More relevant than ever
Tax research software is critically important in the wake of the TCJA and other legislative uncertainty
It’s been an interesting year. President Trump promised major revisions to the Tax Code, and the Supreme Court was deciding whether or not to overturn the Quill decision in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case. In both cases, events unfolded to produce a lot more questions than answers.
And that makes the process of obtaining answers with tax research options more important this year than it has been in a long time.
With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act one of the most significant changes to tax law in three decades, how are tax research vendors handling the huge job of providing answers to practitioners who are somewhat puzzled by exactly how to apply these changes with their clients? In our annual survey of tax research software, this was one of the primary questions we posed to our vendor panel of four of the primary suppliers of research software and materials.
So, what’s new?
Obviously of major interest is how the vendors are addressing the new aspects that the TCJA brings to the table. And in these reactions, we noticed two major courses of action — reporting and analysis.
“Immediately upon enactment, we added visible alerts to all code sections and analysis that was impacted by tax reform,” explained George Farrah, editorial director for Bloomberg Tax. “Within days, we had updated the Internal Revenue Code and had added Legislative Change Notes to all analysis impacted by tax reform. We expanded our Tax Reform Roadmap to include linked references to analysis.”
Reporting was also a key priority for Thomson Reuters and Wolters Kluwer.
Thomson Reuters’ Adam Gretz, senior manager of the tax practitioners seg- ment, said, “The complete analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was released to Checkpoint customers within 24 hours of the bill’s passage; the Internal Revenue Code was also immediately updated on Checkpoint to reflect TCJA changes. Prior to and after enactment of TCJA, developments were reported and pushed to customers through daily news updates.”
‘For a professional to be able to send key information directly to a client — as it is happening — is paramount.’
And Wolters Kluwer’s Bas Kniphorst, vice president of product management, research and learning, added, “Our first priority is to report and provide guidance on the changes as timely and as accurately as possible. Although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the most significant change to the Tax Code in 30 years, our approach has not changed. We consistently provide commentary and usable insights within hours of legislation signing.”
And for practices with more limited budgets and needs, Tax Materials updated its line of research products as well, according to Jacob Meyer, who is in charge of business development for the research provider.
The vendor brought out a new Tax Law Package, which includes three books, starting with the “TCJA Summer Edition,” which was released on June 15 to explain where everything related to the law was at that point of time.
“We have a ‘TCJA Winter Edition’ which will be released Dec. 15 to provide an update pre-tax season,” Meyer said, “and our ‘What’s New In-depth Edition,’ which releases on Feb. 1, 2019, to cover any late-breaking tax laws, regulations and extenders, along with all the major changes over the past year. We provide an update service with new articles to keep our customers in the know on tax updates throughout the year that is free and included with purchase, and of course all of our publications will be updated for 2018 and the federal editions, which will be released on Dec. 15.”
Report, then explain
But reporting is just part of the process of providing answers. Just as important, or possibly even more important, is the expert analysis that the vendors bring in understanding what these changes mean, and how and where they need to be applied.
Some of this analysis is provided in updated products that reflect changes in code and procedures.
For example, Bloomberg Tax approached the process by prioritizing analysis that was significantly impacted to be updated first. “As we amended content, we indicated that the discussion had been updated, making it easy for customers to know if a section had been impacted, and updated,” Farrah said. “Taking a staged approach based on level of impact, we were able to complete updates quickly to meet our customers’ expectations. We felt it was imperative to make our updates, not only quickly, but with transparency to give our customers confidence that the information they were relying upon was accurate and comprehensive.”
And the vendors were quick to point out that the large number and impact of changes resulted in the introduction of new products to help practitioners cope with them.
One of the ways that Wolters Kluwer reacted was by expanding their AnswerConnect product introduced in 2017.
According to Kniphorst, “We have added tools to CCH Answerconnect to assist with answering questions on items like 199A qualification, as well as enhanced existing tools to reflect legislation and other changes, such as updating our nexus information to reflect the implications of U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as the definition of sales nexus resulting in