Website of the Month: Tax Guide for Investors

By Susan B. Anders

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JANUARY 2007 - Fairmark Press, Inc.’s Tax Guide for Investors website, www.fairmark.com, provides access to a variety of free resources, as well as for-purchase books by tax attorney Kaye A. Thomas. Tax Guide offers several online topical guides, quick access to many IRS forms and publications, a free message board, tax tips, and news items. While some resources are obviously designed for taxpayers, many will be helpful to tax preparers and students. The topical coverage is comprehensive, consistent, and generally well organized.

The website is well structured, with uniform appearance and navigation throughout. The homepage is presented in a newsletter format with hyperlinks to HTML-format articles grouped under topic headings, such as “Legislation,” “Tax Planning,” “That’s Interesting,” and “More Tax News.” There are also small links to the current “News Archive,” an older-news archive, and one of the site’s most important resources, the detailed online guides. Materials are easy to locate, as the main pages are generally organized in an index format, with hyperlinks to subsidiary pages. The main pages group topics in a similar format, and include sections for “Getting Started” and “Frequently Asked Questions.”

The homepage and all main and subsidiary pages provide a horizontal menu at the top of each page featuring “Home,” “Our Books,” “Tax Help Center,” “Roth IRAs,” “Options,” “Capital Gains,” “Kids/College,” and “Message Board.” The homepage presents a left-side mini-index for “Our Books,” “Site Map,” “Message Board,” “Reference Room,” and “IRS Forms.” The mini-indexes on the main and subsidiary pages cover “Tax Help Center,” “Message Board,” “About Us,” and “Contact Us.” The site map is a great tool for first-time users; the site’s offerings are grouped under “Free Online Guides,” “Books from Fairmark,” “Free Services,” and “Fairmark Info.”

Online Tax Guides

Fairmark offers free online tax guides on several investment-related subjects, including Roth IRAs, employee stock options, capital gains, and college planning. These can be accessed from several locations. A guide to mutual funds is available on the “Capital Gains” main page. Some of the smaller guides, which cover topics such as estimated tax, alternative minimum tax, Social Security benefits, trader taxation, and custodial accounts for minors, are most easily located through the “Tax Help Center” or the site map.

Each guide provides an index page and an introductory overview. The organization is consistent across all of the guides, increasing their user-friendliness. These guides are a terrific resource for classroom use, as well as for practitioners who may not have a strong background in a particular area or may be looking for plain-English explanations for various topics.

Other Resources

The latest versions of many IRS forms, instructions, and publications are available in PDF format via the “Tax Help Center.” Forms and publications can be accessed via drop-down menus or by a helpful topical index. This is a great resource for students and professionals who are not expert in a particular area. The “Reference Room” can be accessed by a hyperlink on the homepage or in the “Tax Help Center.” It provides a table of key tax numbers, such as personal exemptions, standard deductions, and standard mileage rates for 2005 through 2007. Individual-tax rate schedules for 2007 are also available, along with IRA and 401(k) limits for 2005 through 2007.

Accessing the site’s message board does not require registration, although registration is necessary to post questions or answers. The Fairmark Forum is organized into four forums: capital gains and losses, retirement savings and benefits, other tax questions, and nontax questions and comments.

Summaries of recent tax legislation are available in various locations on the site, including the news archives. A summary of key provisions of the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act can be found via a hyperlink on the homepage. The summary provides links to topic-related resources within the website.


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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