03 Oct Airo AV Reports Software Survey: For tax and accounting research, the only …
Technology certainly has had a tremendous effect on the way accounting and tax preparation are performed. A large part of that is because the way the profession is practiced is governed by regulations and standards promulgated by various regulators, standard-setters, and various state and municipal governments.
Research in these areas is a necessary evil. People without a photographic memory can’t possibly remember the relevant code and standards from one client to another, much less from one year to another. Even with a remarkable memory, the sheer number of changes in numerous laws, regulations and practices make it an overwhelming task, even should you be up for the challenge. Just the changes in the Tax Code caused by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are still reverberating through the practice of tax preparation and financial planning. And that’s before you add in the chaos that the Wayfair decision has caused.
Fortunately, the days of enormous binder subscription services are pretty much gone, along with the even more onerous task of keeping them updated. First, optical media caused a huge shift in the way research was done and the resources needed to perform it. Then, the creation of internet and cloud services pretty much put the final nail in the loose-leaf approach. There are still plenty of paper-based research options, but they are easier to use, better organized and, for the most part, frequently ancillary to other, more interactive, products.
But one constant in the area of research is change. The fact that change has such a huge impact here means that, as with your tax preparation software, you need to evaluate the approach you and your vendor take to this vital application on a frequent basis. To give you a good start in this endeavor, we conduct our yearly survey of the state of the art in providing research to accountants and tax professionals, what the issues are in this area, and what research providers are doing to address them.
Always something new
One question that we added to our list this year was in the area of product offerings, and whether the vendor covered tax research, accounting research, or both. We were also curious about the availability of practice aids in these areas. Most of the vendors responded with a positive “Yes” to offering products that addressed all of these areas.
“Thomson Reuters Checkpoint offers comprehensive tax and accounting research products, complete with practice aids, interactive workflow tools, diagrams and more,” said Adam Gretz, senior manager for the tax practitioners segment, noting that its products include a number of workflow tools, worksheets, decision trees and more.
At Wolters Kluwer, Bas Kniphorst, the vice president of product management for Tax & Accounting Research & Learning (U.S. and Canada), said, “We offer both tax research and accounting research/practice aids … . CCH AnswerConnect provides tax research and the CCH Accounting Research Manager provides accounting and audit research.”
And Bloomberg Tax & Accounting noted that it, too, has products in both areas, according to president Lisa Fitzpatrick.
The Tax Book, meanwhile, is more specialized, according to its head of business development, Jacob Meyer: “Our primary focus is on tax research — keeping accountants up to date on the ever-changing tax laws so they can better understand tax situations and, in turn, explain tax situations to their clients. But scattered throughout our tax research books, online tax research solutions, and self-study continuing education courses we offer updates regarding accounting methods, procedures, etc.”
TCJA continues to reverberate
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act is now more than a year old, but its effects continue to be felt by almost every practitioner. Between the changing regs and changing forms, there’s enough going on to keep even the most sanguine practitioner hopping and concerned.
Our panel of vendors is quite aware of these concerns, and they place a great deal of emphasis on ongoing product development and offerings.
“Our clients need information yesterday,” said Meyer at The Tax Book. “So we try our best to offer products that will keep them informed all year long. The product we released last year and have continued with this year is our ‘What’s New In-Depth’ publication — this book is offered in two releases throughout the year. The first release is titled ‘The Early Edition’ and comes out in August, and the second is titled ‘Tax Season Edition’ and is available February 1, covering all that is new in the world of tax law and especially focusing on impacts of the TCJA most recently. The Tax Book WebLibrary (our online tax research solution) provides every book we publish in an easy-to-search format, and is updated automatically. TTB WebLibrary also includes our Update Service, archives of our books dating back to 2009, and all the government documents for easy cross reference.”
According to Gretz, Thomson Reuters also had a host of products and practice aids to offer this year, including a complete analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well as multiple TCJA-related interactive tools, including the Qualified Business Income Deduction Worksheet, the Business Interest Expense Worksheet, the Kiddie Tax Calculator, and the Choice of Entity Analyzer. “In addition to the interactive tools, we also published new Checkpoint Catalyst Topics, such as ‘Qualified Business Deduction from Partnerships, S Corporations, LLCs and Sole Proprietorships (IRC § 199A)’ and ‘Section 965 Transition Tax on Accumulated Foreign Earnings,’”
Bloomberg Tax & Accounting and Wolters Kluwer also introduced new products to address the changing regulation and practice scene. Fitzpatrick detailed some of Bloomberg’s new products: “Among the most requested items from our clients are more planning tools. To address this increased demand, we created calculators to help tax practitioners model out various tax scenarios for BEAT, GILTI and Section 199A. Calculators also provide links to key sections of the relevant Tax Management Portfolios to provide the background needed to understand the provisions.”
International concerns were not ignored, she noted: “On the international front, we recently added a significantly enhanced tool to allow users to compare current domestic law withholding tax rates for a variety of income types with withholding tax rates specified in hundreds of bilateral tax treaties for more than 140 international jurisdictions. The tool helps users devise the optimal tax strategy.”
Nor was the accounting side left out: “In the past year, we also added the Financial Accounting product to our next-generation technology platform. This offering provides accounting professionals with the intelligence they need to plan and comply with…