Genie Tyburski is the Research Librarian for Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP and the Web Manager of The Virtual Chase: A Research Site for Legal Professionals .
It’s that time again! You know: the “t” word. The time of year when those of us with absolutely no math or organizational skills carry our bags of receipts and forms to an accountant, dump them on his or her desk, and beg for mercy!
I feel your pain.
The act of gathering information on this topic, however, should not cause distress. Much of value exists beginning with the Web site of the Internal Revenue Service.
Frequent visitors, and those with low-speed dial-up connections, may want to bypass the graphics-intensive IRS home page and newsletter, Digital Daily, by accessing the site map. Navigate the left-hand frame to find information. For example, click on the subject, “comments on tax regs,” to find links to Internal Revenue Bulletins, tax regulations, and comments on proposed regulations.
The site offers tax forms and publications from 1992 to present, statistics, notices about errors in forms and publications, commentary and resources for small businesses, the Internal Revenue Manual, audit technique guides, issue papers, and more.
To conduct full-text searching, try the site’s engine. When I tested it, though, it found only text files (.html). This is a significant limitation since the agency offers Internal Revenue Bulletins, issue papers and some audit technique guides exclusively in portable document format. Moreover, the search engine does not support complex Boolean queries.
Legal professionals conducting investigative or historical research, should make use of their Lexis/Nexis or Westlaw accounts. Rather, visit the IRS site to stay current with events and agency actions, or to retrieve specific documents by name.
Speaking of Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw, serious researchers should avoid falling prey to the misconception that information previously for sale now exists somewhere on the Web at no charge. Although legal professionals will find many instances of free information, examples of such having equal or better quality than that previously available for a fee are not prevalent enough to warrant this generalization.
Summaries of FASB statements, for example, appear on the Rutgers Accounting Web, but searching or retrieving them in full-text requires an annual subscription and additional software. Or, those with Lexis/Nexis accounts may access them on the Web via a Source Directory called “Professional Accounting Literature.” Other documents available include SEC staff accounting bulletins, CASB and GASB literature, and more.
TaxWire by Tax Analysts® offers concise news stories about current events of interest to tax professionals. On the day I reviewed the site, it offered information about temporary and proposed regulations on unified partnership audit procedures, on changing the list of return information items disclosed to the Census Bureau, and on the taxation of capital gains from installment sales of depreciable real property. It also reported on the political battles surrounding the budget surplus.
The site provides a form for online ordering the text of temporary and proposed regulations.
Tax News & Views
Deloitte & Touche counters with a tax news site of its own. Tax News & Views reports weekly on Congressional activity involving tax issues.
The site also features an email subscription service for breaking news.
Thomas and GPO Access
Tax professionals wanting to monitor federal legislation directly should connect to Thomas, a service of the Library of Congress. To discover pending legislation on tax issues, follow the link for Bill Summary & Status, 106th Congress. Search taxation as a “subject term” (option #2) or consult the Legislative Indexing Vocabulary for a more precise term. Presently, a “subject” search for taxation retrieves 165 bills.
Read summaries of relevant legislation and review status or floor actions at Thomas. Then, for authenticity, download bills of interest at GPO Access. Thomas facilitates the retrieval of official copies by offering links to the GPO’s PDF version.
Federation of Tax Administrators
Comprised of the principal state tax collection agencies of the United States, the Federation of Tax Administrators shares current information about state individual and corporate tax rates as well as state excise taxes and sales taxes. It offers one of the Web’s more current and reliable indexes to state agency sites providing tax forms and information. Researchers also will find bibliographic citations to FTA research reports.
Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP Tax Page
The law firm, Pillsbury Madison & Sutro LLP, offers an excellent resource for discovering current applicable federal rates. The site also provides an alternative to the IRS for downloading forms and instructions and offers commentary on federal and California state tax law.
Tax professionals whose research encompasses employee benefits should not miss this site. Enter the Employee Benefits Library to retrieve audit guidelines and hotlinked references to current articles from trade, news and government sources. Or stay current with industry events, agency actions, and trends via the site’s What’s New page.
Although I could not access this site because I am not a subscriber, I think it deserves mentioning. TaxLibrary.com, created by Thompson Publishing Group, Inc., offers the Internal Revenue Code, IRS revenue rulings and procedures, tax regulations, IRS announcements and notices, federal and state tax forms, annotated Taxpayer Information Publications and news and commentary.
Tax and Accounting Sites Directory
Did I fail to mention tax information of interest to you? Browse the Tax and Accounting Sites Directory. It offers an extensive index to tax and accounting resources worldwide.
U.S. Tax Treaties (IRS Publication 901)