Tips & Examples
& Excluding Terms
The IRS.gov 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
Quick Tips and Examples
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".
It's easy to search with
the IRS.gov 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.
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
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
After: "employee benefits"
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"
After: "employee benefits" individuals e-file
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
Capitalize when appropriate.
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 (+,-).
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.
After: bonds, site:irs.gov,
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 IRS.gov 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:
default operator: you need not use
any special symbols
phrase operator: enclose the phrase
with double quotation marks
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
ADJ printer) AND (color OR (plain ADJ paper)) AND NOT (HP OR
Using search operators, the complex query above may be typed into
the search box as:
+"laser printer" color "plain paper" -HP, -Hewlett-Packard
- 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.
Weighing and IRS.gov searches
A traditional Boolean search
returns an unsorted list of all items that match the search condition.
IRS.gov 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, IRS.gov 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.
DESCRIPTION and KEYWORDS Meta Tags
Suppose the page
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
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
Requires a term
+"laser printer" color
Excludes documents containing a term
"laser printer" -color
Specifies that the term must be found in that field. See
listing of fieldnames in the table below.
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.
If no field is specified, the text is searched for in the
Title, Summary, and Body.
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
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
Limiting your search to particular areas of the
The check boxes at the top of the advanced search page
allow you to limit your search to a specific section of the IRS.gov 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
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.
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
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
The title of the
document is the title that appears on the top of your browser window -
i.e., IRS.gov 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
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
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 IRS.gov site. Use the drop down lists and
radio buttons to select the period of time you are interested in
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