UNDER REVISION


STAR Users Guide
Welcome to the State Tax Automated Research (STAR) System. STAR is a comprehensive tax policy research system that allows users access over 27,000 Comptroller documents.

Users can access documents using simple word and filter searches or by way of a subject matter index.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Document Type Filter
Document Status Filter
Date Range Filter
Sort Order of Results
Show or Hide Summaries
Document Titles
Highlights
Using Case/Capitalization
General Search Tips
Hearings and Rules

Select Tax Type
Select Tax Rule
Keywords to Search
Accessing the Documents


SEARCHING THE DOCUMENT COLLECTION

SEARCH FORMS
There are several custom search forms to use in this system and every user has access to all forms. The idea behind the custom forms is to filter the database saving a few steps when researching your tax issue. Please refer to the Search Form Summary for a listing and overview of the different search forms.

Document Type Filter
STAR contains eight types of documents:
(for a description of the document type, click on the document title below)

Attorney General's (AG) Opinions
Emergency Rules
Hearings
Letters and Memos
Position Letters
Rules
Statutes
Taxability Requests (TR)

Not every tax policy document produced in the Comptroller's Office is included in our database. STAR is a research system, rather than a filing cabinet. Therefore, the database will only include documents that represent current and new policies, or change or clarify existing policies. Were all documents produced by the agency added to STAR, the numerous duplications of the same issues would dramatically slow the results retrieval time and increase the users difficulty identifying desired documents within the search results.

Important Reminder: The STAR System is intended to be used as a research system only. Documents in this system may assist you in general interpretations of tax policy issues. Specific facts relevant to your situation may change the taxability of any issue. Please contact the Tax Policy Division at tax.help@cpa.state.tx.us if you need a ruling on a specific tax issue.

Document Status Filter
The possible settings for document status include:

Current Only (default setting)
Superseded Only
Current and Superseded

A superseded document contains some information that does NOT represent current policy. Superseded documents are maintained in the database for historical research purposes.

We have recently adopted a process of adding summary forms to superseded documents. These forms provide information regarding when a document was superseded, whether all the information within the document is completely superseded or if only certain issues within the document are superseded and why.

Prior to the adoption of the summary form, if any information in a document was incorrect, we had to supersede the document. This was true even if some issues addressed in a document were still a reflection of current policy. Using the topical index helps to identify those issues in a document that are superseded and the items that are still current.

When searching a topic using the index you will receive a list of documents. The list identifies documents that are current and superseded for the particular topic. Clicking on a document under the current list of documents may bring up a superseded document. However, the document is current for the topic you searched for, but superseded for another topic discussed in the letter.

Date Range Filter
The date range filter enables users to have the capability to select a specific date range for your search. The preset ranges may be set for quick access to documents added or edited within the last week, month, quarter, etc.

Sort Order of Results
There are two choices for sorting the results of a search. They are "Sorted by Relevance", and "Sorted by Date". The default setting is "Sorted by Relevance". This sorting method used in combination with the date range presets can easily display the most current documents on any subject you search.

Number of Documents Displayed in Results
Users can display from ten to 500 documents on a single results page. The default setting is 25. Users can page through results in excess of the display amount selected. For example, if using the default of 25 documents per page and the search results yields 119 documents, simply page through four pages of results with 25 documents each and a final page containing 19 documents.

Show or Hide Summaries
The results page by default will show a short summary of the documents retrieved with search terms highlighted in some instances. The nature of the summary shown will vary from document to document depending on how the individual document is structured and the search terms selected. If you prefer to see the search results without the summaries, click "Hide Summaries" at the top of the list so that only document dates and titles are displayed.

RESULTS PAGE

Default Sort
The STAR system default is to sort the returned documents "by relevance." This means that the system is doing proximity searching for you behind the scenes. The first documents returned will be those in which your search criteria occurs the most and is the closest together within the body of the document.

Document Titles
The results page will display the title of each document retrieved. The title consists of the accession number, the tax type, the document type and the superseded status if the document is superseded. A non-superseded document title will appear as follows:

9301822L [Tax Type: SALES] [Document Type: Letter/Memo]
A superseded document without a summary will appear as follows:
7410H0234E12 [Tax Type: SALES] [Document Type: Hearing] [Status: Superseded no Summary]
A superseded document with a summary will appear as follows:
8410L0607D13 [Tax Type: Sales] [Document Type: Letter/Memo] [Status: Superseded with Summary]

The document date will appear to the right of the title with the relevance ranking directly beneath the date. The title is the hyperlink, so clicking on it will take users to the actual document.

Highlights
To the right of each document listed on the results page there is a link called "Highlights". This allows the user to see the search terms highlighted in the body of the document they are viewing. The highlight feature only works if the document is accessed through the highlight link. If a document is accessed through the document title, the search terms will not be highlighted in the document.

Clicking on the "Highlights" link will take the user to the selected document that contains a navigation menu at the top of the page. Within this menu the search terms will appear and they will also be highlighted within the documents. Click on "First Match" to find the first search term in the document, or scroll to see the highlighted terms. If the search term appears more than once in a document, small arrows will appear next to each highlighted word. Clicking on these arrows will take the user to the next or previous occurrence of the search term.

If you wish to view or print a document without the header information or the highlighted query terms, click "Printable Version" to the right of the document title.

SEARCHING
Using Case/Capitalization
Use lowercase for case-insensitive matches. Example: "house bill" will return house bill, House Bill or HOUSE BILL.

Capitalization can narrow your search results. Entering Engineer in a search will bring up only those documents which have engineer typed with the first letter capitalized. Entering ENGINEER will return only those documents in which the word engineer is in all caps. By using engineer as search criteria, it will look for all forms of that word. It will return documents with engineer, Engineer and ENGINEER.

General Search Tips
You can search for mixed alphanumeric terms. Example: 200105276L

Try to use discriminating terms that are likely to be found only in the documents you seek. Using more words in your search terms will result in fewer more closely related documents. STAR will find documents containing as many of these words and phrases as possible, ranked so that the documents most relevant to your search are presented first.

Using the search operators will allow you to greatly narrow down your search results. In search forms other than the simple query form, it is not necessary to use all three word/phrase search lines. It is possible to build an adequate search using one or two lines. However, having the ability to use three search lines will allow for more in-depth searches on issues.

For example, doing a search that must contain the words computer engineer will bring up too many documents. The system will return documents in which the word computer and the word engineer are contained in any part of the document.

Do the same search, but specify that the system look for the phrase computer engineer. You will receive a much more manageable amount of documents. This is because it is looking for the two words when they are adjacent to each other.

In the simple (quick) search form:
You can type in your query using plain language or just use keywords. Example: is contract programming taxable? (Keywords and phrases are recommended-as is the Advanced Search Form with filters!)

Phrases can also be identified with quotation marks and used along with word searches:
agricultural products production "computer software"
A phrase is entered using double quotation marks, and only matches those words that appear adjacent to each other. The example above will return documents containing the phrase computer software, the word agricultural, the word products and the word production. You can also use more than one phrase by separating them with commas.
"agricultural products" , "computer software" production

The above search will return documents that have the phrase "agricultural products", the phrase "computer software" and the word production.

Use + in front of a term to require it.

+"sprinkler system", landscape, installation

Placing a - in front of a term excludes any results with that term.

chips, -potato To achieve the same result

In all advanced or specialized search forms:
Use the Advanced Search Form when you want to restrict your search to specific tax types, document types, status types and/or date ranges.

Word and phrase searches must be entered on separate lines in the area "Within document body". You must choose a type (word, phrase, name) for each line so the search engine knows what to seek.

NOTE: Mixing words and phrases on the same line will give you inaccurate results.

Use the "must not contain" operator to narrow your search even more. For example, if you are doing a search on computer chips, you know that the word "chips" can also be used to describe a snack. Create your search then use the "must not contain" operator and list the word potato. This will ensure that the system will return documents dealing with the issue at hand.

Hearings and Rules
You can access copies of hearings and rules by typing the numbers in a search form.

Hearings should be entered as 42,864. (Leave the comma in the number.)

Rules should be entered as 3.308 (Leave the decimal in the number. This would also hold true for statutes.) Make sure you set your filters so that you are only searching the rules in the database instead of all of the documents.

When entering a hearing or a rule number, you are telling the system to look for all documents that contain that number. Your search for 42,864 may bring up more than one result simply because there may be other documents in the system which reference that number.

Viewing a specific hearing
For example, if you only want to see only hearing number 44,163, enter the following as a phrase search:
HEARING NO. 44,163
Since hearing titles are in all caps, this type of search should return only the requested hearing.

Reminder! Superseded documents without a summary may still be valid for some issues; search the index for current documents by issue.


SEARCHING THE TOPICAL INDEX

By using the Topical Index search, users can access documents based on a word search on the topical index. The index is a collection of subject matter headings,and appended to those headings are documents which pertain to the subject matter. Think of it like a subject card catalog system at the library! You will use key words associated with your research situation to search for the subject matter headings. When using the Topical Index Search, you will enter the words and/or phrases you are seeking in the topical headings as opposed to the body of the document as you would do in STAR.

Select Tax Type
Each subject heading in the index has a tax type associated with it. By using the drop down menu under "Select Tax Type," you can narrow down your search by specifying a certain tax. By leaving the option set on "None," your search will encompass all tax types.

Select Tax Rule
Sales and Franchise tax are broken down by rule number. You can specify the index to search by a specific rule number. Sales tax (SST) rules are 281-366 and Franchise (FRT) rules are 541-579. Leaving the option set on "None" will search all tax rules. If you are searching any tax other than SST or FRT, the option will need to be set on "None."

Key Words to Search
Enter the words or phrase for which you would like information. You should not include commas in the search. For example, if searching for information on computer software, enter the search as, "computer software" and not "computer, software." The search is not case sensitive.

You can view all topical headings alphabetically for a tax type by selecting the tax type and entering a colon in the word search field.

In the "Look for" section, you may select the type of search you wish to use:

exact phrase - will return documents containing this exact word or phrase in the index.
all the words - will return documents that contain all of the words in the index.
any of the words - will return documents that contain at least one of the words in the index.

Check out the history of a rule! Select the tax you are researching. In the search field enter the word "rule" followed by the number. Your search will bring up a heading with the current rule in addition to all the superseded rules.

rule 3.293

Accessing the documents
After creating a search, click on the "Search" button. If any subject headings in the index match your search criteria, they will be returned in the Subject Headings Search Results. Clicking on a subject heading will take you to a listing of accession numbers appended to the heading. Click on the accession number to retrieve the document.

The result list identifies documents that are current and superseded for the particular topic. Clicking on a document under the current index list of documents may bring up a superseded document in STAR. However, the document is current for the topic you searched for, but superseded for another topic discussed in the letter. If a document is listed in the index result form under a superseded column, it is superseded under the topic you searched on. The same document may be indexed under several other issues that are not superseded.


DOCUMENT TYPE DESCRIPTIONS

Attorney General's (AG) Opinions
Attorney General Opinions clarify the meaning of existing laws. Opinions are written only at the request of certain state officials, called authorized requestors. The Attorney General writes opinions as part of his responsibility to act as legal counsel for the State of Texas. Unless or until an opinion is modified or overruled by statute, judicial decision, or subsequent Attorney General Opinion, an Attorney General Opinion is presumed to correctly state the law.

Back to Document Type Filters

Court Cases
Court cases are court settlements of lawsuits involving the Comptroller or tax related issues. Court cases include appellate, Texas Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme court decisions.
NOTE: Because the Comptroller is not the legal custodian of court cases, we cannot include the actual document in the STAR database. For your convenience, however, we will provide the legal cite to the court case.

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Emergency Rules
A state agency may adopt an emergency rule without prior notice or hearing, or with an abbreviated notice and a hearing if it practicable. The emergency rule is effective immediately upon filing or on a stated date less than 20 days after filing. An emergency rule is only effective for no more than 180 days. However, an identical rule may be adopted.

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Hearings
An administrative hearing is a proceeding in which the legal rights, duties, or privileges of a taxpayer are determined when the taxpayer disagrees with the results of an audit or has been denied a tax refund if tax was collected unlawfully or in error. An administrative law judge is appointed to conduct the administrative hearing on matters within the Comptroller's jurisdiction and to prepare proposed decisions to properly resolve such matters.

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Letters and Memos
Letters and memos are written, legal opinions prepared by Tax Policy personnel in response to a request for the Comptroller�s interpretation of tax laws.

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Position Letters
When a taxpayer disputes an audit assessment, the taxpayer may request a redetermination of the audit findings. The taxpayer must submit a statement of grounds for disagreeing with the audit results. The Comptroller�s legal division then sends the taxpayer a Position Letter. The Position Letter states whether the agency will accept or reject, in whole or in part, each contention of the taxpayer, and set forth what the assistant general counsel finds is properly subject to or exempt from taxation. Position letters are also sent out to respond to refund requests. The taxpayer can agree to dismiss a case on the basis of acceptance of the Position Letter. If the taxpayer disagrees with the Position Letter, then they may request an Administrative Hearing.

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Rules
A rule is written by the Comptroller to interpret the tax code. The Legislature gives the Comptroller specific rulemaking authority to adopt rules that do not conflict with the statute, or Texas or United States constitutions. Once in effect, valid rules promulgated by the Comptroller acting within its statutory authority have the force and effect of legislation. In addition to adopting rules, the Comptroller may repeal or amend rules as deemed necessary.

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Statutes
A statute is a codified law created or amended by the Legislature.

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Taxability Requests (TR)
At one time, field personnel sent in taxability requests (TR) to a policy committee. The TR requested guidance on taxability issues. The TR policy committee addressed the taxability request and responded with clarification of the issue.



Important Reminder: The STAR System is intended to be used as a research system only. Documents in this system may assist you in general interpretations of tax policy issues. Specific facts relevant to your situation may change the taxability of any issue. Please contact the Tax Policy Division at Texas Tax Help if you need a ruling on a specific tax issue.

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