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CFS Tax Software — Tax Research

From the January 2006 Review of
Tax Research Applications

CFS Tax Software offers online and CD-based research programs for federal tax,
audit and collections, and a California-specific reference library. The primary
offering, CFS Tax Research, is available both online and in a traditional format,
providing users with access to IRS announcements, the Internal Revenue Code,
court opinions, handbooks, rulings, SSA publications, treaties and other primary
source documents relating to taxation. Both versions of the program cost $149
per year, with quarterly updates included for the CD version. The online version
is updated by CFS staff as required by changing events. A combo online and CD
version is $199. Annual renewals are $10 less.

Since the online version of Tax Research is a relatively new addition to CFS’
offerings, this review focuses on this system. However, since it was modeled
after the CD-based version of Tax Research, it is virtually identical. After
logon through the user’s web browser, the system offers the research home
page, which includes a main menu on the left for directly accessing the various
research libraries for the purpose of browsing specific documents, the Internal
Revenue Code, rulings or other materials. When opened, the documents are presented
within the main window.
The system provides multiple search methods, starting with a selectable list
of libraries on the default home page that can be searched by simple keyword
or phrase. Users can also select a Simple Search or Expert Search option, which
provides additional methods of filtering
and syntax. Libraries can be searched individually, as a whole, or specific
multiple libraries can be selected by the user. CFS also allows users to save
searches for further re-use, or users can bookmark specific documents to return
to later.

After performing a search, the system displays a linked list of “hits”
ranked by relevance in a panel below the document viewing area, allowing users
to quickly move between documents. The left-hand menu with the research libraries
updates during the search process, showing a count of how many of the returned
hits are located within each of the specific libraries. For instance, a professional
looking for guidance while auditing a restaurant might search for the words
audit and pizza. This would result in 16 matches: 13 from the Court Opinions
collection, one from the Letter Rulings and TAMs, section, and two from the
MSSP Audit Techniques library. Users can scroll between documents using an assortment
of buttons on a toolbar along the top of the screen, which includes options
for saving and printing the results.

Overall, the online CFS Tax Research system provides simplified navigation
through its research materials. The multiple panels that comprise the screen,
along with a combination of browser navigation functions and links to primary
features makes utilizing the system intuitive, with little or no training required.

CONTENT – 4 Stars
The CFS Tax Research system is focused on primary source materials such as codes
and regulations, the IRS Penalty Handbook, court rulings, tax treaties, audit
guidelines, and other IRS and SSA publications. The separate California research
program offers a collection focused on state laws and codes, as well as court
cases and BOE and state controller’s office documents. CFS does not offer
analysis of the materials nor does it provide a periodic tax news source. As
a supplement to the program, a linked list of the web sites for taxing authorities
for all states is included.

The online system offers customization functions similar to the CD-based program,
with options for resizing window panels and modifying toolbars and the display
method of search results, as well as the ability to bookmark documents and save
and reprocess searches. The program does not allow setup of automatic searches.

CFS Tax Research does not integrate with any outside programs or tax systems,
but does offer export into word processing formats (Word and WordPerfect), as
well as to plain text. Additionally, content can be copied and pasted, or can
be printed directly from the system.

The system lacks a traditional Help utility, although search screens include
ample descriptions and search terminology to assist in performing queries. The
web-based version is automatically updated by CFS staff at least weekly, requiring
no action by the end user. The CD-based version is updated quarterly.

CFS is an inexpensive solution, ideally suited for practitioners who require
only the primary source documents and are comfortable making their own analysis.
For such users, CFS Tax Research may be exactly what they need. The system offers
a comprehensive collection of federal materials, but state support for only
California (through a separate system).

2006 Overall Rating – 4 Stars