The Best Online Tax Sites

Where to find a wealth of tax information.

The Internet is an especially rich field for CPAs specializing in tax; even accountants with minimal online experience have probably visited the Internal Revenue Service Web site ( However, experienced CPA Web surfers have been accessing the many quiet but useful sites that continually pop up on the Web with little fanfare. Often these Web pages are the products of professors, not-for-profit organizations and small CPA or law firms that dont have the time or money to heavily advertise their sites. Tax practitioners who dont know they exist may be spending hours seeking information that someone else has already found, cataloged and made available for free. This article is an annotated listing of some of these sites, noting what each one houses and describing its usefulness to CPAs.

If youre new to Web research, here are a few suggestions to make your task easier. First, remember that the Web changes frequently; sites come and go quickly. The addresses, or uniform resource locators (URLs), for some of these sites are very long. If you enter them incorrectly "even by one keystroke" you will get an error message leading you to mistakenly believe that the site has shut down. To avoid this problem on repeat visits, use your browsers bookmark feature the first time you visit a site to add that URL to your list of favorite sites. (Think of this as the Web equivalent of speed dialing).

Some sites offer visitors a chance to download articles or forms, often just by clicking on a button. Generally, a window opens on your screen showing where on your computers hard disk your browser will download the file and what name it will assign to it. The site usually says what format the files are in. Sometimes they are simple text files, generic documents with no formatting that you can open easily with your word processing program. However, some are in "PDF" format (as in DOCUMENT.PDF) and require special software to read. Fortunately, Adobe Systems makes this software available for free on its Web site (; instructions for this easy-to-use program are provided.

A Yahoo search
on "tax" yielded
1,889 Web sites.

Larger sites often have the capabilities to search by topic or key word. This feature usually appears as a box into which you type your search criteria, such as "estate tax." However, search programs are only as sophisticated as their programmers and are far from perfect. Some sites require a little wandering to find what you want. However, most offer you the opportunity to e-mail the sites webmaster with any questions and often youll get a quick, helpful response.

The following list is divided into three categories. The first contains sites belonging to not-for-profit organizations, schools and the government. The second includes Web sites of individuals. The third consists of sites run by firms and companies.

Richard J. Koreto

American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)
This site contains both a public home page (reviewed here) and a private home page for ACTEC members. Of interest to tax practitioners is the extensive list of links to legal resources and legal associations, such as the American Bar Association virtual committee on business valuation, U.S. Supreme Court decisions and the State Bar of California. Also helpful are pamphlets that address various legal issues, such as Wills: Why You Should Have One and the Lawyers Role in Its Preparation . Clicking on the "Whats New" heading leads the user to recent Internal Revenue Service administrative pronouncements, reported decisions and the Web Site of the Week. For the week of May 17, 1997, the site was "Information on Internet Tools" published by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( ).

Americans for Tax Reform
This is the home page of a national clearinghouse for a grass-roots taxpayers movement to limit and reform local, state and federal taxation. Currently the site contains these articles: "Straight Facts on Medicare," "The Hidden Tax Bite in Everything You Buy," "Cost of Government Day," "The Flat Tax" and "Social Security Reform."

Internet Law Library
This site contains the U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library and allows users to search the Internal Revenue Code and the Code of Federal Regulations. (Unfortunately, the searchable U.S. code is updated only through January 16, 1996, and titles 25 and 26 of the searchable federal regulations are out-of-date.) The site, which includes links to federal court decisions, rules, treaties and international law, says users should refer to the Federal Register —also linked—for proposed regulations and regulations recently adopted. Some federal court decisions (particularly recent ones) are available through the federal court decisions and rules Web pages. Researchers should be aware that other frequently used sites for searchable hypertext editions of the tax code are also out-of-date. For example, U.S. Tax Code On-Line ( is updated only through January 24, 1994.

Social Security Privatization
Recently completed by the Cato Institute, this is an interactive Web site devoted exclusively to Social Security reform that has a variety of information from printed books, articles, congressional testimony and speeches as well as audio and video material. Of most interest to CPA practitioners is the interactive benefits calculator that allows individuals to generate data quickly on their personal retirement benefit levels in both the Social Security system and in theoretical privately funded alternatives.

Tax Analysts
The home page of Tax Analysts, Inc., Arlington, Virginia, publishers of Tax Notes, State Tax Notes and International Tax Notes , has the following sections:

  • Discussion Groups ( Tax Analysts currently sponsors 27 discussion groups to which practitioners can subscribe by e-mail from the site. A Tax Analysts staff member moderates each group. Some of the most relevant groups for practitioners are business tax issues; damage awards taxation; employment taxes; estate, gift and trusts; individual income taxes; insurance taxation; international taxation; partnership taxation; IRS practice; procedure; real estate; S corporations; and state and local taxes.

  • Tax History Project ( The primary online publication of the Tax History Project—established in 1995 to provide scholars, policy makers and the press with information on the history of U.S. taxation—is The Price of Civilization , which is focused on the Great Depression and World War II. It contains an extensive text archive of primary materials including documents from the Library of Congress, the National Archives and various presidential libraries. In addition, the site contains a Web archive of presidential tax returns, including those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.

  • Todays Tax News ( Tax Analysts continually updates this site to provide users with the most recent tax laws and summaries of documents from the United States and other countries. This site contains news reports of interest to most tax practitioners. Past articles have included "IRS Official Discusses Subchapter S Projects," "AICPA Votes to Join NTAs Electronic Commerce Tax Initiative," "CPAs Question Offers in Compromise Procedures," "CPAs Discuss Intercompany Transactions," and "IRS, Social Security Studying FICA Noncompliance by Workers of State Entities."

  • Tax Calendar ( This site contains information about upcoming tax conferences held in the United States.

  • Tax Clinic ( The Tax Clinic consists of five law schools that offer free taxpayer assistance to taxpayers of limited means. The service is not available to members of the general public, however; the site has details on who can take advantage of this service and how.

  • Tax Quotations ( This site contains an extensive list of old and new quotations about tax that can be used in speeches and in written communications with clients and others.

The World Wide Web Virtual Library:
Maintained by the Indiana University School of Law, this site contains a fully searchable set of links to various tax organizations, tax proposals and tax information. It includes links to the following: "College and University Tax Page" (discussion of tax issues affecting institutions of higher education), "Estate Tax" (from Merrill Lynchs Personal Finance Center) and "Villanova Tax Law Compendium" (a collection of both student and faculty papers on tax law).

University Law Review Project
This site allows full-text search of two law journals in the topic "tax law," the State and Local Tax Lawyer and the Tax Lawyer . It should become even more useful as more tax-oriented journals are added.

TIPS Offers Tips on
Electronic Tax Research

Nearly two years after its inception, the American Institute of CPAs tax information phone service (TIPS) is enjoying a steady call volume, thanks in no small measure to the high-quality research materials at its disposal. Gerald W. Padwe, AICPA vice-president—taxation, said that since the program was opened to the full AICPA membership in January, "we have been astounded by the overwhelming number of members who have told us how important it is that the AICPA is offering this service."

Anat Kendal, the director of TIPS, attributes the AICPAs ability to offer the service to the availability of electronic tax research tools. Kendal believes it would be impossible to offer the service without them"it would take two to three times longer to do the research in many cases. And it would not be cost-efficient for the members who call.

When CPAs expand their tax libraries to include electronic tools, its important for them to choose the right research materials. The TIPS staff had some suggestions for CPAs based on their experience selecting research tools for the TIPS library. In making their selections, they looked first at CD-ROM versions of the services they used most to do paper research, deciding the large services such as Research Institute of America, Commerce Clearing House and Bureau of National Affairs"which include the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury regulations as well as cases, rulings, commentary and examples—were essential. Overall, TIPS tailored its CD-ROM services to its customer base, selecting materials that would supplement the broader research services in specific technical or industry areas. For example, TIPS uses tax treatises on specific technical subjects to supplement the more general materials in its library.

CD-ROM research is best handled the same way as paper research; technology just makes the research more efficient and more practical. To use electronic tools, CPAs still need to understand the basic concept of how to research a topic, issue or transaction. Researchers must still know how to evaluate the levels of authority, what documents they are looking at and how they rank-the tax equivalent of the GAAP hierarchy. Someone without the right research skills might get a little further doing CD-ROM research than in the paper services, but he or she would be "lucky."

Technology promotes efficiency. CD-ROM research is not "easier," but it certainly is more effective if you know how to do it properly. Some searches would take much longer in a paper service; you would have too many books in front of you and would constantly be jumping from one volume of a service to another. This is especially true when you dont know where to start. With paper, if you dont know how to begin the search, you keep looking at the index and hope you find something or you try to find a book in your library that will help you start your research. With CD-ROM, if you have any idea of what a key word might be, you just type it in and that begins the process. CD-ROM will get you closer to the answer much faster than working with a paper service. And in a paper service you might never get there.

CD-ROM technology allows an experienced researcher to get more views on the same issue because he or she can browse quickly through several different services and authorities. Even though most vendors provide training in the use of their CD-ROM products, the key issue still is experience. If you use an electronic service only once in a while, you will have trouble navigating the system. Constant use helps a researcher structure a search of both the proper databases and the correct terminology in a key word search.

While CD-ROM technology can easily provide the wrong answer, an experienced user can prevent that from happening. CD-ROM narrowly focuses the researcher on the results of a key word search. By omitting just one key word, a user can miss the right answer entirely. For those who are not properly trained in tax research, CD-ROM can, in fact, be dangerous. Its not computer literacy that is the issue—thats something that can be taught; rather, its knowing how to do tax research properly.

Because a CD-ROM product gives the researcher a "limited view," its important to look at the IRC and the regulations, not just the commentary, when doing CD-ROM research. In addition to confirming that the results of a key word search are correct, a researcher must assess the validity of the authority cited. For example, a case may not apply because of a subsequent change in the law. Researchers also must be mindful of recent legislative and authoritative changes, as the CD-ROM may not reflect all of these updates.

Note : For more information on tax research services, see "Getting Started in Electronic Tax Research," JofA, Aug.96. For more details on the kinds of questions TIPS answers.

Peter D. Fleming

Faris Law Site Map
Edited by Peter Faris, QC, of Australia, this site provides full-text searches and links to U.S. federal and state law located on one page. Of most interest to practitioners is the "U.S. Law" page, which allows full-text searches of U.S. Supreme Court decisions since 1937 by key word, title or phrase, and from volume 300 on by case citation. The U.S. Law page also allows key word searches of the decisions of the federal circuit, the D.C. circuit, the 11 circuit courts and selected states as well as a key word search of the annotated U.S. Constitution.

Law and Estate Planning Sites
on the Internet
Mark J. Welch, a California attorney, created this comprehensive site. It contains a list of U.S. estate planning, probate and trust attorneys who maintain Web sites, an extensive set of links to federal tax law sites (such as the IRC, tax regulations and the THOMAS legislative update site—U.S. legislative information), many estate planning Web sites (such as trusts and estates and an online estate tax insurance funding calculator) and many related Web sites (for example, those that cover death, dying and grief resources).

Professor Doernbergs Tax Law Web Sites
The most useful feature of this site is the tax law resources link, which leads to tax-related organizations, such as the Federation of Tax Administrators and the National Association of Enrolled Agents, and to general tax sites, such as Tax Bullets and the TAXFAX International Tax Homepage. In addition, the site includes academic course syllabi for Professor Doernbergs courses on individual taxation and international taxation at the Emory University School of Law in Atlanta.

Robert Clofines Estate Planning Page
Robert Clofine, an attorney from Pennsylvania, created this page to provide estate, tax and elder law and related financial planning information to consumers. Although the site contains links to other estate planners, the main thrust is a number of articles explaining the business, legal and tax implications of various estate planning techniques. Recently featured articles included "Selling Your Residence," "The Over 55 Exclusion," "Life Insurance & Estate Taxes," "Living Trusts Myths" and "Reasons to Use Living Trusts."

Tax and Accounting Sites Directory
Dennis Schmidt, associate professor of accounting at the University of Northern Iowa, created and maintains this excellent, well-organized site. It links CPAs and other users to relevant materials in these categories: federal tax law, tax help, tips and updates, state taxes, IRS sites, international tax, tax forms, finance and law and Web search. The federal tax law section provides links to the tax code, regulations, IRS administrative pronouncements (note that private letter rulings and some other documents are not publicly available on the Internet), federal court decisions and U.S. tax treaties. Particularly useful to practitioners is the Tax Discussions & Articles section, with links to tax newsgroups, tax mailing lists, tax articles by practicing CPAs, estate and tax planning articles by CPAs and lawyers, articles on Internet commerce and other miscellaneous tax articles.

Tax and Estate Planning Resources on the
World Wide Web
This site, maintained by Vincent L. Teahan, a New York attorney, contains a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of conducting tax and estate tax planning on the Web vs. the traditional hard-copy approach. Additionally it has links to tax and estate planning resources available on the Web.

Tax Court Rules and Practice and Procedure
Created by Professor James E. Maule of the Villanova University School of Law, this site contains a hypertext version of the current rules of practice and procedure for the U.S. Tax Court.

Tax-Related Primary Sources on the Internet
Professor Richard J. Joseph of the University of Texas at Austin Graduate School of Business has created a well-organized list of primary tax sources on the Internet. The links are organized by level of authority in these categories: statutory authority, judicial authority, administrative authority and state laws. Begun in May 1997, this site also contains alternative links where available, such as two links for the U.S. Constitution, six for the Internal Revenue Code and six for U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Practitioners who prefer the legalist approach to tax research should consult this site.

Tax Resources
(same site as above, in a special "Netscape framed" format for users of current versions of the Netscape browser)
Frank McNeils site has received many favorable reviews in the accounting and tax press. Its a set of links to all types of useful tax information including IRS forms and documents, legislative and judicial resources, newsgroups, newsletters and mailing lists, public tax articles, professional tax articles, tax policy and changes and tax treaty resources. One of the most valuable aspects of the site is the "What Happened?" link that takes the user to an extensive list of daily and weekly tax resources and other timely updates, a link to recent IRS materials and tax treaties and protocols. Tax Resources also contains a link to various materials on the Social Security tax.

The Estate Planning Links Web Site
Dennis M. Kennedy, a Missouri attorney, created this site to provide information about estate planning and tax and elder laws. It consists of links to other estate planning, estate and gift tax, elder law, probate and trusts and charitable planning and philanthropy sites. In addition, it links to what Kennedy believes are excellent law-related sites and a number of his articles about the practice of law in the digital era.

The Tax Prophet
Robert L. Sommers, a San Francisco tax attorney, created this site. It contains links of special interest to practitioners such as "Hot Tax Topics and Frequently Asked Questions," "Publications" (a collection of newspaper columns, newsletters and scholarly articles written by Sommers, including his columns published in the San Francisco Examiner ), "Foreign Tax" (tax considerations for foreign citizens who invest in the United States) and "Interactive Tax Applications" (including "Determining Your Residency Status" and "Employee vs. Independent Contractor Flow Chart"). Will Yanceys Home Page
This excellent site was created by William Yancey, assistant professor of accounting at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. It is well organized with links to relevant materials in these categories: tax law and tax practice, accounting sites, finance and economics sites, employment and benefits law, general law and Web and computer resources. Accounting faculty will appreciate the Tax Education on the Web section, which contains links to various accounting and law faculty who maintain Web pages as well as to tax programs, courses and textbooks. Practitioners will appreciate Yanceys papers available on this site: "Research on the Internet for Tax Practitioners" and "Web Sites for Employment Law Research."

Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, LLP Tax Page
Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, a law firm with offices across the United States and in the Far East, maintains this site, which features links to tax articles and summaries written by PM&S tax partners and associates and the firms monthly Corporate Tax Bulletin . Users can perform key word searches using one of these indices: PM&S Tax Pages, State and Local Tax Bulletins and Estate Planning Memoranda. Currently, the site contains articles such as "IRS Adopts Check-the-Box Regulations Regulations," "U.S. Treasury Policy Paper on Internet Commerce" and "Section 83 Materials." A search of the PM&S Tax Pages on the topic "tax-free reorganizations" resulted in three useful documents: "Downstream Merger and Continuity of Interest Developments," "Proposed Regulations on Continuity of Shareholder Interest" and "Rationalizing the Treatment of Options and Warrants in Reorganizations."

Tax News & Views
Published by Deloitte & Touche and updated weekly, this site contains a weekly online newsletter, an archive of past editions and various timely articles. Recent articles include "Issues Brief: Capital Gains" and "The Clinton Tax Plan." In addition, users can search by key word. For example, a recent search of "divorce" resulted in 14 hits. Users can subscribe to Tax News & Views by e-mail directly from the site.

What Your Colleagues Need to Know About Taxes

Between January 27 and June 10, the American Institute of CPAs Tax Information Phone Service received more than 3,200 calls. Heres how they broke down by subject.

Individual income taxes 1,050
Tax accounting 334
S corporations 319
Corporate income taxes 277
Compensation and retirement planning 259
Partnerships 182
Estate and gift taxes 162
International taxes 149
Fiduciary income taxes 99
Employment taxes 62
Internal Revenue Service rulings and procedures 61
State taxes 59
Tax-exempt organizations 56
Limited liability partnerships and corporations 53
Special entities and industries 50
Bankruptcy and insolvency 26
Practice issues 16
Excise taxes and user fees 7
Personal service corporations 4
Tax legislation and lobbying 3
Tax Court practice 1
Source: American Institute of CPAs Tax Information Phone Service.

Tax Web: Federal & State Tax Forms
This Web site allows the user to download federal and state tax forms. It notes that as of December 31, 1996, 35 state and local jurisdictions had joined the federal government in making tax forms available over the Internet. In addition, at least 20 states allow taxpayers to request forms by fax. (Users should note that most electronic forms are in .PDF format and thus require the Adobe Acrobat Reader program to print.) This site lists the states that currently allow tax forms to be downloaded from their Internet sites, states that maintain an electronic bulletin board system and those that allow taxpayers to order tax forms by fax (faxback services). Also listed are addresses and telephone numbers of each state department of revenue (or similar government unit) from which taxpayers can order state tax forms.

RONALD E. FLINN, CPA, CMA, DBA, is associate professor of accounting, College of Business Administration, Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska.


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