RIA, a business unit of the $7.6 billion Thomson Corporation, is today one of the pre-eminent providers of comprehensive and easy-to-use solutions to complex and challenging tax research, information and compliance issues.
It is also the only single source that tax and accounting professionals can turn to for integrated productivity solutions, from software and publications to online processing.
It has a legacy of accuracy, innovation and service that stretches back almost 70 years, to the battle for ham and eggs.
The year was 1935, and a nation still reeling from drought, depression and social unrest had just passed the Social Security Act. Out of the dust bowl of Kansas came entrepreneur Carl Hovgard, who founded the Tax Research Institute (later renamed Research Institute of America, and now known as RIA) in New York to help keep businesses up to date about the increasingly frequent changes in state and federal tax laws.
Hovgard's philosophy - "To study the practitioner's problems and give a solution in language that's understandable" - also led the company to become one of the most important polling and research firms in the nation.
Today, RIA's philosophy, at its core, remains very close to that of Hovgard - "Put the customer at the center of everything we do." According to Mark Schlageter, general manager of RIA Information/Online and executive vice president of Thomson Tax & Accounting, "Historically and today, what really motivates us at RIA is the ability to make our customers successful at their jobs and businesses. We use constant interactions with our customers, from interviews to advisory groups and market studies, to make sure that we understand what they need and how we can best deliver it to them. Because there is a lot riding on those interactions, doing it right is extremely important."
Thomson Professional Publishing acquired Research Institute of America in 1989 as part of its acquisition and growth strategy. In 1996, the unit was merged with Warren, Gorham & Lamont, another high-quality analytical information provider for business executives and their advisors. These two companies were joined in 1998 by CLR/Fast Tax, and together form the core of RIA today.
RIA itself is part of the tax and accounting division of Thomson Legal & Regulatory, one of four operating units of Thomson. Thomson Legal & Regulatory is a leading provider of integrated information solutions to legal, tax, accounting, intellectual property, compliance, business and government professionals around the world, with $3.1 billion in 2003 revenues, 17,000 employees, and business operations in 24 countries. Its Thomson Tax & Accounting division also includes Creative Solutions, Practitioners Publishing Company and Fast-Tax.
Though headquartered in New York, RIA's first landmark role came in the legislative fight over welfare payments to elderly Californians. Centered in Long Beach, Calif. - known then as the geriatric capital of the U.S. for its elderly population - the 1938 ballot battle was rallied around the cry, "Every Californian deserves ham and eggs!" RIA's research and survey work was critical to this social campaign, which came to be known as the "Ham and Eggs Initiative."
Much has changed in the tax and accounting industry since 1938, both in terms of substantive information and technology. Today, RIA is made up of two business units. RIA Information/Online provides information and analysis from RIA and WG&L on its cutting edge online platform, Checkpoint, as well as in print and on CD-ROM. The second business unit, RIA Compliance, is best known for its tax preparation software brands, GoSystem Tax and InSource.
As the industry evolved, so did RIA. While the expert analysis of RIA and WG&L has remained constant, the delivery vehicles have continued to evolve over the years. RIA has accomplished many firsts in its long history. From CD-ROM to the Internet, RIA has reinforced its position as a technology leader. Checkpoint, its online tax research solution, which launched in 1997, along with the adoption of the application service model for its compliance software, GoSystem Tax and InSource, have had a tremendous impact on the way tax and accounting professionals conduct business.
From technology to service, RIA is about value for the customer. "Value means greater productivity, time savings, dollar savings, cost reduction and the ability to make the right decisions faster," says Brian Peccarelli, general manager of RIA Compliance and executive vice president of Thomson Tax & Accounting. "Our products can handle the most complex returns for the largest partnerships, even with tens of thousands of partners. They have the most sophistication, the best customer service, the best technology - whatever it takes to give our customers peace of mind."
The scope of RIA's product offerings includes tax research products; tax compliance and planning software; payroll, pension and benefits research; estate planning research; financial reporting and management research; and training and support. In addition, RIA recognizes the importance of forming strategic partnerships to ensure that its customers have all the tools and information that they need to work effectively. Today, RIA counts as its strategic partners such trusted names in the international tax arena as IBFD, GEE and Comtax, as well as BNA Daily Tax Report, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, World Trade Executive and the Practising Law Institute.
"The primary reason corporations and their advisors choose RIA is because we are the top service provider, as well as the top technology provider," says Peccarelli. "From our roots as a service bureau, through DOS, Windows, Client Server and now ASP offerings, our products enable large corporations and accounting firms to leverage the power of technology - to help them make the technology shifts necessary to keep their competitive advantage."
The company also maintains a keen eye on legislative and business trends that include security and the protection of data. In addition, its WG&L Financial Reporting and Management products are leaders in the management of the significant changes and compliance required under the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
The company has also made substantial investments in the infrastructure needed to keep customer data secure across global networks. Customers are encouraged to make site visits to ensure that RIA meets their internal and external data storage and privacy requirements. The company is heavily engaged in the tools needed for privacy and security audits, from the SAS 70 audits for internal controls in service organizations to the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
"RIA has built the industry's most robust and integrated online solution, able to offer all of our tax and accounting software via ASP. This online capability allows organizations the freedom and power to manage a national practice or a multi-office company from a central location. This is critical to our customers, and well over half have already moved to the ASP environment," Peccarelli notes.
For all of its sophistication, RIA is less about products and more about customer solutions.
"So much of what our customers buy is service and support," says Brian Peccarelli. "Our customers are buying flexibility and success as much as the software code and physical products. To serve them, to interact directly and effectively with them, we have developed a passion for the customer and for helping them to be successful. RIA does it better because there is an overall culture of teamwork and that passion - the drive to rally to the needs of the customer."
RIA at a glance
395 Hudson Street
New York, N.Y. 10014
Year founded: 1935
Number of employees: 1,050
Senior executives: Brian H. Hall, president and CEO, Thomson Legal & Regulatory; Peter Warwick, president and CEO, Thomson Tax & Accounting.
Offices: New York; Carrollton, Texas; Valhalla and Rochester, N.Y.; Alexandria, Va.; Boston; Deerfield, Ill.; Eagan, Minn.; Washington.
Major products: Checkpoint (online tax research); GoSystem Tax and InSource (tax compliance and planning software); payroll, pension and benefits research; estate planning research; WG&L financial planning and management research; training and support.
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