Website of the Month: taxes.about.com

By Susan B. Anders

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JANUARY 2006 - About.com’s “Your Guide to Tax Planning: U.S.” is one of many topical guides available from the About.com web portal. The tax guide can be found at taxes.about.com, or from www.about.com via the “money” channel. At the time of this review, About.com offered 24 content channels, containing hundreds of subjects and managed by individual topical advisors called “guides,” who contribute original articles and other materials. The guide for the tax material is William Perez, a former IRS employee.

Readers familiar with About.com will find the format similar. About.com content is directed toward the average user and not necessarily at experts; however, the user-friendliness of the websites, as well as the broad coverage, makes them good resources for practitioners, educators, and students. Regarding the tax guide, some of the materials are probably more useful for tax professionals than for average taxpayers.

All of the tax guide resources that were examined for this review were available free to all users, but accompanied by many advertisements and sponsored links. Advertisements vary throughout the website and are keyed to the specific content of the topics covered.

Website Organization

The organization of the website makes it easy to use and is one of the main reasons that tax professionals might be interested in it. The center of the homepage is devoted to a lead article written by the tax guide, links to a variety of other current articles, software reviews, and advertisements. At the time of this review, the main article concerned the release of final answers to the enrolled agents’ examination, and other links addressed partial-payment installment agreements and state tax amnesties. Previous homepage articles have addressed tax reform, the calculation of taxable Social Security benefits, and changes in taxpayers’ mailing addresses.

The homepage and the main subsidiary pages utilize the same left-hand vertical table of contents listing of hyperlinks, which makes navigation easy. The main headings are Essentials, Taxes Offers, Articles & Resources, Tools, and Forums. Taxes Offers and Tools include links to commercial sponsors. Essentials varies, with links to subsidiary webpages for Forms 1040-EZ, 1040A, and 1040, 2005 tax rates, and hurricane tax relief. Articles & Resources is revised periodically, but generally includes more than a dozen topics, such as the latest tax news, tax amnesty, tax terms, and how to find a tax preparer.

Items of Interest

One main reason that tax professionals would be interested in “Your Guide to Tax Planning: U.S.” is the quick, user-friendly access to resources. Even though the IRS website has recently been redesigned, it is still easier to access some of the IRS materials from About.com’s more limited selection of resources.

One interesting feature is the tax guide’s step-by-step and line-by-line instructions for completing Forms 1040-EZ, 1040A, and 1040. “Pay Off Tax Debts” and “Tax Amnesty” articles, under Articles & Resources, include general information on delinquent federal tax liabilities as well as specific information on many state amnesty programs. “Latest Tax News” offers links to tax updates, including the new rules on the uniform definition of a qualifying child and a link to the IRC and Treasury Regulations search feature on the IRS website.


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



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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