Tax season never really ends. With different fiscal years and ongoing extensions, it seems like there’s always another closing and another return to prepare. And while we’ve gotten promises to simplify the Tax Code for decades, tax research is still a time-consuming and odious task.

It has gotten better, though. That’s not because the code has gotten more concise or we’ve experienced a dearth of new case law, but simply because each year, tax research vendors add content and make it more efficient and productive to search through the morass of information and practice aids available.

Just as with tax preparation software, each new year brings with it the opportunity to examine the research software you use and establish how effective your use of it was. Is it worthwhile renewing it for another year, or is this the year that you decide to look at the alternatives?

If you do decide to re-examine the software and content solutions available, as in previous years, we’ve surveyed the top tax research providers and assembled a chart detailing the features and functions in the products they provide (see the 2017 Tax Research Comparison Guide).

In addition to asking them to complete the chart, we also requested that they update you on what new features and functionality they have added to their offerings in the past year. Their replies are presented below.

number of words in the tax code, in millions

Every practice is different and unique. And practices change from year to year, with new clients coming on board and others retiring. That results in needs changing as well.

Before tax season really hits in full force, it’s a good idea to see how well your current research solution matched your needs in the year past.

Then, with an eye on the future, you can assess whether it’s time to reassess your upcoming requirements.


WHAT’S NEW

Bloomberg BNA: New features include Tax Reform Watch and Alerts, and Hurricane Relief Guidance, both of which integrate news, analysis and practical guidance. The company has significantly expanded its state tax content with a comprehensive pass-through entity resource including detailed analysis and practical guidance on a state-by-state basis.

International enhancements include the first Multilateral Instrument Tracker as well as MLI Alerts on treaties, and a Treaty Primer that is a practical guide to understanding income tax treaties.

Tax Materials Inc.: The company’s “Jacob Special” includes both its TheTaxBook Deluxe Plus Edition and online WebLibrary Plus for a single price. It also offers more than 45 self-study CPE courses. Its Client Handouts product offers more than 100 handouts, including a quarterly newsletter for marketing a tax practice.

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting: The company’s Checkpoint PPC tax compliance Deskbooks have been enhanced with hundreds of interactive practice aids directly incorporated into the tax compliance research workflow.

Its Checkpoint Answer Path has also been expanded to include orientation to business tax topics, including depreciation and amortization, business incentive credits, capital gains and losses, business travel expenses and more. Answer Path also includes relevant charts in a state and local keyword search.

Wolters Kluwer: CCH AnswerConnect is all-new for 2017, providing an answer-oriented tax information service that replaces traditional search-and-retrieve with a transformed question-and-answer model.

It answers many questions before a search is even run, and includes topic pages that provide a full 360-degree view with quick access to recommended topics, key primary sources, client letters, practice aids and IRS publications, as well as pre-configured CCH SmartCharts.

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Ted Needleman

Ted Needleman

Ted Needleman has been covering technology for more than 30 years, writing frequently on software, hardware, and related subjects. He was previously editor-in-chief of Accounting Technology.