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Steve Mendelsohn, Thomson ReutersWhat tax research services to provide on mobile devices and how to provide them remains the hottest area for vendors offering these applications to tax professionals. But whatever direction the providers take, it's clear that resources available via notebooks and smartphones will expand dramatically this year.

Among the most aggressive plans is the course Thomson Reuters has charted for Checkpoint. While much of the decision about mobile research has centered around providing information that fits a smartphone screen, Thomson is providing a full version of its research platform on the Apple iPad.

"It's not an application you have to download. It comes up and works very smoothly," says Steve Zelman, SVP of product platforms for the Knowledge Solutions unit of Thomson's Tax & Accounting business.

Doing that has taken some tinkering and more work is being done on the phone front. For the most part, the research providers say news and quick lookups are the most suitable functions for the smaller smartphone screens and that is rapidly become the way many professionals are handling these research functions.

To make the job easier for mobile devices, CCH has taken out some internal code to make reading information easier on smartphones, according to CCH product manager Tina Rajski.

While Intuit sees the same mobile phenomena, the company continues on its path of providing access to its ProLine Tax Research from within the ProSeries and Lacerte tax preparation applications.

Last year, Intuit made its research content, which it licenses from BNA, available from within the two applications. It has expanded the amount information that can be accessed, but is also providing preparers the ability to tap their peers' opinions from within the tax packages.

"It gives them the ability not only to access content we get from BNA, but they can also ask a question and it goes out to 40,000 firms using Lacerte and ProSeries," says product manager Ryan Farley.

Users receive answers within the program and results can be attached to a return. The system ranks user suggestions.

Farley says this merely automates common practice in which a preparer will use a research program to find information, but then contacts a colleague for a second opinion. The system will tap into Intuit's online TaxAlmanac service (www.taxalmanac.org), whose tax forum currently displays more than 24,000 discussions.

Intuit has also expanded search capabilities, providing search-within-a-search functions. For example, Farley said a preparer might execute a search related to trusts under Section 179 and then search within those results for rules related to a 2009 return. There is also advanced content search under which a search could be limited, for example, to results within regulations or information related to a trusts. The company has also made available QuickAnswers, which Farley described as being similar to Thomson's Quickfinder.

Both CCH and Thomson have introduced enhancements to their platforms in the last month and have announced plans for additional updates this year.

CCH recently offered Categorized Search for its IntelliConnect research service. Rajski said that adds a third view for users who could previously view results by date or relevancy. The new option enables them to group results by document type, such as explanations, news and journals and treatises. Within the categories, results are sort by relevancy.

An October release is scheduled and will providing "better in the ability to share research folders," Rajski continues. That includes the ability to specify with whom folders can be shared and the ability to highlight shared content.

Thomson's recent release gives users the ability to organize, flag and annotate favorite documents and it also provides intelligent linking to related source materials, analysis, tools, news and courses. And it introduces Thomson Reuters News & Insight, which makes news available from its Reuters arm.

The Reuters content is part of the news that is designed for access via mobile devices, according to Steve Mendelsohn, president of Knowledge Solutions.

"It's almost a no-brainer; news is consumable on the iPhone," says Mendelsohn. He notes that content made available on Checkpoint for the desktop will generally be made available on smartphones.

Thomson's year-end release is expected to provide decision making features including what Mendelsohn called including "interactive tools to do calculations and forecasting."  The decision making functions "walk you through the process. It takes you by the hand. It makes you consider which questions you need to ask, analyze the results," says Zelman. "As you are doing your research and you have a client situation, you want to be able to analyze the situation, come up wth a recommendation and communicate that recommendation."

The Bureau of National Affairs has also had enhancements to its research products this year. Product manager Holly Flater notes the company introduced FastAnswers Federal Tax, which brings together the "top questions practitioners might have." FastAnswers is included in the Tax Practice Series Library.

It also introduced eLearning courses in the areas of Federal Tax, Compensation Planning, Tax Accounting, and Estate Tax, which it said provides insights and analysis from tax practitioners.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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