January 2002

Website of the Month: TaxProBestPractices

Editor's Note: This month, we welcome Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, assistant professor of accounting at St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, N.Y., as our new columnist for What to Bookmark, which has been running since August 2000.

TaxProBestPractices (www. taxprobestpractices.com) provides a way for tax professionals to compare many aspects of their businesses with those of other small tax practitioners by completing an online survey. The website's claim that the 38-question survey will take approximately 45 minutes to complete probably refers only to the data entry process, but the estimate is overly optimistic, even for that. Users should first download and print the 20-page survey, and take the few hours necessary to gather the required data, including the following:

The survey output provides a massive amount of information, most of it extremely useful. Digesting the output is time-consuming and difficult to do in front of the computer screen. This reviewer recommends either printing out the complete set of graphs or downloading the results to a disk for printing and reviewing when time permits.

Upon completion of each survey question, users have access to an aggregate summary of the responses given by all participants to that question. Completing the entire survey allows access to a total of 159 graphs that allow users to compare their circumstances with the aggregate responses of other survey participants.

What the survey output does not provide are specific recommendations to improve the user's professional practice. The graphs indicate aggregate information about a small community of tax professionals, and users are left to draw their own conclusions. Additionally, the data is currently skewed toward the responses of clients of the website's sponsors, H.D. Vest and Tiburon Strategic Advisors.

The bottom line: Try it, you'll like it. But be prepared for a significant time commitment to gather information, input data, and analyze the results. Users should be aware that while Tiburon states that responses are kept strictly confidential, there is the possibility with any electronic data transmission that the information could be accessed by third parties.

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