From the December 2009 Review of Tax
& Accounting Research Systems.
As tax and accounting professionals have become more and more confident and
comfortable with both utilizing resources and providing services over the Internet,
they have begun to unlock the wealth of benefits therein. The rising interest
in SaaS and cloud computing is just one piece of evidence supporting this shift.
Finding information online is nothing new … and there is no shortage
of information to be found. However, the task of weeding through what is actually
relevant and accurate can pose quite a challenge. While the paid research services
reviewed in this section are the best bet for complete, reliable and credible
information, practitioners with smaller or less complex client bases will likely
find value in the variety of free research/information and community-based sites
offered by several of the vendors serving the tax and accounting space.
Obviously, these free sites aren’t able to provide the same breadth of
information, analysis and expert opinion as the paid subscription systems, but
they do have a place of value for those who are looking for the specific information
that can be found in each. One aspect many professionals find particularly noteworthy
is the ability to interact and exchange ideas and questions with their peers,
and more and more vendors are opening the doors to community-based forums for
just this reason. Read more about the many online communities and professional
networks available to tax and accounting professionals at www.CPATechAdvisor.com/go/2608.
And here are just a few of the free tax information and research sites available:
Intuit — TaxAlmanac.org
TaxAlmanac.org is a free online tax research resource and community for tax
professionals, based on the Wikipedia model. It has a highly active discussion
forum where tax practitioners discuss a wide variety of tax topics. It is sponsored
by Intuit, which discreetly places references and links to its tax-related resources.
The Wiki model is based on user-generated and -edited content, with open access
to anyone, and includes moderators to keep the content focused and within some
very broad guidelines. TaxAlmanac.org content consists of the (non-editable)
Internal Revenue Code, regulations and other publicly available content. Wrapping
around and linked in are user-submitted pages, comments, questions and answers,
as well as chats. Additionally, TaxAlmanac.org includes links to forms on the
Although not required, users are encouraged to outline their background and
qualifications on their personal user page, which is linked to from every edit
and discussion froum posting. A complete history of all edits, with the editors’
names and date/time of each edit, can be viewed by selecting the History tab
on every page on the site. The site disclaimer informs the visitor that the
website is provided free of charge, that Intuit is not responsible for the content
and does not endorse it, and that the content is not to be considered as tax
or legal advice. The missing piece for the tax professional in this case is
the editorial content provided by the trusted brand names in tax research. Does
caveat emptor apply when there is no buyer?
Drake Software — 1040.com
As tax professionals, you know that the tax laws are constantly changing and
will affect various aspects of your clients’ taxing situations. Understanding
those changes is what sets you apart … and is the reason your clients
continue to request your expert services. The 1040.com website serves dual purposes.
While its content is primarily aimed at self-preparers, it also provides basic
answers to tax questions with forms, worksheets, publications, tools and links
to more in-depth information, which can also be of benefit to professional preparers.
1040.com is also Drake Software’s hub for its professional websites (provided
free to all users of the vendor’s tax software).
AccountantsWorld — AccountantsWorld.com
AccountantsWorld is probably best known for its web-based products for tax and
accounting professionals, but the vendor has developed quite an online community
over the past several years, as well. Professional tax preparers will also find
a great deal of information to assist in tax preparation, from headline news,
stories and articles that affect the profession to comprehensive research resources
and tools to educational services. Discussion groups are also a key part of
this online community, allowing practitioners to discuss and share issues, concerns
and solutions, as well as ask and answer questions to/from peers in moderated
forums on a variety of topics.