Tax Research for Compliance and Tax Planning


After completing this chapter, you should understand the following:

  • Tax research goals.
  • Tax research challenges.
  • Tax research databases, such as RIA Checkpoint.
  • Primary tax authorities, particularly the Code, treasury regulations, and cases.
  • The tax research process.
  • Professional standards affecting U.S. taxation.

Many taxpayers acquire professional assistance in completing their tax returns. Complexity in tax law and its application make strong tax research skills even more important. The purpose of this chapter is to present information and guidance in conducting tax research for both tax compliance and tax planning. The tax research methodology is actually very similar to accounting and auditing research.


The objective of tax research is to maximize the taxpayer's after-tax return or benefits. The objective is not necessarily to produce the lowest possible tax liability. Clients may value certainty of tax results or seek to minimize potential disputes with the IRS. This difference in viewpoint—maximizing after-tax benefits as opposed to minimizing tax—is especially important when one realizes that many tax-planning strategies involve some trade-off with pretax income, either in the form of incurring additional expenses, receiving less revenue, or both.

Tax researchers must distinguish between tax evasion, tax avoidance, and abusive tax avoidance. Tax evasion consists of illegal ...

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