Federal Tax Law Research

Federal Tax Law Research in the United States

As writen in “Federal Tax Research: Guide to Materials and Techniques”, by Gail Levin Richmond, “Unlike problems in some areas of the law, a single tax problem often involves legislation, administrative rulings and judicial opinions.” Since legal tax problems have a wide scope, there is a need for extensive resources to answer the question.

Internal Revenue Service Documents

As stated by Kathleen Brown, an “experienced tax researcher knows the importance of primary resources in tax law research, but they also know the invaluable guidance provided by the IRS through the documents the IRS issues. The additional documents and publications are issued faster than regulations because they do not have a required notice and comment period.”

Secundary Sources

Loose leaf Services, Encyclopedias and Treatises

Tax researchers know the value of a good secondary source but in the realm of tax research it can be nearly impossible to conduct efficient and effective tax law research without one of these explanatory resources.

Often, for example, Standard Federal Tax Reporter, the United States Tax Reporter, Federal Tax
Coordinator 2d and the Tax Management Portfolios are consulted for explanations prior to even reading the applicable statute.

Sources

Note: some texts are from Susan Lewis-Somers, in “Federal Tax Law Research” (2010). Research Guides. Paper 10: (Note that this information should be updated to Nexis Advance, Bloomberg Law and others).

Tax Research Texts

  • Larson & Sheaffer, Federal Tax Research, Carolina Academic Press: Durham (2007)
  • Richmond, Federal Tax Research: Guide to Materials and Techniques, 7 ed., Foundation Press: New York (2007)

Initial Tax Research and Analysis

  • Federal Tax Coordinator 2d (RIA): Multivolume looseleaf service arranged by subject. Detailed subject index. Treatiselike commentary on tax issues, with references to relevant tax cases, Internal Revenue Code (IRC), regulations, rulings and other primary sources of law. Rulings and releases in vol. 2. Tables in vols. 1 and 2 provide cross references to discussion in other volumes. Full text of proposed regulations in vols. 27 and 27A. Reprints of new regulations (also referred to as treasury decisions or TDs) published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin in vol. 28.
  • The Law of Federal Income Taxation (Mertens) (Thomson/West).
  • Rabkin & Johnson Current Legal Forms with Tax Analysis (Matthew Bender)
    Tax Management Portfolios (BNA Bloomberg): Monographs on various tax topics, similar to long articles.
  • Tax treatises
  • Articles on tax topics. Find via articles indexes, available on LegalTrac and on Index to Legal Periodicals and Books

Latest Tax News

  • Tax Notes Today (Tax Analysts)
  • Daily Tax Report (BNA Bloomberg)
  • Federal Tax Day (CCH)

Tax Services and Associated Reporters

  • United States Tax Reporter (RIA): Multivolume looseleaf service arranged by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section number. Similar to the arrangement of its primary competitor, the Standard Federal Tax Reporter, each code section followed by relevant legislative history material, regulations, commentary, and annotations to cases, rulings and procedures interpreting that section. Index volume provides subject index. Vols. 1 and 2 reprint the IRC without added material. Recent Developments volume contains new legislation, rulings and procedures. Recent non-Tax Court judicial decisions contained in AFTR 2d Decisions Advance Sheets volume. Multivolume American Federal Tax Reports set that accompanies this service includes earlier non-Tax Court judicial decisions.
  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH): Multivolume looseleaf set arranged by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section number. Each code section followed by relevant legislative history material, regulations, commentary, and annotations to cases, rulings and procedures interpreting that section. Index volume provides subject index. New
    Matters supplements other volumes with annual update that contains new legislation, rulings and procedures, annotations to recent Tax Court decisions and new commentary. IRC reprinted without added material in vols. I and II. Recent judicial decisions (but not Tax Court decisions) and proposed regulations in U.S. Tax Cases Advance Sheets volume. US Tax Cases, a multivolume reporter of earlier judicial decisions (but not Tax Court decisions), accompanies this service .
  • LexisNexis Tax Center: User-friendly online tax service, including LexisNexis Tax Advisor – Federal Code, arranged by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section number, all primary tax law sources, and tax treatises, current tax news, and other secondary tax materials. Also includes Shepard’s Federal Tax Citator.

Internal Revenue Code

The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) is codified as Title 26 of the United States Code (USC). The IRC may be found in the following sources, in addition to the USC, USCA and USCS:

  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH): This competing tax looseleaf services reprints the official unannotated IRC in two volumes.
  • United States Tax Reporter (RIA): This competing tax looseleaf services reprints the official unannotated IRC in two volumes.
  • Internal Revenue Code (West): Annual unannotated version of the IRC (official text only).

Internal Revenue Regulations

Tax regulations are consolidated into Title 26 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The sections of this title relate to the sections of Title 26 of the United States Code, which is the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), by the use of corresponding section numbers. Thus, in a typical CFR section number, the corresponding IRC section number follows the decimal point. For example, CFR section 1.102-1 interprets or implements IRC section 102. The number preceding the decimal point correlates to general subject areas in the IRC. For example, regulations dealing with income tax have a “1″ preceding the decimal point.

When initially published by the Internal Revenue Service, new final regulations are called Treasury Decisions (TDs). When eventually codified in Title 26 of the CFR, they are referred to by CFR citation. However, some tax services continue to use TD numbers as cites, rather than CFR section numbers.

In addition to the CFR, compilations of tax regulations are located in the following sources:

  • Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) and Internal Revenue Cumulative Bulletin (CB): The official sources for Treasury regulations. The IRB is published weekly and cumulates semiannually as the CB. New regulations are listed as Treasury Decisions (TDs). CB digitized (PDF) on HeinOnline, U.S. Federal Agency Library.
  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH): Regulations are reprinted in this set following the IRC section to which they relate. Recently adopted regulations are also included.
  • United States Tax Reporter (RIA): Regulations are reprinted in this set following the IRC section to which they relate. Recently adopted regulations are also included. In addition, the Standard Federal Tax Reporter reprints recent TDs in the U.S. Tax Cases Advance Sheets volume.
  • Federal Tax Regulations (West): Annual multivolume unannotated version of the regulations (official text only).
  • Federal Tax Coordinator 2d (RIA): Each weekly edition of the Internal Revenue Bulletin is reprinted in vol. 28 of this set (see previous item). Reprints are for the current year only.

Internal Revenue Pronouncements

The Internal Revenue Service issues several different kinds of official pronouncements. Revenue rulings, the largest category, are prepared only by the Washington, DC office in response to individual taxpayer queries. They constitute the IRS’s application of tax law to a given set of facts and are applicable to all taxpayers. Since 1953, revenue rulings have been numbered consecutively by year and order number. For example, Rev. Rul. 75-105 indicates that it was issued in 1975 and was the 105 ruling that year.

Private letter rulings have been issued by regional district directors since 1976. These rulings are also responses to specific taxpayer queries, but are applicable only to the taxpayer seeking the ruling. They are numbered so that the first two digits represent the year of issuance, the next two the week of issuance and the last three digits the order number.

Other IRS pronouncements include revenue procedures, which announce the administrative practices that will be followed by the IRS. Those revenue procedures that have general applicability may be added to the IRS Statement of Procedural Rules that is published in the CFR.

Revenue Rulings and Revenue Procedures

  • Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) and Internal Revenue Cumulative Bulletin (CB): The official IRB is published weekly and cumulates semiannually as the CB. Revenue rulings and
    procedures are printed in full. The Bulletin index-digest provides digests of the rulings. CB
    digitized (PDF) on HeinOnline, U.S. Federal Agency Library.
  • Federal Tax Coordinator 2d (RIA): This set reprints all issues of the IRB for the current year (see previous entry).
  • United States Tax Reporter (RIA): The full text of the current year’s rulings and procedures are located in the IRS Rulings section of the Recent Developments volume. There is a Table of Rulings in the Tables volume that indexes rulings and procedures by their numbers. Annotations to prior rulings and procedures are organized by IRC section in the Code compilation volumes.
  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH): Rulings and procedures for the current year are in the 200x Rulings section of the New Matters volume, along with a cumulative subject index. Supplements are added weekly. Annotations to prior revenue rulings and procedures are included by IRC section in the IRC compilation volumes.

Private Letter Rulings

The full text of private letter rulings are not reprinted in any official source, as they have little precedential value. The text of these rulings are available on LexisAdvance (from 1954) and Westlaw (from 1950).

  • IRS Letter Rulings and IRS Letter Rulings Reporter (CCH) 1986-1993
  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH): This set contains a digest of selected letter rulings from the current year in the New Matters volume. Also available on RIA Checkpoint and at the LexisAdvance platform.

Case Law

Tax Court Reported Decisions (1942-)

The regular decisions of the Tax Court decide the most significant legal issues, and set forth new rules of law. US Tax Court website at www.ustaxcourt.gov

Reports of the Tax Court of the United States (TC) 1942-1969

  • Reports of the United States Tax Court (TC) 1970-: This is the official reporter for Tax Court decisions. Digitized (PDF) on HeinOnline, U.S. Federal Agency Library.
  • Tax Court Reporter (CCH): Coverage of this CCH series is from 1971 in many law libraries. Each transfer binder covers a separate year. The last binder is supplemented by the looseleaf Tax Court Reporter, Current Regular Decisions (CCH).
  • Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (1942-): Memorandum decisions of the Tax Court apply settled legal rules to new fact patterns. US Tax Court website at ustaxcourt.gov
  • Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (TCM) (CCH): This series is supplemented by the looseleaf Tax Court Reporter, Current Memorandum Decisions (CCH).
  • Board of Tax Appeals Decisions (1924-1942)
  • Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals (BTA): The Board of Tax Appeals is the predecessor to the U.S. Tax Court. This is the official reporter for regular decisions. Digitized (PDF) on HeinOnline, U.S. Federal Agency Library.

Claims Court, District Court and Appellate Court Decisions

In addition to the more familiar federal reporters, tax decisions from these courts may be found in the following publications:

  • U.S. Tax Cases (USTC) (CCH): This set includes all cases that relate to federal taxation from 1913. Beginning in 1935, the volume numbers coincide with the year of publication. More recent cases are published in the supplementary looseleaf Standard Federal Tax Reporter, U.S. Tax Cases Advance Sheets (CCH).
  • American Federal Tax Reports (AFTR and AFTR 2d) (RIA): This set covers cases decided under the earliest American tax laws. Decisions in the first series are from the 1880s to 1958 (Supreme Court from 1796). The second series begins in 1958. The second series is supplemented by the looseleaf United States Tax Reporter, AFTR 2d Decisions Advance
    Sheets (RIA).

Digests of Court Decisions

The following multivolume looseleaf compilations of the Internal Revenue Code include annotations to tax cases from all courts, among other things, after each code section:

  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH)
  • United States Tax Reporter (RIA)

Citators

In addition to the more familiar Shepard’s citators for federal cases, statutes and regulations, the following citators provide citations to sources that cite to federal tax cases, IRS rulings and procedures, statutes and regulations.

  • Shepard’s Federal Tax Citator
  • RIA Federal Taxes Citator 2d
  • Standard Federal Tax Reporter (CCH): This set contains two citator volumes

Federal Tax Law Research: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Federal Tax Law Research. This part provides references, in relation to Federal Tax Law Research, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Federal Tax Law Research by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Federal Tax Law Research and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Federal Tax Law Research or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Federal Tax Law Research and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Federal Tax Law Research. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Federal Tax Law Research should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Federal Tax Law Research when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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