Web Site Review: Legalbitstream

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Screenshot of Legalbitstream website

Where: www.legalbitstream.com

Who: Mayfield Publishing Company, Texas

What: US Tax Law Research

Overview: Legalbitstream offers free, on-site searches of tax cases decided in federal courts, including the Supreme Court and the Tax Court. You can also search IRS materials on site, by specific document type or using multiple databases simultaneously. Legalbitstream also provides links to government sites containing official versions of tax law, including the IRS code, public laws and tax treaties.

Highlights

  • Legalbitstream brings various sources of tax law together in one place. Site use is free, and you’re not required to register or provide personal information.
  • The site loads quickly, has a simple, eye-pleasing layout, and is easy to navigate.
  • The on-site search engine is robust, and is superb for quick searches of IRS materials, as it returns fewer extraneous results than the search engine on the official IRS site. Results rival the hits returned via site-specific Google search (used by typing “www.sitename.extension search term” without the quotes). After choosing a database from the left-side menu, you can search using words, phrases, wildcards and other standard commands. Each initial search page contains a description of the database you’re searching, and there is a static “Help” page with search tips.
  • The databases are extensive. Case law goes back to 1990. Access to IRS documents depends on the type you’re looking for, with some going back to 1954.
  • Linked material is presented in an easy-to-read format that looks like the original document, including graphics.
  • The site has been on line since 2003 (according to the About Us page), and is updated on a regular basis. An email sent to the site owner generated a personal response within a few days.

Potential Drawbacks

  • The site contains Google Ad-Sense advertisements, and these ads put cookies on your computer.
  • The site is strictly do-it-yourself document retrieval. You won’t find interpretations of tax law, like those in subscription tax research services.
  • Legalbitstream is not a case law citator. There is no specific cross-linking to subsequent legal actions that can help you determine whether a case is still good law.

Opinion: Legalbitstream is a useful tool for tax practitioners, though you’ll want to supplement it with other tax research.

Taxing Lessons Final Grade: A

Review Policy Disclosure: Taxing Lessons receives no compensation for web site reviews and has no affiliation with the reviewed sites.

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