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Twenty years ago, using Computer Assisted Legal Research (CALR) meant accessing Lexis or Westlaw through a very slow dialup network directly connected to the provider’s large computer center, almost certainly using an expensive terminal and printer leased from the provider. Just as we began to access these systems through faster modems on our own computers, CD-ROM discs, each holding about 650 Megabytes of information, became both usable and popular for listening to music and, shortly thereafter, to hold text data like statutory codes and caselaw. Suddenly, it was possible to replace the decades of caselaw that used to take many linear yards of bookshelves or a large stack of microfiche, with “only” 10 or 20 discs. Of course, the last 50 years of cases in a particular state required only one disc or two, but if you wanted a complete set of the Federal Reporter series, or something like a complete federal tax or patent library, CD-ROM sets were unwieldy unless you purchased a CD-ROM juke box or merely gave each disc its own CD-ROM drive. The next logical jump should have been to DVD discs, capable of holding the same data requiring a half dozen or more CD-ROMs, but that jump never happened. Instead, dialup Internet, and now the broadband Web has made it easier, less expensive and perhaps faster to access the electronic equivalent of those yards of books as they sit on the provider’s computer center. When we report on today’s Web-based CALR we usually talk about broad and deep collections provided by Westlaw and Lexis, sometimes giving attention to the less powerful but less expensive loislaw.com (recently purchased by Wolters Kluwer) and occasionally the $7 per attorney per month VersusLaw. Although specialty practice areas are mostly represented on at least Westlaw and Lexis, attorneys might well ignore the general systems, and use, instead, specialty databases provided by the practice area specialists. In federal tax, that probably means CCH although the non-profit Tax Analysts has developed an impressive, and generally less expensive, research facility. Of course, law firms that already have advantageous contracts with Lexis or Westlaw may not be interested in either. This week I look at the tax-specific Web sites run by Tax Analysts and CCH. CCH I remember CCH, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer, when it was known as Commerce Clearing House, with its major facility just a couple of from my house, and most of its current tax and other information disseminated as weekly inserts and replacements to be filed into looseleaf binders. Today, CCH sells most its tax materials in print, on CD-ROM and through sophisticated sites on the World Wide Web. The company’s main tax site, at www.cch.com, has a wide variety of material, including 35 electronic versions of publications such as the print looseleaf Federal Tax Reporter Service, Master Tax Guide, Taxesmagazine and the Federal Estate and Gift Tax Reporter, presented in seven different bundles. Each of the bundles has components such as a news tracker service, Internal Revenue Code, Regulations, Revenue Rulings and Procedures, a Citator, and interactive tax forms. There are two ways of searching for something on the CCH Federal Tax site. The first is to select which of the titles that you wish to search. (CCH presents a list of available titles; click in a check box opposite the title or titles of interest.) Then enter your search request and the Web site returns a hit list. The second method is to find the appropriate document — the Internet Revenue Code, for example — and “drill down” through subsequent tables of contents until you get to the correct article, subsection, or whatever. I like the availability of the drill down approach, as full text searching often doesn’t work very well with statutory Codes. When you find an appropriate code section, CCH topic or case, you can use the online citator to further your research. A Search Options screen lets the user customize search defaults, including automatic use of a thesaurus, number of documents returned on the hit list, sort order of the citations on the hit list and the types of documents that should be searched. CCH also appears to provide tax news highlights and maintain a tax discussion area, all free of charge. TAX ANALYSTS Tax Analysts has turned from a publisher of the printed weekly Tax Notesmagazine, to the electronic publisher of a wide variety of information relating to State, Federal and International taxation through CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web. Although the products are often not inexpensive — a subscription to the combined print/Web version of Tax Notes, for example, runs $1999.95 per year, including Web access for one person — they seem to be well under the similar cost from CCH. One big difference is that Tax Analysts sells Web access to individuals, while CCH is concerned only with licensing concurrent users. If your firm has three people who need a CCH product, you need purchase only one license if the three don’t have to access the database at the same time; a Tax Analysts product requires you license each user, even though they never use the product at the same time. It has been a couple of years since I reviewed the Tax Analysts’ OneDisc — a single CD-ROM that includes The Internal Revenue Code, Regulations, IRS Publications, Revenue Rulings and Procedures, summaries of Chief Counsel Advice, key court opinions in full text and summaries of all tax decisions since 1986 and a Federal Tax guidebook. The OneDisc is updated monthly, and priced at from $99.95 for one copy per year, to $199.95 for a fresh, updated disc each month. The publisher’s Tax Library seems to be the Web-based equivalent, updated weekly, plus a variety of secondary source material, at $295.00 per year. Tax Analysts’ Tax base offers an ala carte menu, with some combined specials. Choose exactly what you want, with unbundled price for one or a bundled price if you wish to make a combined purchase. Begin with the Basic Federal Research Library at $149.95 per year for the first user and down to $60 per year for the 6th through 20th user at the firm. Add Letter Rulings and Court Decision, and pay $299.95 for one user and proportionally less for additional users. Add TaxNotesToday, a compendium of matters of interest to the Federal tax practitioner, updated hourly, and a similar product relating to state taxes and a complete state tax library, and pay $1,749.95 for one user for one year. An additional $50 adds the organization’s international material for the year. TaxNotesToday costs $849.99 per year for a single user unbundled subscription. If all of this seems confusing, it is. I think that a 30 day trial subscription, generally available with any of the vendor’s Web offerings, will give most users some idea of what is available and the level of service that meets his needs. If nothing else, I think that any tax practitioner, or any lawyer who has professional or personal needs to “keep up” with what is going on in federal income taxation, would do well to at least take a look. The main url is www.tax.org. THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY? I would be remiss if I did not mention the Internal Revenue Service’s official site, www.irs.gov. I regularly use the site mostly to download federal forms and publications, but there is a wide variety of other information either provided by the IRS or linked to others through the site. The IRS doesn’t provide user access to its own database of the Internal Revenue Code and regulations; no need, when the agency can link to various other sites that carry the same information. I know of little there that isn’t available elsewhere, but it is easy to find and clearly the easiest way to find a form quickly. SUMMARY While Lexis and Westlaw provide a substantial amount of Federal tax material, speciality sites maintained by CCH and Tax Analysts should be considered by any lawyer requiring a source for tax research. DETAILS CCH INCORPORATED 2700 Lake Cook Road Riverwoods, IL 60015 Phone: (800) 835-5224 or (847) 267-7000 Web: www.cch.com TAX ANALYSTS 6830 N. Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22213 Phone: (800) 955-2444 or (703) 533-4400 Fax: (703) 533-4444 Web: www.tax.org E-mail: [email protected].

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