A "stack" of CD-ROM drives would be needed to search through more than one CD; otherwise, one has to "swap" discs, much in the same manner as with floppies, thereby losing the benefit of a networked arrangement.
Each of the tax services critiqued was used to determine the tax effects of a corporate guarantee of shareholder indebtedness in one instance; the use of a grantor retained income trust (GRIT)for the purpose of holding a painting in another, and the effect on a Sec. 481 adjustment following a change of tax year in yet another.
Commerce Clearing House
Commerce Clearing House (CCH) offers the most extensive and complete tax library, parallel to its print library. As of November 1992, it has issued 17 discs containing the full text of all Tax Court Regular and Memoranda decisions (four discs), Board of Tax Appeals Regular and Memoranda decisions (one disc), U.S. Tax Cases from 1913 to the present (three discs), the Internal Revenue Manual (one disc), Letter Rulings and other administrative documents from 1954 to the present (four discs), Revenue Rulings and Procedures (one disc), IRS Publications (one disc) and its Federal Income, Estate & Gift and Excise Tax Reporter (two discs). These publications will be offered in compressed format in December 1992 along with Federal and State tax forms and instructions.
With "Virtual CD," CCH's search software, one can search multiple publications simultaneously. By using a stack of eight CD-ROM drives, it is possible to search through the entire library of letter rulings, administrative documents, official rulings and cases, and browse through those documents directly on point. This is especially helpful when looking for pertinent letter rulings or searching through the Internal Revenue Manual, since those materials are not well indexed and are very difficult to reference, except through full text key-word search techniques.
CCH's search software was quite helpful in searching for certain key-words within the same paragraph ("w/par")or sentence ("w/sen") or within a fixed number of words (e.g., "shareholder w/5 guarantee"). This is the same "search syntax" that CCH uses in its on-line service, "CCH Access Online" (which is akin to Lexis and WestLaw), and the CD-ROM service is designed to update research quickly through CCH Access Online. The computer commands are displayed in a typical "menu" fashion with onscreen help that should be familiar to most computer users.
The basic CD-ROM tax services, such as the Standard Federal Tax Reports, are supplemented monthly (the printed services are supplemented weekly) and arrive about the middle of the following month. At the present time, CCH and most other publishers are offering attractive pricing options to print subscribers. For example, CCH charges $1,420 per year for a two-year subscription to the printed version and $1,290 per year for a two-year subscription to the CD-ROM version of the Standard Federal Tax Reports, however, the CD-ROM version is only $380 a year extra if ordered with the printed service.
While CCH offers the most extensive service in depth, Matthew Bender presently offers the most extensive service in breadth. This is most gratifying when reviewing several treatises covering a well-defined area. For example, a user can review material from Matthew Bender's University of Miami Institute on Estate Planning, NYU Annual Institute on Federal Taxation and USC Major Tax Planning Institute on Federal Taxation, in conjunction with a search of its basic Federal tax service. A search for "painting w/ para GRIT" gives a law-review quality article directly on point. Similarly, questions relating to the effect of a change in tax year on a Sec. 481 adjustment will lead a user through Schneider's fine treatise on Inventories and Herb Lerner's (et al.) work on consolidated returns, in addition to highlighting the applicable portions of official documents. In yet another instance, eight excellent state tax services are accessible for material on unitary taxation.
Matthew Bender's search software was easiest to use. It offers features similar to those available under CCH, including the ability to use Boolean logic, and the most relevant commands are constantly displayed at the bottom of the screen. There also is a "go-to" function, which enables practitioners to instantly access Internal Revenue Code sections. A tax professional working on a tax problem can directly "go-to" the appropriate section of the Code.
Additionally, Matthew Bender's CD-ROM customers can now access WESTLAW, West Publishing Company's computer-assisted legal research service, while using the Bender compact disc software. The arrangement allows researchers using Matthew Bender to highlight a citation in the text and then automatically connect to WESTLAW to retrieve the cited case. To access WESTLAW, the Matthew Bender Search Master user will need a subscription to WESTLAW and its WESTMATE software.
BNA Tax Management Portfolios
The advantage of CD-ROM is perhaps most apparent to users of BNA's Tax Management Portfolios. Here, the tax library consists of a few hundred separate portfolios, each covering a narrow area of law, which frequently requires the user to refer to several portfolios in order to find the answer to a question. The relevant text from the entire library of portfolios can be retrieved with a keyword search (although the income tax portfolios are in a file separate from the estate and gift and foreign); this lets the user approach the service in an integrated fashion.
BNA presently uses Folio search software, which the author found less useful in locating certain keywords in combination with others (e.g., "redemption w/15 (disproportionate or meaningful reduction)"). However, CCH and BNA have announced an alliance under which BNA will offer its Tax Management Portfolio services on CD-ROM under the same CD software platform as CCH, thereby enabling users to search both services in tandem.
Research Institute of America
Research Institute of America's (RIA) OnPoint remains the service of choice for those who prefer RIA in print. In addition, with OnPoint the practitioner can use either a Code-based or analytical methodology in his research.
RIA has "beefed up" its product since 1991 and included the current Internal Revenue Bulletin IRS Publications and an on-disc product newsletter. The greatest advantage will probably come when Thomson Publishing integrates the tax publications of Warren Gotham Lamont and Maxwell Macmillan (Prentice-Hall Information Services) along with RIA's helpful editorial and forms materials.
At present, RIA anticipates including all administrative documents, Tax Court cases, the RIA United States Tax Reporter (formerly P-H/Maxwell Macmillan Federal Taxes 2nd), and various state tax services on the same disc, all cross-referenced to its RIA Federal Tax Coordinator 2d.
Updates to RIA's OnPoint Folio software include a "query history" feature that saves and recalls previous research, a "Notepad" designed to hold the researcher's comments and observations relevant to the materials, a work log that records the time and tasks performed for a particular client, and a "clipboard" mini word processor.
RIA's next release will include a "Program Link" that will enable users to jump directly from citations in OnPoint to Lexis in order to activate a full text search, all without leaving OnPoint. This will give users "pay-as-you-go" access to Lexis in addition to the economical unmetered access to controlling authorities available through CD-ROM.
Most of the publishers are seeking alliances with other publishers or services. For example, RIA's OnPoint can be integrated with CLR/Fast-Tax, and other RIA electronic publications are linked to Lacerte and CPAid tax software; Matthew Bender has a tiein with WestLaw, and BNA is offering its Tax Management Portfolios under the CCH search software. Hopefully, tax research, tax return preparation and the resulting correspondence and communication will coalesce.
Editor's note: Mr. Rubenstein and Mr. Wasserman are both members of the AICPA Tax Division's Tax Computer Applications Committee.
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|Title Annotation:||tax information of CD-ROM|
|Author:||Wasserman, William E.|
|Publication:||The Tax Adviser|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1993|
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