irs

Have you checked out the IRS Tax Map this year? If not, what better way to spend April 15 (aside from actually filing those returns, of course).

The IRS Tax Map, as explained here, actually began as a project in 2002, as a prototype to address the business need for improved access to tax law technical information by the agency’s call center workers. These days, Tax Map is available to taxpayers to offer them topic-oriented access to the IRS’s diverse information products, as well. It aims at delivering semantic integration via the Topic Maps international standard (ISO/IEC 13250), grouping information about subjects, including those referred to by diverse names, in a single place.

It was created for the IRS by Infoloom in cooperation with Plexus Scientific and Coolheads Consulting. Infoloom explains on its web site that it lets customers control what is returned by search queries via a topic map approach that lets them extract from existing content information on the topics they need to represent, without having to build a taxonomy of terms, and add specific knowledge to that information as part of the extraction process.

The IRS Tax Map for tax year 2013 was last updated last week. It features about 400 “hub topics” that include on a single page all the topics within Tax Map that contain a particular keyword identified as frequently used topics by IRS tax law professionals, and “key entry point topics.” There are some 5,000 topics in total, including the main topics, in the Topic Map – everything from abatement of interest and penalties to worthless securities and 529 Plans.

It currently also features – as it did last year—a proof-of-concept that is designed to demonstrate how topic mapping technology can be used to help taxpayers locate information on the Affordable Care Act. That might get more use next year, though, for Americans’ 2014 taxes, when penalties for not having health insurance coverage kick in.

IRS Open Data Fun

Meanwhile, if you’d like to take a break from doing your own numbers and are looking around for other IRS tidbits to mull over, you might want to check out some work announced last week by OpenSecrets.org, The Center for Responsive Politics. It’s taken the latest release of the IRS’ 990 extract data that provides summary information for all IRS-recognized 501(c) organizations that filed an annual 990 tax return during the preceding year and created a search that not only allows users to look for specific groups, but also creates filter options that allow viewers to browse groups that display certain structural and financial characteristics.

With its 2013 IRS 990 Extracts Search, the idea is to open up the IRS data even further around politically-engaged non-profits by letting users search whether an organization answered yes when asked if tit was involved in direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office, or whether it has a wholly-owned subsidiary known as a disregarded entity that it might be using to make it more difficult to track money flowing through networks.