symmetry Payroll Point helps employers determine the proper withholding tax settings based on an employee’s residence or work address. [Click for larger image]

“Payroll Point started as a concept to help large employers pinpoint the right payroll taxes for new and existing employees,” said Jon Bohnert, executive vice president of Symmetry. “There was no technology solution available to make this a simple process. Human resources or payroll departments often had to visit multiple government websites to obtain what was hopefully the correct tax information and set it up within the payroll system. This was an enormous pain point.”

Symmetry needed an address verification solution that would verify, correct and standardize residence and business addresses to ensure address accuracy when determining the proper withholding tax settings.

Bohnert and his team were using Google and Bing search engine functions to geocode their clients’ addresses. That process proved to be tedious and time-consuming. It also didn’t provide the most critical function Symmetry needed – the most accurate location of an address. For example, when entering an address point to Google or Bing, the search results would sometimes represent the surrounding area, but not the precise location. This was an unacceptably vague estimate, given the fact that pinpointing an address is vital to determining specific tax jurisdiction territories.

It was obvious to Bohnert that Symmetry needed to add another power tool to its belt – a geocoding solution that would isolate a street address right to the location’s actual rooftop. “Because Payroll Point is zeroing in on withholding tax jurisdictions, we often find large factories, big box retailers and office complexes straddling jurisdictional boundaries,” Bohnert said. “This can be a problem when it comes to withholding taxes.”


Symmetry discovered Melissa Data for its GeoCoder Object with GeoPoints solution, as well as its Data Quality Suite of APIs. GeoCoder incorporates multi-sourced GeoPoints technology to offer unparalleled geolocation information on 95 percent of U.S. addresses for improved rooftop accuracy. GeoPoints assigns precise latitude and longitude coordinates based on the 11-digit (ZIP+4+2) delivery point of more than 121,827,000 addresses in the U.S.

Figure 2: Multi-sourced GeoPoints technology provides unparalleled geolocation information on 95 percent of U.S. addresses. [Click for larger image]

The Data Quality Suite from Melissa Data consists of programming tools enabling organizations to customize their own real-time or batch data verification routines, which includes verifying street and email addresses, correcting phone numbers and parsing/genderizing contact names.


“After being underwhelmed with Google and Bing, we found Melissa Data’s Data Quality Suite and GeoPoints solutions,” Bohnert said. “The implementation was straightforward. It took our development team about three months to fully integrate. It probably would have been less time, but we were going from a single, and inaccurate, Bing geocoding solution, to a more complex – albeit more accurate – Melissa Data geocoding solution.”

Geocoding to the rooftop level was the key for Symmetry. Rooftop geocoding allows Symmetry to append latitude/longitude coordinates to the 11-digit level of the address or parcel. This higher level of accuracy provides a distinct set of coordinates for every valid address – giving Symmetry the actual, physical location of the address, right to the building or property’s rooftop.

Figure 3: Rooftop geocoding allows a higher level of accuracy – providing the actual, physical location of the address. [Click for larger image]

Melissa Data’s geocoding solutions use spatial data incorporated from multiple data providers – a process called conflation – to deliver the most accurate geopoints available with more matches and fewer false positives. “After trying other geocoding vendors with poor results, we discovered Melissa Data. It was a terrific find. The accuracy is unmatched and the support is outstanding,” Bohnert said.

Bohnert and his team were also able to glean more insights into their address data with the help of “error” or “results” codes – a four-character code that indicates why something is “off” about an address. These codes are generated by Melissa Data’s data quality solutions. For example, an error code will indicate if an invalid ZIP Code was entered or not found, or if the required combination of an address, city, state, ZIP Code is missing. The codes will also indicate if the address has already been verified.

This additional insight into the company’s address data proved advantageous for Symmetry and its clients. “With Melissa Data, we had dozens of error codes, which ultimately became a feature upgrade for Payroll Point,” Bohnert said. “Our customers now have more and better data when it comes to problem addresses.” He added, “For Symmetry, there are many advantages to the Data Quality Suite and GeoPoints. First and foremost, we’ve experienced significant improvement to rooftop accuracy. Because it is housed on our servers, reliability has improved and latency issues have been virtually eliminated. More and better accuracy codes, improved support – overall, this gives us the ability to offer our own customers a significantly better product."

Published Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Written by Greg Brown

Published in

Location Intelligence

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