On-demand sales tax calculation services provider Avalara has launched AvaRates Now -- a free, map-enhanced tool that provides accurate rates for any North American location in real-time.

Avalara said that the rates will be available at no cost to both existing clients and non-clients. CPAs will be offered unlimited use of the system for six months, and up to 50 rate look-ups per month will be available for free to all users.

Launched at Microsoft's Convergence 2006 conference, AvaRates Now is being exhibited alongside Avalara's Web-based sales tax automation solution, AvaTax. Avalara has focused on targeting small and midsized businesses.

"Tax authorities generally make rates available publicly," said president Scott McFarlane, in a statement. "The end user's problem is the manual overhead involved in searching out these data sources, then accessing them frequently enough to ensure compliance with the thousands of constantly changing rates and rules."

Noting the prevalence of free online mapping, dictionary and stock quote services, he added, "A few companies have made a lot of money organizing and reselling this publicly available data -- that's the old way, the old paradigm." McFarlane said that it's cost-effective service, not the cost of rates, that is the key issue.

More than 2,200 licensed AvaTax users currently run an average of 4.5 transactions per second through Avalara's comprehensive sales tax database. CPAs or businesses can sign up for AvaRates Now at www.FreeTaxRates.com.

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