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2007 Review of Tax Research Systems

Have Gun Will Travel

From the January-March 2007 Issue & 2007
Tax Season Survival Guide

After two years on the audit staff of a large local accounting firm, I made
the switch to the OTHER side — I transferred to tax staff. The change
was driven by my desire to learn all about income taxes. Actually, I wanted
to become a tax guru — an expert, the Paladin of tax advisors, a real
gunslinger. The tax person with all the answers, effective solutions and legal
schemes that were sure to provide significant tax savings to clients. GOO-ROO.
Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

I found there was a wealth of written materials that I would be reading, navigating
and citing. Much of what little I knew about income taxes was rooted in my accounting
education, study for the CPA exam and the use of “handy-dandies”
— the tax guides produced by various tax publishers. As an auditor, I
had been very trusting. On tax staff, quick answers from “handy-dandies”
were frowned upon. In fact, I quickly learned that the tax partner I worked
with expected that questions be presented with an (probable) answer gained in
tax research. Thus, I needed to quickly learn how the various research materials
were organized and where and how to effectively begin tax research projects.
I was fortunate, as I had access to the flagship print media tax products of
CCH, Prentice Hall, RIA and BNA, plus a wealth of specialty books and periodicals
from similarly well-known publishing sources.

Were you thinking that I was overwhelmed by the firm’s tax library?
Better to say that I was swamped—drowning in an ocean of tax law and content.
Like with most things, time cures. OVERTIME, that is. The more you work in tax,
the more you gain in tax knowledge, the more you gain experience in resolving
tax issues. I was aided in my journey through training sessions with representatives
of the tax services to which we subscribed, the AICPA National Tax School, the
tax partner who tutored me, participation in a tax luncheon where I was called
upon to present tax developments, and by immersing myself in reading periodicals
and newsletters. Was the experiment a success? Actually, the experiment failed.
I am not a tax guru. I don’t have all the answers; I never will. Did I
learn to use and navigate through the library? YES. Would I have been better
off working with an ELECTRONIC library — one that is published in CD format
or that can be accessed online? Heavens, YES.

Nowadays, tax practitioners don’t necessarily need to know all the answers.
While it helps to be able to read and comprehend, it is just as important to
understand the hierarchy and relationships between the law, commentary and tax

The tax library of 2007 represents a time of transition for tax research products
— a time when research products have begun to deliver on the promises
of dynamic linking of research materials. With ever-changing tax laws, tax professionals
find themselves in need of professional tax resources that can provide expert
guidance through a flexible and integrated search system in order to deliver
relevant answers accurately and quickly. Has the law or ruling been superceded?
How is the present-day answer impacted by legislation which is in the works?
Has the court with competent jurisdiction rendered a decision on point?

Tax research products have evolved greatly — changes to be measured
in terms of light years, moving from print media to CD-based systems to online,
web-based, real-time accessible information. We no longer need worry why page
number 224 is missing. Paper filing of tax services has become, for most, a
distant memory.

Thus, the efficiently presented tax service (library) can now take dynamic
advantage of linking. Online, web-based tax research products are quickly becoming
the preferred medium for delivery, overtaking CD-based offerings. Where printed
media used to control the user, the user now controls the electronic media.

Electronic searches make use of connectors such as quotation marks (“
”), the latter to deliver exact word occurrences. Other searches can simply
work from a word phrase while others use a combination of the two.

The efficiencies of electronic media are many and well known. No wasted trees,
no human time spent filing paper updates. User-driven searches with linking
of relevant information from the get-go. Users can start by searching content
and linking to tax laws, tax regulations, newsletters, IRS publications, and
State taxing authorities. Similarly, searches can begin in the law — from
points within the tax research product — and can link to any other area
of coverage. The hierarchy of a search does not begin with the table of contents
or the index; it now begins in the mind of the tax practitioner who can control
the search procedure. An efficient search will limit the search answers received,
eliminating system-chosen content/documents that are not on point. The well-honed
search can search within a document or within many documents. More importantly,
searches can begin within a sub-section of a document like a Code Section, delivering
specific answers quickly.

Web-based tax research has resulted in an expansion of tax research-related
offerings, including daily and weekly tax news alerts and bulletins, which can
be assessed via the tax research product or can be directly delivered to the
user via e-mail. CD- and web-based systems have also evolved in other areas
such as integration with income tax preparation systems, the ability to save
searches and relevant documents, or to permit customization of the primary user
interface, which is employed in search activities.

When it comes to tax laws and content, the question of what is important or
significant to users really rings a bell. For some, it is enough to simply maintain
up-to-date primary source materials — the Internal Revenue Code, Income
Tax Regulations, IRS Publications, and the IRS Audit Guides. Other practitioners
may find that there is a need for all of that and a lot more. These users will
maintain multiple “full boat” tax services with access to in-depth
tax commentary and all the other bells and whistles including Tax Cases, daily
and weekly Tax Reports and Digests, Revenue Rulings, Revenue Procedures, General
Council Memorandums, specialty tax journals and periodicals, Tax Treaty information,
interactive Tax Forms, and many others.

We are pleased to present this year’s review of tax research products
— products that can deliver in-depth answers to all of your tax questions.
May all your searches be on point! 


ATX/Kleinrock – Total
Kleinrock Office
ATX/Kleinrock provides tax preparation, accounting,
engagement and tax research solutions to more than 50,000 tax practitioners
throughout the United States. Recently acquired by CCH, ATX/Kleinrock
continues in its prior form and operates as a division of CCH. ATX and
Kleinrock, which joined forces in 2002, were built with goals of providing
tax practitioners with affordable and comprehensive tax preparation and
research products to professionals in small to midsize firms, as well
as sole practitioners.
BNA Tax Management — Tax
Management Library
BNA Tax Management offers an online (reviewed here)
as well as a CD-based version of its well-known Tax Management Library.
Among its many offerings, the Tax Management Library includes the U.S.
Income Portfolios; Estate, Gift and Trusts Portfolios; Foreign Income
Portfolios; Tax Practice Series; and the Accounting Policy and Practice
Series (the latter is a brand new offering). BNA is well known in legal
and accounting circles for its “Portfolio approach.”
CCH, A Wolters Kluwer business
— Tax Research NetWork
The CCH Tax Research NetWork (TRN) provides a comprehensive
array of tax coverage that is presented in modular form, including primary
source materials, expert analysis, legal opinion and tax news. The web-based
system’s primary research components include federal, state, sales
tax, financial and estate planning, and international information. New
to the product is the award-winning CCH@Hand toolbar, a tax and accounting
research-focused tool that allows users to integrate tax research with
Microsoft Office programs.

LexisNexis — Tax Center
LexisNexis U.S., a well-known provider of information
products and services for legal and tax professionals, has recently released
the LexisNexis Tax Center. Tax Center is a comprehensive tax research
tool that offers tax professionals access to a wide variety of tax law
and content materials, including materials from CCH, BNA, Tax Analysts,
Kleinrock, Matthew Bender, Shepard’s Citation Service and other
sources. Tax Center was developed for tax professionals, with the aim
of streamlining tax research into a single online interface.
Thomson RIA — Checkpoint
Checkpoint is the online research offering from
RIA, PPC and WG&L, including comprehensive libraries in support of
federal, state and local, and international taxation, PPC’s Accounting
& Auditing Library, as well as the incorporation of subject material
from outside sources such as the AICPA, WGL, BNA and others. This collaboration
results in a comprehensive collection of primary source documents in addition
to news coverage, rulings, analysis, case studies and expert guidance. Offers Free Additional
Tax Resource
In addition to traditional tax research systems,
which now include web-based, print and disc-based archives and updates,
accountants and tax professionals have used their peers for sounding boards
and advice for decades. is essentially a combination of
the two, providing an online tax information resource that tax professionals
can consult for research purposes, and which they can also add to or edit
as their knowledge of tax law would dictate. The result is a free peer-submitted,
peer-edited and peer-reviewed tax resource that enables the tax community
to pool its collective experience and knowledge.

2007 Review of Tax Research Systems
Like many tax professionals, I have watched as outsourcing
of tax preparation services becomes a reality for many tax practitioners.
I must admit that it had not occurred to me that outsourcing of tax research
services might be next. If it had, I would have used the NEVER word. And
well, I’d be wrong again.