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Tax Analysts — Web Services Research

From the January 2006 Review of
Tax Research Applications

Tax Analysts offers a variety of tax research options, including CD, DVD and
web-based research systems. The vendor’s OneDisc Premium DVD is a comprehensive
collection of the vendor’s tax research resources, containing the Complete
Federal Research Library, which has the entire Internal Revenue Code and Manual
and all standard tax documents, along with more than 100,000 tax cases and U.S.
Tax Treaties, with customizable search and history functions. Subscriptions
to the web-based system provide users with access to all of the same primary
source materials as the DVD versions, as well as exclusive online offerings
such as Tax Notes, Tax Notes Today and a related state tax journal, and State
Tax Notes. Annual subscription costs for the various programs are as follows:
OneDisc costs $109 with quarterly updates, $139 with monthly updates; OneDisc
Premium is $339 for quarterly, $359 monthly; Web Services is $366 annually.
This review primarily focuses on the vendor’s web-based offerings.

Joseph B. Mansour, CPA, of the Mansour Consulting CPA Firm, LLC (
in West Chester, Ohio, appreciates the ability to keep up to date with the tax
laws, as well as the ability to quickly find answers to tax research with OneDisc.
Mansour selected this program because it contains the Internal Revenue Manual
and the historical court cases. He recommends that new or potential users “get
the OneDisc, read current events and learn how to research the OneDisc as it
is easy to find hits on any major tax research issue.”

Tax Analysts’ Web Services options are accessed from the vendor’s
web site, which provides a split-screen web interface offering a list of available
(subscribed to) research libraries in a menu on the left side of the screen,
with the primary workspace window displaying search options and other information
regarding a selected library. The menu initially groups research tools by Federal,
State and International, with subcategories for specific content areas, such
as the federal and state research libraries; the federal, state and international
weekly journals; Tax Notes, State Tax Notes, and Tax Notes International, and
their three daily information services; Tax Notes Today; State Tax Today; and
Worldwide Tax Daily. Also included are analysis, court filings, and other sections.
The interface also provides additional options for accessing Help, user preferences/profile,
and going to the Tax Analysts homepage.

Search functions vary depending upon the content library selected, with various
options including searching by keyword, phrases, code numbers, sections, chapters
and other variables, as well as the ability to search multiple libraries. When
performing searches of documents, the system shows results as a list of hits
with links to the actual document (similar to a Google search), which opens
within the same window. The system does not intuitively display the location
of the searched for phrase within the full text of a document, which could be
a challenge with longer documents. To locate keywords, users can, however, employ
their browser’s Find function. Although very thorough in its search capabilities,
the system does not offer an instant search function from the main screen. Instead,
a library and subsection (depending upon library) must first be selected. Search
assistance is provided through the Help Guide. The vendor’s OneDisc programs
offer additional search options. (The company noted that a “significantly
enhanced” version of the online system will be launched in early 2006,
with improved search functions and increases in libraries.)

CONTENT – 5 Stars
Virtually all of the tax code and research materials available through Tax Analysts
are available through its Web Services options as individual subscriptions,
allowing users to select only the libraries needed by their practice. In addition
to the Internal Revenue Manual and Code, users can access final, temporary and
proposed tax regulations, federal and state court rulings, IRS Letter Rulings,
revenue procedures and rulings, directories, IRS announcements and notices,
new tax legislation, and Tax Analysts’ Federal Tax Baedeker explanations
of tax rules. Also available only through online subscriptions is the vendor’s
Tax Notes Today, which provides commentary and analysis by tax experts, as well
as daily updates on rulings, procedures, regs, proposals, hearing transcripts,
and GAO and TIGTA reports. Tax Analysts also offers tax news articles on its
web site for free, an excellent resource for any tax professional.

The web-based nature of Tax Analysts’ Web Services allows some traditional
browser configuration options, but the primary research libraries in the system
do not offer many customization options and are underpowered in search options,
lacking even a query save option or a history of recent searches that can speed
commonly used search queries. That said, the optional Tax Notes Today is highly
configurable, allowing users to set up and save queries that comb through the
Tax Notes Today content each day, e-mailing only desired content to them. The
OneDisc versions of the program offer greater search flexibility and customization
options than the web-based system.

Tax Analysts’ Web Services research libraries do not integrate directly
with any tax preparation systems, although traditional copy and paste functions
should allow most users to transfer data without too much difficulty. The online
system prints through the web browser’s print utility, which offers very
little content-specific print options.

The web-based system offers a strong Help system that provides search instructions
as well as limited content-specific assistance. As a web-based program, the
libraries are updated by the vendor as needed, relieving the user of this duty
while ensuring an always up-to-date collection of resources. Updates for the
OneDisc versions depend upon subscription, with quarterly and monthly updates

The research libraries available through Tax Analysts’ Web Services offer
a thorough collection of primary source documents such as code, regs, rulings
and procedures, with search functions that are adequate but would benefit from
more user control, history and the ability to save searches. The Tax Notes Today
option, however, is a remarkably valuable and versatile research tool, allowing
specific filtering of content. I’m looking forward to the revamped version
of the web version, which should be launched soon.

2006 Overall Rating – 4 Stars