Navigating the IRS website

Quickly finding what you need on IRS.gov

The IRS.gov website has a wealth of material that's valuable to the trusts and estates practitioner, including some useful things that may surprise you. The Internal Revenue Service website is, however, so large and complex that it’s not particularly easy to navigate. The website is mainly organized by types of taxpayer activity, including individuals, businesses, charities and nonprofits and the retirement plans community. Information and news appear under the Tax Professionals area of the site. The site includes a search facility that you may use for specific publications or information, but the results tend to be diffuse.

For a quick overview with a more detailed categorization than the IRS.gov home page, take a look at the IRS website site map that provides an index to the items featured on the website organized by the general categories of individuals, businesses, charities and nonprofits, retirement plans community, international, tax professionals, the newsroom, "about IRS" and others.

Here’s a rundown of other areas of IRS.gov that you may find useful.

Expert Interface

The IRS maintains an expert interface webpage for forms and published actions and IRS codes that grants access to many publications (in PDF format) and spreadsheets not otherwise accessible from the IRS Forms and Publications webpage. The cryptic designations, however, require some experimentation to find what you want and work out what they actually link to. Brief explanations of some of the resource pages listed on the expert interface webpage are:

foia/ Treasury Department internal memoranda
irs-01/ Publication 938 – REMICS
irs-access/ Miscellaneous forms including 1023, 1028, 1041 and 1040 for 2007 through 2010 by form number, in web Braille format
irs-aod/ AODs for 2007
irs-ccbs/ Criminal Tax Bulletins and General Litigation Bulletins
irs-ccdm/ Chief Counsel Notices by number
irs-drop/ Announcements by last two digits of year and number
irs-irbs/ Internal Revenue Bulletins (IRBs), 1996 through 2007
irs-mssp/ Market Segment Specialization Program reports
irs-news/ News Releases 2007 through 2009
irs-pdf/ Miscellaneous fill-in forms and instructions including 1023, 1028, 1041 and 1040 for 2007 through 2010, identified by form number
irs-prior/ Old income tax forms and publications
irs-regs/ Summaries of actions taken on proposed regulations
irs-sca/ Memoranda for District Counsel
irs-wd/ Letter Rulings and Chief Counsel Announcements/Memoranda, 1999 through 2008, displaying last six digits of the identifier

Document 6209

This is a 613-page file that has all kinds of codes the IRS uses related to automatic data processing and the integrated data retrieval system. The visible codes are fully explained. It explains many forms and notices, when they are used, etc. It’s a reference guide that contains data relative to various components of the IRS.

Trusts and Estates

IRS.gov includes a variety of trusts and estates materials for both public information and to guide practitioners. These materials include:

1. IRS Publication 559 (2007), Survivors, Executors and Administrators, which covers tax reporting for estates, including estate income and estate distributions.

2. IRS Publication 950, Introduction to Estate and Gift Taxes.

3. Information on the taxation of Split-interest trusts as well as a page on Revocable trusts that become split-interest trusts.

4. The Charitable Trusts webpage that briefly describes these trusts and links to other charitable trust resources on the IRS.gov website.

5. Treatment of Estate with Charitable Beneficiary.

6. An Estate Tax page and a Gift Tax page with links to other estate and gift tax materials on the site.

7. IRS index of applicable federal rates (AFR) links to the rulings establishing applicable federal rates.

IRBs and PLRs

IRB and private letter ruling materials include:

1. A web page that links to all IRBs from 1996 to date.

2. Published IRS news, specialty pages, actions on decision, manual, forms and other publications, rulings and revenue procedures that are linked from the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) website Federal Tax Law area.

3. PLRs from 1999 through present that are available at the IRS written determinations webpage.

Procedural Matters

The IRS website includes the following procedural information:

1. An appeals office page that describes the functions of the Appeals Office and links to the webpage appeals… resolving tax disputes (the “how-to” page on preparing for an appeals conference).

2. A webpage on where to file returns.

3. A webpage with instructions for filing estate and gift tax returns.

Publications and Tax Forms

The publications and tax forms include:

1. Quick access to IRS forms and publications on the forms and publications index page.

2. Various links to IRS pronouncements, IRBs, IRC procedures and regulations on the IRS resources for tax professionals webpage.

3. All estate and gift tax forms and publications at forms and publications-estate and gift tax.

4. Links to other websites storing IRS forms on the ACTEC federal forms and EINs webpage.

5. IRS fill-in forms at forms and instructions (PDF) that include estate and gift tax returns in PDF format. The forms may be filled in online with Adobe Reader and saved in PDF format. Since October 2004, the IRS fill-in forms have “document rights” enabling you to save the form with data entered on your computer. Instructions on using fill-in forms are at fill-in forms information.

6. A fiduciary income tax returns archive and estate and gift tax archive with old forms.

Charitable Organizations

IRS.gov contains comprehensive materials related to charitable organizations, but it can be difficult to navigate. Some of the helpful materials on charitable organizations and contributions are:

1. Life cycle of a private foundation. This gives a detailed description of the organization of a private foundation, necessary documentation and IRS requirements.

2. The IRS–types of tax exempt organizations webpage. This displays general information regarding types of tax exempt organizations and provides a link to Publication 557 "Exempt Status for Your Organization."

3. The tax-exempt organizations tax kit consists of a packet of forms (most of which are fillable on-line) and publications that exempt organizations often use.

4. IRS–Tax Information for Charitable Organizations webpage links to other IRS webpages with exemption and tax information for charitable organizations and includes a link to the "Life cycle of a public charity" webpage that has materials relevant to the life cycle of charities—for example, organization, filing for exemption, compliance, reporting, termination, etc.

5. IRS tax information for charities and other nonprofits links to a variety tax information relevant to charities and nonprofits including IRS workshops, calendar of events and compliance information. Also links to general information, IRS publications and continuing professional education texts.

6. IRS publication 526 "charitable contributions" discusses charitable contribution deductions and organizations (PDF format).

7. IRS Cyber Assistant provides help for 501(c)(3) applicants in preparing the Form 1023.

The IRS offers online educational resources for tax exempt organizations at stay exempt. Included are the stay exempt workshop program specially designed to help representatives of new 501(c)(3)s get up to speed on IRS rules and regulations and a number of web-based mini-courses on various charitable foundation rules and resources. The courses now available include: ”Navigating IRS EO Resources,” “Political Campaigns and Charities,” “Can I Deduct My Charitable Contributions?,” “The Wonderful World of Foundation Classification (Part I),” and “Applying for Tax-Exempt Status.”

Planned Giving Forms

Resources for planned giving forms, including the model charitable trust forms, links to related resources and non-government websites providing access to tax forms and publications are:

1. Rev. Proc. 2008-46, 2008-30 IRB 238 contains an annotated sample declaration of trust and alternate provisions that meet the requirements for a testamentary charitable lead unitrust providing for unitrust payments payable to one or more charitable beneficiaries for the unitrust period followed by the distribution of trust assets to one or more non-charitable remainderpersons. Rev. Proc. 2008-45, 2008-30 IRB 224 has such provisions for inter vivos trusts (PDF format).

2. Charitableplanning.com, or CPC, is a fee-based website that provides a comprehensive variety of resources for professionals addressing planned-giving arrangements and the formation and administration of charitable organizations. It includes current news, commentary and articles on charitable tax subjects, a library of the IRS publications, federal tax regulations and other legislation. It also includes cases and IRS pronouncements affecting charities and planned giving and IRS sample documents.

3. Planned giving design center at “Resources” maintains a variety of federal income tax forms and forms relating to charitable organizations. The site also includes J. Michael Pusey's "Exploring the New Model Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust Forms," which discusses the model charitable trust forms, details of the changes in these forms and citations to the rulings setting forth sample forms.

Form 990

The IRS has substantially redesigned Form 990 for non-profit organizations. Information on this redesign and sources for the Forms 990 includes:

1. The IRS Form 990 Redesign for Tax Year 2008 (forms and highlights) and the IRS discussion draft that covers the background of the Form 990 redesign.

2. The available “New On-Line Help for Completing Form 990." This includes a case study and video. It has added FAQs on Schedule A and Schedule L to its Form 990 "filing tips" archive. Schedule A addresses public charity status and public support, and Schedule L addresses transactions with interested persons.

3. IRS materials on charitable organization governance. These are assembled at "Governance of charitable Organizations and Related Topics." This publication is discussed in "IRS Focus on Tax-Exempt Corporate Governance Continues" (Stinson.com).

Retirement Plans

1. The IRS page for the retirement plans community indexes the retirement planning resources included in IRS.gov, such as IRA Resources, 401(k) compliance, the retirement plans navigator for choosing a retirement plan, fix-it guides for common plan problems and a link to the retirement plans community site map.

2. The IRC 401(k) plans page discusses 401(k) plans and links to the resources on IRS.gov for choosing and establishing a plan.

Businesses and Business Entities

1. The business area of IRS.gov at tax information for business includes links to the tax centers for large and mid-size businesses, small businesses and self-employed individuals. It links to a variety of other business materials including Small Business Forms and Publications.

2. The IRS publication "Partnership-Audit Techniques Guide" is available, but Chapter 11 discussing income shifting and property transfer through family partnerships, formerly available, is reserved for now.

3. The IRS website has a discussion of disregarded entities for purposes of employment tax.

Bottom Line

While this newsletter is not intended to be a comprehensive index to IRS.gov, it should serve to give you quick links to some areas of that website that may be difficult to find and give you an introduction to some good materials that you may not have realized were there.

Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley—a respected connoisseur of the software and Internet resources wealth management advisors use to further their practices.

Kelley is a lawyer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo. and is of counsel to the law firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Neb. He is the co-author of the Intuitive Estate Planner Software, (Thomson–West 2004). He has served on the governing boards of the American Bar Association Real Property Probate and Trust Section and the American College of Tax Counsel (ACTEC). He is a past regent and past chair of the Committee on Technology in the Practice of ACTEC.

Trusts & Estates has asked Kelley to provide his unvarnished opinions on the tech resources available in the practice today. His columns are edited for readability only. Send feedback and suggestions for articles directly to him at [email protected].

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