Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tax Managment Portfolios

With April quickly approaching, my mind is focused on taxes. I’ve always wondered how CPAs, accountants, estate planners, and tax attorneys keep all those ever-changing tax rules straight. Where do they go when they have questions? There are free options, such as the advice offered through the IRS site, but navigation can be difficult and as the saying goes, “time is money.”  I know first-hand from being a treasurer that finding answers that way is difficult, especially when you do not know the form number or specific term. The majority of my searches ended with a phone call to the agency.  Most of my questions were straight forward, so I can’t imagine trying to search a complicated tax problem that way. 

Thankfully, companies are quick to seize on opportunities to improve existing resources. One such product is Bloomberg BNA’s Tax and Accounting Center, a comprehensive tax database that includes federal, state, and international tax transactions. Arguably, the best feature in this database is the Tax Management Portfolios.

Why are these portfolios such a great resource?
  • Written by leading practitioners in the field
  • Provide in-depth analysis of key issues
  • Contain practice tools, source documents, news and commentary 

You can link to the Tax and Accounting Center database from our Databases page or the catalog.

The portfolios are easy to use, once you know how to find them. The portfolio topics display in the middle of the screen. Once inside the portfolio, there is a “split screen” option, which is how I prefer to view the information. 

Bloomberg BNA does a nice job of providing user-friendly features. There are links to the relevant code sections, new law analysis, and news and commentary throughout the portfolios. Quickly scanning Estates, Gifts and Trusts Portfolios: Exempt Organizations/Private Foundations, I was able to locate the reporting requirements for fundraising activities. How easy was that, and I didn’t have to wait on the phone for 20 minutes.  

Many practitioners like the worksheets, or what I call forms. There are a few options for accessing these forms. You can link to the form right from the text or you can find them under “Working Papers” on the left side of the screen in the “split screen” view. Depending on the type of form, you may be directed to the electronic version to fill out, as I was with form 990. Note: I had to install “Interactive Forms 2011” before I could view the form I needed. I did not find this interface to be as intuitive as the rest of the database.

If you do not have access to Bloomberg BNA’s Tax and Accounting Center, you can still access the Tax Management Portfolios through Westlaw (TM-ALLPORT) and Lexis (BNA; TMPORT), but you lose many of the time-saving features that make the Tax and Accounting Center such a great resource.

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