Some hefty help on tax returns. `Big Eight' accounting firm has comprehensive guide

The Arthur Young Tax Guide 1985, by Arthur Young & Co., Peter W. Bernstein, editor. New York: Ballantine Books. $6.95. 649 pp. Now that the bookstores have cleared out most of their 1985 calendars, they can use that space to display all the tax books. For the next few months, these books will need at least that much space for the numerous guides to filling out forms, claiming deductions, and -- if need be -- knowing what to bring to an audit.

In recent years, most of these guides have been pretty much alike. They select most of the major tax issues and questions and deal with them in clear, easily understood language. They also contain copies of the most often used tax forms and show how to fill them out.

The best of these less-comprehensive books has been, and remains, the ``H&R Block Income Tax Workbook'' (Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, $6.95). The firm that has made millions in its storefront offices helping people prepare their tax forms has deservedly made additional profits selling these annually published workbooks to people who do not need outside help with their returns but have a few questions that need answers -- in English.

This new entry by Arthur Young & Co., the ``Big Eight'' accounting firm, goes several steps further. For the same (tax deductible) price as the H&R Block workbook, the company has reproduced the official Internal Revenue Service tax guide, known as ``Your Income Tax.'' This IRS guide is published every year and explains the highlights of recently passed tax laws and deals with some of the questions taxpayers ask most frequently.

But Arthur Young provides more explanation by inserting its own boxes of information wherever it seems necessary -- usually two to four times a page. These boxes, which have a light blue background to make them stand out, are called ``TaxSaver,'' ``TaxPlanner,'' or simply ``Explanation.'' TaxSavers, the editors say, are tips to help people cut their tax bills this year and next. TaxPlanners are strategies designed to help readers plan better for the coming year. The tax guide, plus blue boxes, covers about 500 pages.

The book also contains many more IRS forms than other tax books, including forms for 10-year averaging and employee business expenses, as well as the standard 1040. The edges of these forms are perforated so they can be torn out, filled in, and sent into the IRS as regular tax forms. This saves the time and effort of trying to get the less-commonly used forms from the IRS.

There is also a good index, a short glossary of tax terms, and the same tax tables contained in the instruction booklet which taxpayers get in the mail.

Because part of the book was written by the IRS and the rest by the staff of a major accounting firm more accustomed to dealing with wealthy individuals and corporations, the writing may still be over the heads of some taxpayers. But for those who are willing to take the time to look through it carefully and try to figure out the hard parts, the book will prove extremely valuable, perhaps paying for itself several times over.

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