Website of the Month: Legalbitstream

By Susan B. Anders

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FEBRUARY 2005 - Legalbitstream (www.legalbitstream.com) is a free website that offers access to tax cases, IRS Revenue Rulings and similar pronouncements, the Internal Revenue Code, and Treasury Regulations. No registration or membership is required, and the site is supported by extensive advertising. The website is targeted at professional accountants and attorneys, but should also be of interest to tax educators and students.

Legalbitstream is a useful tool for an occasional user, as a place to begin research, for a tax professional who wants to check “one more source,” and for students preparing assignments under an instructor’s guidance or practicing searches for the CPA exam. Although most would not find its content sufficient as their sole research instrument, the website performs admirably with the resources that it does offer.

Legalbitstream clearly presents its main resources. The center of the homepage contains hyperlinks to articles covering tax, U.S. national, international business, and international sports news. The top horizontal menu bar appears on all main pages and provides links to information about the site, as well as a link back to the homepage.

The most important navigation tool is the left-side vertical menu bar that appears on all main pages. The major resources appear as hyperlinks under two categories, Tax Case Law and IRS Materials. Legalbitstream provides a database to search these features within the website. A third category, Legislation Links, offers connections to resources on other websites.

Tax Case Law

Legalbitstream offers a database of federal income and estate tax–related court cases covering 1990 to the present, for the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Circuit and District Courts, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and others as well. The Tax Court summary opinions are available from 2001 to the present. The Legalbitstream database does not contain many unpublished opinions.

A user can search all court cases or select a specific court database. The U.S. Circuit and District Court opinions can be searched as a group or individually. The search process is a basic keyword search, which can be narrowed by specifying a date range. The search process worked well using both topic keywords and the taxpayer’s name (i.e., the reference name of the court case), as well as the standard case citation.

The search results are presented as a list of hyperlinks, which will appear familiar to users of Lexis-Nexis. The individual documents are presented as subsidiary webpages. Menu bars allow navigation among the search results, as well as a return to the initial search or the homepage.

The database of court cases is contained within the Legalbitstream website. The text appears in html format. The documents in Legalbitstream’s database include original tables, images, and exhibits that are not always available from other sources.

IRS Materials

The website contains an exhaustive list of IRS materials from 1990 to the present, including Revenue Rulings, Revenue Procedures, Announcements, Private Letter Rulings, and Actions on Decisions. Users can also access Treasury Decisions, Proposed Regulations, Delegation Orders, and Executive Orders from mid-1995 to the present. Search functions are similar to those discussed above.

Legislation Links

Legalbitstream provides links to other websites for access to the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations, Public Laws, U.S. Income Tax Treaties, and IRS Forms and Publications. Some of these links need to be updated, as the web addresses have changed. A good feature of Legalbitstream.com is that the external links open in a separate window, so the user always remains connected to the original website.


Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, is an associate professor at St. Bonaventure University, N.Y.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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