Website of the Month: SisterStates Tax Directory
By Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA, St. Bonaventure University
Tax practitioners, accounting instructors, and taxpayers alike will find the SisterStates Tax Directory (www.sisterstates.com) to be an easy way to access state tax forms and related information. The website’s motto “Your One-Stop Source for All State Tax Sites” is not an overstatement. This columnist extends thanks to the anonymous respondents who brought her attention to SisterStates (see “A Hard Look at Tax Software: 2003 Annual Survey of New York State Practitioners,” November 2003).
SisterStates is a well-organized website with a simple, standardized format that is easy to navigate. SisterStates sticks to state tax links, using back-and-forth connections to a related website, Uncle Fed’s Tax Board (www.unclefed.com), for U.S. tax forms and publications. Both websites are operated by National Tax Services, Inc., a commercial enterprise.
Although SisterStates does not provide any information that is
not available elsewhere, it offers an easy to use way to access state tax forms
and other information. As tax deadlines approach and stress levels increase,
SisterStates presents an option for tax practitioners and taxpayers to locate
state tax forms,
as well as links to IRS tax forms and publications.
State Tax Links
The homepage features a center table with hyperlinks to the 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, New York City, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The subsidiary webpages have a standardized format with easy-to-follow subheadings and bullet points. Although the emphasis is on individual tax forms, connecting to business tax forms is easy. Each SisterStates subsidiary webpage provides an index with direct links back to the homepage and to each of the 56 localities’ subsidiary webpages.
Using New York as an example, the SisterStates “New York” webpage has subheadings for current-year tax forms, prior-year tax forms, and miscellaneous links. “Current-year tax forms” provides bulleted hyperlinks for full-year resident returns and for all tax forms which connect directly with the specific web page on the New York website that connects to the actual tax forms and instructions. “Prior year tax forms” offers bulleted links that connect to the precise web page needed on the New York State website. “Miscellaneous links” provides connections to the e-file/e-pay, frequently asked questions, and up-to-date information (i.e., current year changes) locations on the New York website.
The SisterStates state webpages also provide handy information on where to file and links to the homepages for the state government and taxing authorities, and to Uncle Fed’s Tax Board for IRS forms and publications.
Federal Tax Forms and Publications
The site’s tax directory provides access to IRS forms and publications via connections to Uncle Fed’s Tax Board. Hyperlinks are located on the SisterStates homepage, under “quick jump to” in the index, and on each subsidiary state’s webpage. The “quick jump to” hyperlinks include fill-in 1040 Forms, IRS mailing addresses, 1040 instructions, IRS publications, tax tables, and teletax. The SisterStates subsidiary state webpages also offer convenient links to current and prior-year IRS forms.
The federal links open the IRS forms, instructions, and publications directly on the Uncle Fed website, where the index format is easier to follow than the IRS website’s scroll-down menu. A value-added feature is the availability of form instructions and publications in HTML format (as well as PDF), with hyperlinked tables of contents. Additionally, the PDF tax forms are provided in the “fill-in” version, which can be saved to the user’s hard drive.
Although Uncle Fed’s Tax Board is designed for use by taxpayers, including provision of tax filing services, some resources will be of particular interest to tax professionals and instructors. The homepage for Uncle Fed follows the same format as SisterStates. The center table offers button links to a variety of topics. The annual tax acts since 1997 can be found under “tax help archives.” “For tax professionals” includes links to job listings, as well as technical resources such as the IRS manual. “Fun stuff” is recommended for a break from the hectic pace of tax compliance. Tax practitioners might also want to check out Uncle Fed’s new Internet directory of tax professionals under “find a tax professional.”
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