For many advisors, especially those who are not accountants by trade or education, the federal tax code with its constant updates and private letter rulings is a black hole. Even those who keep their hand in the tax return preparation business find it a challenge to stay current. For those without the letters “CPA” after their name, it can be mindboggling.
To help shed some light into that black hole, Investment Advisor arranged with the editors of The CPA Journal, the official publication of the New York State Society of CPAs, to reprint an article from its July 2005 issue that lists in 20-question format various online resources.–James J. Green
1. What resources for tax information exist on the Internet? There are three basic sources: subscription-based Web sites, online professional discussion groups, and specialty sites in taxation.
Fee-based tax research sites available to paid subscribers include the following:
- Bureau of National Affairs (www.bna.com)
- Commerce Clearing House (http://tax.cchgroup.com/default)
- Kleinrock (www.kleinrock.com/taxsuite/Index.aspx)
- Lexis/Nexis (www.lexis.com)
- Practitioner’s Publishing Company (http://ppc.thomson.com/sitecomposer2/)
- Research Institute of America (ria.thomson.com)
- Tax Analysts (www.taxanalysts.com)
- Westlaw (www.westlaw.com)
With the increasing popularity of the Web, tax professionals have developed a forum for interaction, including the posting of questions and answers for peers to provide feedback and opinions. For example, Taxsites (http://taxsites.com) has a grid of topics for tax, accounting, and payroll issues. Another site, Accountants World (www.accountantsworld.com/default.aspx), is open to anyone, but only members may post questions. Specialty sites featuring legislative and regulatory resources, government-sponsored and proprietary, are discussed below.
2. What does the IRS Web site offer? The IRS’s Web site (www.irs.gov) provides several resources. Any federal tax form (from 1992 onward) can be downloaded, with accompanying instructions, as well as the IRS’s publications, Treasury Regulations, weekly Internal Revenue Bulletins (IRB), and the audit technique for various businesses. Users can use the IRS Newsstand feature to subscribe to the IRS Daily Digital e-mail newsletter. The IRS Newsroom provides briefings and recommendations on tax-related topics. The IRS’s Web site can also be searched from the U.S. government’s official Web portal (www.firstgov.gov), which allows access to other federal agencies’ Web sites.
3. Where can the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations be found? The site www.fourmilab.ch/ustax/ustax.html outlines the code sections in sequential order and has a word and phrase search feature. Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code, can also be found within the general legislative site (http://uscode.house.gov) or on the site http://straylight.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode26. Treasury Regulations can be searched on the GPO Access site (www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/26cfrv1_03.html).
There is an IRS Index for the tax regulations (www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=98137,00.html) and for the plain-language regulations (www.irs.gov/taxpros/content/0,,id=103728,00.html).
4. Where can information on proposed tax bills in Congress be found? Tax-related legislative information pending in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate can be found at the House Ways and Means Committee (http://waysandmeans.house.gov), Senate Finance Committee (http://finance.senate.gov), and the Library of Congress’s “Thomas” legislative portal (http://thomas.loc.gov). Because the two houses of Congress work independently, differences in proposed legislation will be forwarded to the Joint Committee on Taxation (www.house.gov/jct/) for reconciliation. Recent legislative highlights are at tax.cchgroup.com/news/legislation.
5. What sources offer access to IRS administrative pronouncements? Tax Links (www.taxlinks.com) contains links to published IRS Revenue Rulings from 1954 through January 2003 and Revenue Procedures from 1995 on. For private letter rulings go to (www.irs.gov/foia/lists/0,,id=97705,00.html) and Internal Revenue Bulletins (www.irs.gov/businesses/lists/0,,id=98230,00.html). Other resources for pronouncements include www.legalbitstream.com and www.smbiz.com.
6. What reference resources exist for estate and elder planning? Two proprietary sites for estate planning can be found at www. estateplanninglinks.com and www.estateattorney.com. The U.S. Government Administration on Aging (www.aoa.gov) has published a public service site for elders. Another resource is the National Association of Financial & Estate Planning (www.nafep.com).
7. What sites are recommended for state tax information? Two all-inclusive sites are Tax Sites (www.taxsites.com/state.html) and Sister States (www.sisterstates.com). The Federation of Tax Administrators (www.taxadmin.org) and links on the IRS’s site (www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99021,00.html) can assist also.