2) Narrow your search. While 279,000 results might be a little better, it’s easy to get that down to a truly manageable number. Use the plus symbol (+) with no space before words that absolutely have to be in a search result. It’s even better to use quotation marks around must-have phrases. So try this: +1040 +“child tax credit worksheet.” That takes the results down to 15,000. Add additional words and phrases as necessary.
3) Know the link source. On Google search results pages, the URL for each is shown beneath the link. If you’re searching for official forms, instructions or guidance on a tax subject, you probably want a reliable source, and the link will tell you immediately if it’s an IRS, Treasury or other federal or state government page, a vendor you trust, or perhaps something linking to Russia (don’t ever click on a .ru website).
4) Use advanced search tools. Each of the major search engines includes advanced search functions that make it fairly simple to add “must have” words and phrases, to ignore websites that have particular words or phrases, where the keywords should appear (title, text, URL, etc.), and even file types and languages. You can also tell it to only search for results on specific types of websites (such as .gov).
5) Automated searches. With Google Alerts, you can also set up automatic searches where the system sends you an email or shows the results on your iGoogle page. With this feature, you can set the frequency of a search you might want done every few weeks (such as +“new tax law” +“New York). You can also limit the search to news, blogs or other content types.
There are also several research tools designed specifically for tax and accounting professionals, providing access to source documents, court rulings, expert guidance, case studies and more. Our annual review of tax research systems will appear in our December issue. The most important factor in finding whatever it is you want online is to first know what you don’t know, and then use the right language and tricks when you go on the hunt.