April 2002

Website of the Month: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

By Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA

St. Bonaventure University State taxation department websites are a good source of state taxation information and tax forms, and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance website (www.tax.state.ny.us) is a good example. This website has been substantially updated and improved, incorporating some of the same kinds of changes as the IRS website (www. irs.gov; see "Website of the Month," March 2002), but no longer seems to be patterned closely after its federal big brother.

The website's homepage is very user-friendly and now provides quick, easy access to resources. One new feature is a keyword search that, in theory, should provide a short-cut to the search process but in practice is very clumsy and pulls up only a limited selection of documents that may or may not be related to the topic requested. The site index (located above the keyword search) is much more efficient and reliable for locating specific information.

Another relatively effective way to access information is by clicking on the indices on the left-hand side of the homepage and subsidiary screens. The index listings are presented in a fairly logical format, and moving around to find subject matter of interest in the website's different areas without getting lost is fairly easy.

Downloadable forms, form instructions, publications, and technical bulletins are accessible through the left-side indices in various locations. Forms are not easily retrieved through the keyword search. Forms and publications can be accessed by number or description, and fill-in forms are also available. As would be expected, Adobe Acrobat is required to view downloaded forms and publications and is available through the website.

Some information on the Practitioner Page is not found elsewhere in the website. One item of particular interest is the summary of legislative changes enacted in 2001, available as a .pdf file. Recent tax law changes and tax form corrections can also be accessed from this page and other locations. One of the most important items on the Practitioner Page, and a great time-saver, is the subscription service, a free e-mail update on the latest New York changes for tax professionals.

The site also provides links to the websites for numerous other New York State government departments and agencies, the IRS, and several other state taxation departments.

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