JATA - Spring 1987

Volume 8, No. 2

Expert Systems in Taxation

Robert H. Michaelsen and William F. Messier, Jr.


This article analyzes the use of expert systems in taxation. First, a definition of expert systems is presented along with a review of current applications in taxation. Second, the potential usefulness of expert systems in four areas of taxation is evaluated: (1) planning, (2) legal research, (3) education, and (4) academic research. Criteria for identifying decision tasks appropriate for expert system development are introduced along with a discussion of potential applications of expert systems. Finally, a number of issues that may hinder the successful development of expert systems in taxation are presented.

An Approach to the Measurement of Tax Law Complexity

Susan B. Long and Judyth A. Swingen


The objective of this study is to develop a new approach to the measurement of tax law complexity. Complexity measures employed in prior research are reviewed and evaluated. A new measurement technique based upon the expert judgment of tax professionals is proposed. The feasibility of this method is tested using data from a survey of tax accountants, attorneys, return preparers, and educators. Results indicate that tax professionals are able to quantitatively rate the complexity of line items on a Form 1040; that there is high consensus in these ratings; and that ratings were not affected by differences in education, vocation, or experience level. The impact of six factors associated with complexity (ambiguity, calculations, changes, detail, forms, and record keeping) is also examined.

Interrelationships of Sections 731, 736, and 751: A Worksheet Approach

G. Fred Streuling, James H. Boyd, and Kenneth H. Heller


It is clear from the statutes that most distributions in liquidation of a partnership interest that involve some cash payments are subject to the provisions of three Code sections: Sections 731, 736, and 751. It is critical to understand in what sequence the provisions of all three sections are applicable. To facilitate the proper use of the intricate rules, the authors have developed a worksheet approach that is designed to apply the appropriate provisions in their correct sequence. Initially, this approach may require a considerable start-up effort. However, once the concepts have been mastered, the worksheet becomes an indispensable tool that converts a difficult and tedious task to a programmed decision process which simplifies the task, eliminates errors, and may be adaptable to the computer.

Tax Policy and Erroneous Information: An Analysis of the Interaction of Inflation, Indexation, and Income Averaging

William A. Duncan and Michael A. O'Dell


Congress substantially modified the income averaging provisions in 1984 to correct what it believed to be serious problems in the law. In the Committee Report on the Tax Reform Act of 1984, Congress contended that taxpayers were reaping unintended savings as a result of the interaction of the income averaging provisions and inflation, the effect of which would be magnified by indexing. This study evaluates the validity of this Report under a wide array of economic and tax assumptions. The results suggest that Congress's concerns were either irrelevant, mathematically incorrect, or founded on erroneous information. Such findings are offered in the hope that future tax legislation will be based on more reliable information.

Individual Tax Planning Software: A Critical Analysis

Steward S. Karlinsky and Blake Pintar


This study analyzes 14 individual tax planning software packages. The analysis should be useful to academicians in integrating computers and taxation in the classroom. Each package is measured for 143 tax and computer attributes which are classified in five broad categories: (1) documentation and training assistance¸(2) program mechanics, (3) input lines, (4) automatic features and computations performed, and (5) miscellaneous program features. These categories and attributes should help potential users determine the best program for their needs.

Recent Developments in Computer Usage in the Teaching of Tax Courses: Report of the 1984-85 American Taxation Association Computer Usage Committee

Debra M. White (Chair), Grant M. Clowery, Kevin M. Misiewicz, and Jerrold J. Stern


This report summarizes the experiences of respondents to an American Taxation Association membership survey on integrating computers into tax courses. Two principal advantages of introducing computers are identified: (1) to keep pace with developments in tax practice, and (2) to develop a tool for increasing student comprehension. Costs of introducing computers are identified and suggestions are provided for cost minimization.

Letter from the President

To ATA Members and Visitors,

The American Taxation Association (ATA) is home to a broad group of members with interests in tax research, policy, practice, and education. We are in a time of transition that includes the ongoing pandemic; both AAA’s and ATA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives; and the CPA Evolution. I thank our members Kirsten Cook, Diana Falsetta, and Annette Nellen for their service in these endeavors. I also thank Tim Rupert for his service as AAA Director focusing on Segments.

Our last mid-year meeting was virtual and could not have happened without our excellent ATA leadership. Thank you to Jeri Seidman, Mollie Adams, Bridget Stromberg, and their respective committees for their flexibility and tenacity in organizing their portions of the conference...

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Anna Catherine Fowler

In Memoriam,
Anna Catherine Fowler received her BS in accounting from the University of Alabama, after which she practiced for several years as a CPA. After moving to Texas with her husband Jim, she earned her MBA and PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.

She joined the faculty of the business school of the University of Texas in 1977 as the first female tenure track professor hired by the accounting department. She remained at UT until she retired in 2004 as the John Arch White Emeritus Professor in Business.

During Anna’s distinguished academic career, her research and teaching interests focused on estate and gift taxation. She was an active member of the AICPA’s Tax Division and the American Taxation Association, for which she served as 1993-94 president.

In 2002, Anna received the American Taxation Association’s highest honor, the Ray M. Sommerfeld Outstanding Tax Educator Award. She also received the Texas Society of CPA’s Outstanding Educator Award.

Anna and Jim made the most of their retirement years, delighting in travel all over the world. They finally settled in a retirement community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Even after Jim’s death in 2019, Anna continued to travel with friends, root for her beloved Alabama football team, and live her life to the fullest. She passed away peacefully on October 19, 2021.

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