From the December 2009 Review of Tax & Accounting Research Systems.
BNA is a well-known and respected provider of research focused on all tax-related matters. The company has a long history of delivering relevant content and coverage of a wide variety of topics through numerous channels, including supplying content through the other products reviewed here.
Ease of Use/Search Routine:
BNA presents a home page for the user after login that offers four different search methods to produce the same result set of unique documents. At the top of the page, the Quick Search box accepts input and generates a results page with links to all relevant documents. The Quick Search text entry area is necessarily short and may produce too many results to be actionable at first glance. The Advanced Search option really illustrates the power of BNA as a resource, as it allows the user to restrict the results to specific portfolios of documents and provides room to craft and enter a longer search string. The Go To method is a good path to start down when looking for a known citation or case, or to access expert analysis.
Finally, the Guided Search path offers even more flexibility in specifying sources and keywords. Whatever the search method used, the results page will present an expandable tree structure that shows the number of documents returned, organized by portfolio. Drilling down to individual documents, the keywords are highlighted, making it easy to get to the point of determining relevancy.
The content offered by BNA is a combination of public documents issued by taxing authorities in the United States, relevant documents such as tax treaties, expert analysis and commentary, and daily reports on news items such as proposed tax legislation or important new tax cases. What really lights up a topic for the tax practitioner is the combination of all the relevant documents, since the bare text of laws, ruling and court cases is often too broad or too specific to provide the insight needed when dealing with a tough tax issue. The depth and breadth of content is very impressive, including the entire Internal Revenue Code and federal tax court cases back to 1913. BNA has contents beyond strictly tax-related matters, covering topics like accounting practice and payroll administration, real estate, business operations abroad, and tax exempt organizations.
Very recently, BNA came out with a Tax Treaties Analysis product, offering analysis of almost 200 important tax treaties and full text of tax treaties of over 40 major countries. Also new this year is deeper coverage of state tax issues, with responses from all states on issues such as bankruptcy and nexus policies as they relate to tax issues.
BNA began offering Client Development Letters in February 2009, intended to provide professionally written content for the tax practitioner to use in stimulating additional tax preparation work from existing and prospective clients. There are more than 50 Development Letters from which to choose, in addition to the 400 client explanatory letters on specific topics. In September 2009, BNA expanded its state tax offering to include full text primary source documents from state taxing authorities. Typical documents available include Procedures, Policy Determinations, Letter Rulings and Memoranda.
A Preferences tab allows the user to set display options, such as the homepage after login, which collections will appear (and in what order), and even text size. To appreciate the full power and timesaving advantages of the BNA Tax and Accounting Center, the savvy user will begin to save searches that are relevant to the topics of interest at the firm or to a particular tax case being worked. By doing this, the tax practitioner will be ready to go back to these reference sources later, confident that a carefully executed search will produce the same result set every time. The user can save up to 50 searches, giving them a unique name and marking up to 10 of them for display directly on the homepage.
Help, Support & Updates:
A new user who is comfortable with web page navigation and tax-related information sources should be able to produce relevant results without training. However, to shorten the learning curve and preserve the limited time available to a busy tax practitioner, BNA offers several tracks and tools for getting up to speed. The homepage presents links to a guided online tour, some tips on getting started and a rich online Help utility. There are some contextual Help and tips, such as the Search Tips link, which opens a new window that explains all of the powerful options supported in the search strings. BNA also offers instructor-led training and a 24-page User’s guide in PDF format that can be printed. Finally, for the impatient, there is a toll free number to call for any support issue. Tax Practice Library subscriptions start at $744/year. Federal Portfolio subset library subscriptions start at $1,550/year.
2009 Overall Rating: