Website of the Month: MarketWatch Tax Guide

By Susan B. Anders

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APRIL 2007 - MarketWatch.com is a commercial website that provides business news and financial information for consumers, with a similar objective to other investment-related websites reviewed by this column. MarketWatch’s Tax Guide is located at www.marketwatch.com/pf/taxes and available from www.marketwatch.com, under “Taxes” on the “Personal Finance” menu tab. Both are updated regularly.

Although MarketWatch’s Tax Guide is consumer-oriented, much of the information is fairly sophisticated and should prove useful to tax professionals with general individual tax practices. While other consumer tax-related websites provide a variety of tools, the Tax Guide confines its offerings to a news-article format. Most of the articles are written by MarketWatch staff columnists, but some articles are linked from external websites. Materials on the Tax Guide are free, although registration and sign-up is required to receive e-newsletters and post or respond to discussion group questions.

Navigation of the Tax Guide is fairly simple, as the main horizontal menu bar is mainly for the parent website. The pull-down menu under the banner headline includes links to Home, News & Commentary, Markets, Mutual Funds & ETFs, Personal Finance, Tools & Research, and My MarketWatch. The easiest way to navigate the Tax Guide is to use the browser’s back button, or the Taxes option under the Personal Finance tab to return to the Tax Guide homepage.

Users can also take advantage of the site index on the parent MarketWatch website to access the Tax Guide and its main features. The site index is located in a small hyperlink at the bottom of all main pages. It is also available under the “More Features” hyperlink on the left side of the Tax Guide homepage.

The main features of the Tax Guide are the homepage Tax Guide newsletter, the Tax Library, the Taxing Times weekly tax stories, Tax Tips, and the tax area of the Discussion Groups. The site offers hyperlinks to print or e-mail each article. Many article pages also provide embedded links to external websites, as well as links to blog posts and other articles that may be related.

Tax Guide Newsletter

The articles on the homepage newsletter change frequently, as expected. Recent articles indicate a level of technical sophistication that may be attractive to tax practitioners. The stories focus on high-income individuals, but all current events may be covered.

In December 2006, the Tax Guide was the first source noted by this reviewer to report that several expiring tax provisions were indeed extended—after the 2006 tax forms had been finalized, of course. A more recent visit found articles addressing the problems related to converting tax refunds into direct deposits of IRA contributions, the report that 3.5 million taxpayers paid the alternative minimum tax in 2006, and highlights of changes from the three major 2006 tax laws. Others included how tax practitioners will be affected by the extended deadline for providers to furnish 1099 forms and the new “never-ending tax season” caused by the automatic six-month filing extension. There also is an excellent article to help tax professionals warn their clients about the true cost of refund anticipation loans.

Tax Library, Taxing Times, and Tax Tips

The Tax Library and Taxing Times weekly tax stories can be located via a small Top Sections index on the left side of the homepage, as well as under Taxes on the site index. Tax Library articles are archived back several years. The articles are presented with the most recent listed first, and the selection can be broadened or narrowed by the choice on a drop-down index, which offers all topics, filing tips, deductions, and business taxes. The all-topics option includes Taxing Times. The Tax Library also includes more articles than are shown on the homepage. Taxing Times presents abstracts linked to articles on the Tax Guide and other websites. Users can also access archived editions.

Tax Tips are located about halfway down the center of the homepage. Recent Tax Tips have included how to claim an aging parent as a dependent, the saver’s credit, and appraisals for noncash donations. Many Tax Tips include links to other articles and websites.

Discussion Groups

The tax discussion board on MarketWatch is less developed than what would be expected on websites targeted to tax professionals, but it is still worth a look.

he tax discussion group is part of the parent website, and is not specific to taxes. Some “discussions” are essentially announcements posted by MarketWatch, such as the 2006 mileage rates. The easiest way to locate the tax discussion group is to select Discussions on the Tools & Research main menu tab. On the Discussion homepage, select the Topic Discussions menu tab, and then the Taxes hyperlink. The group can also be reached by the Discussions title hyperlink on the left side of the Tax Guide homepage. Free registration is required to post, respond to, and view an entire conversation thread.


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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