Tax research software reviews.

Author:McDonald, Alysia
 
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Ever performed tax research the old-fashioned way--knee-deep in law library stacks or sequestered in the accounting office research room? It's a seasoned accountant's recurring nightmare: exhaustive hand-written lists, yellow sticky notes clinging to an infinite number of pages, stacks of primary books and piles of leaflets.

Surprisingly, it was not so very long ago when that scenario was status quo. But no more. The nightmare is over.

Even if you've been techno-sawy for some time, it may surprise you to know the latest crop of tax research software is here, and it's better than ever!

The hallmark of today's software is how incredibly easy it is to understand and use. Complicated manuals are nearly obsolete. With very few keystrokes you can access virtually every resource in search of answers to tax questions. The new products even allow you to view an entire document or its thumbnail description.

With great facility, vendors have integrated hot links to primary sources within documents. Almost all the new software tracks your research history, sends you back to previously researched documents and jumps you forward again. It's easy, indeed, compared to the hard-copy world of days past.

Is Online Software Out of Your Techno-Comfort Zone?

Some software vendors elect to span the past and future by offering online and CD versions. At a time when every practitioner is at a different techno-comfort level, that makes good sense. If you are looking at these products, be sure to include that question in the mix, depending on your own comfort level.

Among software products there is a range of difference in how vendors couple primary information with analysis and updates. You'll want to look at that function within each product to see which best meets the needs of your practice.

Vendors typically include upgrades and tax information updates in the base price, but they use varying methods to actually upgrade and update. With some online products you don't even know you've been upgrade or updated! When you're online, it happens transparently. Other vendors show upgrades and updates within the main menu or through an online newsletter subscription. Or they send them through the Postal Service. Regardless of methodology, vendors are doing a great job keeping their products current. Notwithstanding, the software you choose will increase productivity, save time and offer research flexibility. The differences will be significant

The following reviews outline the various features and benefits of today's tax research software. If you have been hesitant to take the leap, rest assured; it will be well worth your while to investigate these deceptively simple-to-use products. A brave new world of tax libraries and primary sources now await your research--in the comfort of your own office.

TKO Tracks Your Research as You Go

To find a prior search, simply hit the "History" button to return to a source.

Total Kleinrock Office (TKO) by ATX is a beautifully packaged, easy-to-understand CD-ROM set also available in an online version. This review is of the CD set.

Within minutes, new users can download the software and quickly find answers to tax questions. In fact, the software is so easy to use, it nearly renders the printed Quickstart Guide and training video unnecessary. The package includes both.

The product offers all the research information a successful tax practice needs, including: Federal TaxExpert, All States TaxExpert, Employment TaxExpert, ZillionForms, Unlimited W-2/1099, Total Tax Guide and 1040 Quick Answers.

Navigation

Getting around in this program is a breeze. The main page opens to a tabbed selector for searching either a single or multiple database. The multiple database area provides complete research options, including codes and regulations, court cases, cumulative IRS bulletins and other databases, such as market segment papers, IRS letter rulings and chief counsel documents. The default automatically checks all options for a comprehensive search, and the menu allows picking and choosing among the options desired. The design conveniently duplicates the menu in the top toolbar with pop-up menus.

TKO tracks your research as you go so you don't have to keep track of various sources and libraries. To find a prior search, simply hit the "History" button on the top toolbar and return to a source. Alternatively, use the "Trail" button to view previously searched document names and their opening text. While researching, you can browse primary sources, retrieve a specific document by name or perform a word search. In the browse mode, the full content list appears on your screen. For specific document or word search, a convenient window pops up where you enter the citation or word.

Features

This product puts everything at your fingertips for quick and easy searching. For example, Federal TaxExpert offers access to 25 volumes of expert analysis and explanation linked to 20 libraries of full-text primary sources. Court cases and rulings appear to be comprehensive. TKO also has a fully updated IRS Code and all regulations, publications, guidelines and treaties. Purchase includes a bi-weekly printed Federal Tax Bulletin also available online daily. Updates on CD are included, too. To link to Federal TaxExpert online, run Start | Programs | Kleinrock 2005 | Federal TaxExpert | Tax Guide Links Option.

The help function works well, but, to be truthful, the software is so self-explanatory, "Help" might be unnecessary.

Within the main menu are "Kleinrock's Analysis and Explanation" and "Kleinrock's Federal Tax Bulletin." Such access to expert opinion and analysis is helpful when researching complex tax issues. Those features offer the same browse, specific document and word search as the factual library information.

The program links all sections of the product to Federal TaxExpert. To get there from another section, just click on the link at the bottom of that section.

Case Study

The product quickly researches all databases and provides a complete list of sources to all items asked of it. The resulting list is segmented by sources and can be printed easily from an icon on the toolbar. A yellow highlight bar appears at the top of the list showing what the search was and exactly how many documents it found. From there, it is a simple...

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