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Search Help

Help Topics

Quick Tips & Examples
Refining A Search
Requiring & Excluding Terms
Search Syntax Summary
Advanced Search


The search engine provides the ability to easily locate information on the web site. The search engine interface provides two complementary ways to find the information you want to find: Basic Search and Advanced Search. The "Basic Search" capability provides the user a general search across all the information and is available on each page on the site. To find the desired information, type a few words or phrases in the provided text area and click on the "Go" button. The search engine will return all results that match your query across all information on the site. The more specific your search text, the more likely you will locate the desired information.

Once the search results are returned from Basic Search, you have the option of using the "Advanced Search" feature. This feature provides the ability to refine your search using several different criteria. For more information on Advanced Search features, see the section on this page for "Advanced Search".

Quick Tips and Examples

It's easy to search with the search engine. Just type in a few words or phrases. Try to use discriminating terms that are likely to be found only in the documents you seek. The more words you give, the better results you'll get. Here are some examples:

Search by typing words and phrases.

Filing taxes

The search engine will find documents containing as many of these words and phrases as possible, ranked so that the documents most relevant to your query are presented first. Don't worry about missing a document because it doesn't have one of the words in your search -- the search engine returns relevant results even if they don't contain all query terms.

Identify phrases with quotation marks, separate with commas.

Filing taxes, "online filing", e-file

A phrase is entered using double quotation marks, and only matches those words which appear adjacent to each other. Separate multiple phrases or proper names with a comma.

Use UPPER case to indicate exact match.

tax credits, EITC

Search terms in lowercase will match words in any case, otherwise, an exact case match is used. For example, "eitc" will find matches for Eitc, eitc, and EITC, whereas a query for EITC will only match EITC.

Refining A Search

It's easy to refine a query to get precisely the results you want. Here are some effective techniques to try:

Identify a phrase.

Before: employee benefits individuals
"employee benefits" individuals

The before query is ambiguous. Is it looking for the employees benefits for individuals or individual benefits for employees? Identifying "employee benefits" as a phrase eliminates the ambiguity. This is the most powerful query refinement technique.

Add a discriminating word or a phrase.

Before: "employee benefits" individuals
After: "employee benefits" individuals e-file

As before, the before query is ambiguous. Adding e-file makes the query less ambiguous. You'll get more total matches (because the query is broadened with an additional term), but the relevance ranking will be better.

Capitalize when appropriate.

Before: taxpayer advocate, chief counsel
After: Taxpayer Advocate, Chief Counsel

This example, when all lower case, has a variety of possible interpretations. For example, without capitalization, taxpayer could refer to all taxpayers in general. Capitalization reduces the ambiguity. It is always a good idea to capitalize proper names.

Use a require or reject operator (+,-).

Before: Businesses
After: Businesses, +small -large

Businesses alone is ambiguous. It it looking for general business information or information specific to small businesses? You can use the reject operator (the "minus" sign) to eliminate the cartoon dinosaur interpretation. Or, you can require that the word "small" be in the document. The after version above does both.

Use a field specifier.

Before: bonds
After: bonds,, title:Tax Exempt Bonds

If you are looking for a particular page that you know the site or title, use the site: or title: field specifier to search for that the word or phrase in the site or title of the page.

Requiring or Excluding Terms

The search engine has a simple query syntax which gives you the pinpoint search power of Boolean logic, without having to remember complex queries. The table below shows the search operators that correspond to Boolean operators: search operator
Boolean equivalent
default operator: you need not use any special symbols
phrase operator: enclose the phrase with double quotation marks

Boolean queries use the logical operators AND, OR, NOT and ADJ (adjacent). Suppose you wanted to find plain paper color laser printers made by companies other than HP. This query can be specified in Boolean logic as:

(laser ADJ printer) AND (color OR (plain ADJ paper)) AND NOT (HP OR Hewlett-Packard)

Using search operators, the complex query above may be typed into the search box as:

+"laser printer" color "plain paper" -HP, -Hewlett-Packard

This query specifies that:

  • All returned documents must contain the phrase "laser printer".
  • Documents containing one or more of the terms "laser printer", color, or "plain paper" will be ranked at the top (the more terms matched, the higher the ranking).
  • None of the documents returned will contain either HP or Hewlett-Packard.

Statistical Weighing and searches

A traditional Boolean search returns an unsorted list of all items that match the search condition. search goes considerably beyond this by using advanced statistical search technology to return the results sorted with the "best" matches listed at the top. Unlike plain Boolean searches, search automatically weighs your query terms based on their statistical uniqueness. Common terms, such as "shall," get a much lower weighting than less frequently occurring terms, such as the phrase "golf courses."

The search engine's advanced statistical weighing allows you to just type in relevant words and phrases, and the system will provide the answer to your query in the top few documents! Since there are cases in which it is convenient to narrow a query using Boolean operators, the search engine allows you to use the + and - Boolean operators. You get the accurate ranking of statistical searching combined with the information filtering of Boolean searching.


In the absence of other information, the search engine will index all the words in a document except for comments, and will use the first few words as a summary to describe a page in the search results.

You can use the HTML meta tag to specify the description text that will appear in a search results list and to control if and how your page is indexed by the search engine. The meta tags must be placed within the HEAD portion of your web page. Do not use any HTML tags within the meta tag itself.

Suppose the page contains:

meta name="keywords" content="Government Entities"

meta name="description" content="Information for the Tax Exempt Bond Community"

The search engine will do two things with these tags:

1. It will index both fields as words, so a search on either bonds or "tax exempt" will match.

2. It will show the "description" with the search results.

Search Syntax Summary

"term1 term2 ..."
Specifies that words should be adjacent
"laser printer"
Requires a term
+"laser printer" color
Excludes documents containing a term
"laser printer" -color
fieldname: term
Specifies that the term must be found in that field. See listing of fieldnames in the table below.
title:"laser printer"
query1 | query2
Searches the results of query1 with query2, ranking results by relevance to both query1 and query2.
dogs, cats | fleas
query1 || query2
Searches the results of query1 with query2, ranking results only by relevance to query2
trucks, cars || tires
Note: Lowercase terms match any case, otherwise case is matched exactly as typed.

Field Search Summary

If no field is specified, the text is searched for in the Title, Summary, and Body.
color computer
A hyperlink within the text of the document
Pages on a specified site
The URL of the document
Title of the document
title:"downhill skiing" title:Washington


Advanced Search

The advanced search and advanced form finder pages allow you to refine your search by limiting your search to a particular area of the site, searching specific parts of documents or searching by the date the document was posted.

Limiting your search to particular areas of the site.

The check boxes at the top of the advanced search page allow you to limit your search to a specific section of the site. For example, if you are an individual, you may wish to select the "Individuals" box and search only content relevant to individuals.

You can select multiple check boxes and search for a particular document in several areas of the site. For example, selecting both the "Businesses" and "Tax Professionals" check box would find the requested document if it resides in either the Businesses section or in the Tax Professionals section.

Similarly, the check boxes at the top of the advanced form finder page allow you to limit your search to Forms/Instructions, Publications or Notices.

Searching specific fields in a document.

The fields in the middle of the advanced search page allow you to focus your search on particular parts of a document - the body, the title, the description and the keywords.

The body of a document are the words and links that make up the main content of the page. Navigational elements are not considered part of the body of the page.

The title of the document is the title that appears on the top of your browser window - i.e., Home.

The description of a document is contained within the document's HTML code. The document author adds a description when creating the document.

Keywords are terms the document author adds to the HTML when creating the document. These terms may or may not reside in the body of the document. For example, a document relating to Indian Tribal Governments may use the keywords "Native American" even though the body of the document may not contain those words.

You can also perform your search as either a word or phrase search. A word search searches for the individual words in your request. For example, a word search on "the tax" would search for the term "the". A phrase search searches documents for with the exact grouping of words specified in your search. A phrase search on "the tax" would return documents containing the phrase "the tax".

Limiting the date range of your search.

The fields in the lower portion of the advanced search page allow you to narrow your search to the date information was posted to the site. Use the drop down lists and radio buttons to select the period of time you are interested in searching.

Individual word scores.

Selecting the "show individual word scores" box will display word scores with the results of your search. Individual word scores indicate the number of times your search term occurred in that document.