Jun 19, 2009

Reviewing legalbitstream.com, a comprehensive tax law database

So, Jim sent me an email earlier this morning to share that he and Tal had found a Tax Law and IRS Material database called Legal bitstream. This site has some value and some opportunity for improvement. Before we get into that, here is a brief description of Legal bitstream.

The site is owned and operated by Mayfield Publishing Company, located in Houston, TX, and has been live since 2003. It offers the ability to search all Tax cases from 1990 to the present. Also, you have the option of searching various IRS materials, including revenue rulings, executive orders, and Treasury decisions. The IRS materials date back to 1954, depending on the type of materials. In addition to those two database search capabilities, Legal bitstream provides links to government pages such as the Internal Revenue Code and IRS Forms & Publications.

Value

  • A comprehensive one-stop shop for tax law and IRS-related information
  • The ability to search all of these documents for particular keywords and phrases
  • It's Free!
Opportunity for Improvement

The search feature needs some work. Search results include any documents that contains your keyword phrase. This means that it could be mentioned one time, way down near the bottom, as a part of the case description, while you were looking for cases that have that phrase as part of the subject (perhaps the plaintiff or defendant). Being able to search the subject and not the detailed description could help users find information much quicker.

Think about when you do a book search in a library database. It gives you the option of isolating your search among book titles, authors, publishers, or descriptions. If you don't choose any of those options, you can still search among all of those segments simultaneously. Having the same functionality on this site would be extremely powerful and would add so much value to what's already there.

Additionally, search is the only way to find information. There is no browse feature. So, you better know what you're looking for ahead of time.

Give Legal bitstream a shot. On the About Us page, they remind you that the site is free to use...for now. They are still deciding if and when this will be a fee based site.

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