Website of the Month: SmartMoney’s Tax Guide

By Susan B. Anders

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MARCH 2008 - The Tax Guide ( features articles on individual and small business taxation, online calculators, and other resources. The Tax Guide is part of the SmartMoney online financial publishing group, which covers investing, personal finance, and small business. Although the website is aimed at individual taxpayers, preparers may find the material useful when checking on current events or seeking ideas to better communicate with clients. Educators and students also will find the variety of resources quite interesting and fun to read.

The SmartMoney main pages are organized using a left-side navigational index. The homepage index links to “portfolio,” “tools & maps,” “stocks & options,” and “personal finance,” which connects to the Tax Guide. The indices on the individual main pages link to additional resources. It is easiest to navigate the site by using the link at the top or on the left-side menu to return to the homepage.

The two-part table of contents allows users to quickly find information. The webpage is updated and reorganized periodically. At the time of this review, the lead topic (“tax matters”) was followed by the subheadings of ”worksheets,” “investment-related taxes,” “work and business taxes,” “taxes and retirement accounts,” “filing your taxes,” and “home and family taxes.” Featured articles and excerpts are highlighted under each subheading. Additional articles and other resources for these topics, including worksheets, are presented in a condensed index at the bottom of the main page.

Tax Guide Articles

Tax Guide articles feature links allowing users to add articles to their news alerts and to read or post comments. Column pages offer links to related articles, as well as to other SmartMoney webpages. The five latest comments on the story appear at the end of each column. With free registration, users can post their own comments. Each article has options for viewing, printing, and sharing the webpage. Links are provided to e-mail the author and view an archive of the author’s work. Users may also view an archive of articles organized by topic and date.

The lead “tax matters” column at the time of this review was “What’s New for Your Tax Return,” which addressed the AMT patch, the income exclusion for discharges of principal residence debt, the extension of the unemployment tax surcharge, and the tax-free treatment of certain benefits received by victims of the Virginia Tech shooting incident. Primers on a variety of topics (e.g., IRAs, homeownership) are scattered throughout the website, generally linked to column pages.

The “home and family taxes” topic includes “Understanding the Kiddie Tax,” which addresses changes in the maximum age and unearned income thresholds, provides examples and tax-avoidance strategies, and presents the new rules for 2008. “The 1040 Is a Great Tool for Planning” is a must-read for practitioners looking to increase their value-added services provided to individual tax clients.

“Filing your taxes” offers 2007 and 2008 tax rate schedules with calculators for the itemized deduction phase-out and self-employment taxes. “What Forms Do You Need?” is a nice summary of basic federal tax forms.

“Taxes and retirement accounts” presents “Seniors: A New Way to Give,” covering qualified charitable distributions from IRAs. “Unusual IRA Investments” offers food-for-thought on suitable alternative investments. “Work and business taxes” links to tax-specific resources on SmartMoney’s “Small Biz” site.

Worksheets and Calculators

The Tax Guide main page provides several worksheet and calculator resources. While there is no one-stop-shopping way to view all of the calculators, users can save the worksheets for a low-cost subscription. Worksheet webpages offer links to related Tax Guide articles and other calculators, as well as to similar content on other SmartMoney webpages.

The “home and family taxes” worksheets include the “marriage penalty,” estate taxes, the “nanny tax,” and home sale gains. “Investment-related taxes” offers calculators for taxes on incentive stock options and nonqualified stock options, as well as capital gains. Users can calculate their average tax rate and marginal rate under “filing your taxes.” The worksheets under “taxes and retirement accounts” cover maximum IRA contributions and the after-tax value of different kinds of IRAs.

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




















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