Federal Tax Research

Federal Tax Research in the United States

How to Begin Federal Tax Research

When beginning federal tax research, it is often best to start with a secondary source, such as a loose-leaf service or a treatise, that will give you an overview of the subject area and provide summaries of, or references to, the more important primary sources.

Loose-leaf services are heavily used in tax practice. They are comprehensive and timely, often being updated as frequently as weekly. However, they can be very confusing to use at first; don’t hesitate to read the “About This Publication” or “How to Use” section in the first volume or to ask the assistance of a librarian.

Loose-leaf services may be arranged by Internal Revenue Code section, or they may be arranged by topic. The two major loose-leaf services that are arranged by IRC section are:

  • CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter (Chicago: Commerce Clearing House, 1945- )
  • RIA United States Tax Reporter (New York: Research Institute of America, 1990- present)

If you already know the IRC section in question, then you can simply turn to that section in the appropriate volume of the service. The service will provide the text of the IRC section, notes indicating the legislative history of the Code section, proposed, temporary, and final regulations adopted under that section, explanatory editorial comments provided by the publisher, and summaries of cases and IRS pronouncements that interpret the section.

If you do not already know the relevant IRC section, then start by checking the topical index, which is located in the first volume of the service and which should lead you to the appropriate paragraph number (note that all references in indexes are to paragraph numbers, not page numbers). After reading the main volume material at the relevant IRC section, be sure to check the “New Matters” (CCH) or “Recent Developments” (RIA) volumes to update the main volume text with more recent court opinions and IRS pronouncements.

Other loose-leaf services are arranged by topic, including:

  • RIA Federal Tax Coordinator 2d (a loose-leaf service) (New York: Research Institute of America, 1977- present).
  • BNA Tax Management Portfolios (Washington: Tax Management Inc., 1971?- ) is the set which is often the first source turned to by many tax specialists. The BNA Tax Management Portfolios can be particularly helpful in finding specific answers to difficult questions. Each portfolio, written by an expert in the area, addresses a very narrow topic in great detail. A companion volume, the Portfolio Index, indexes all of the portfolios from the entire series.

A treatise may also be helpful in gaining an overview of the issues at hand and in providing other resources for further research.

  • Law of Federal Income Taxation. Jacob Mertens. (Chicago: Clark, Boardman, Callaghan, 1942- .)
  • Federal Income, Gift, and Estate Taxation. Jacob Rabkin. (Albany: Matthew Bender, 1942 – .)
  • Federal Taxation of Income, Estates, and Gifts. Boris I. Bittker. (Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 1999- .)

The following treatises cover specific areas of taxation and can be invaluable resources:

  • Federal Income Taxation of Corporations and Shareholders. Boris I. Bittker and James S. Eustace. (Valhalla, NY: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 2000- .)
  • Federal Taxation of Partnerships and Partners. William S. McKee, William F. Nelson, and Robert L. Whitmire. (Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 1997- .)
  • Partnership Taxation. Arthur Willis, John Pennell, and Philip Postlewaite. (Valhalla, NY: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 1997- .)
  • Federal Taxation of S Corporations. James Eustice & Joel Kuntz. (Valhalla, NY: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 2001- .)
  • Divorce Taxation. Marjorie A. O’Connell. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982- .)
  • Federal Taxation of Trusts, Grantors and Beneficiaries. John L. Peschel and Edward D. Spurgeon. (Boston: Warren, Gorham, & Lamont, 1997- .)
  • The Law of Tax Exempt Organizations. Bruce Hopkins. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2003- .)
  • IRS Practice & Procedure. Michale Saltzman. (Valhalla, NY: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 2002- .)
  • Tax Planning for Retirement. William P. Streng. (Boston: Warren, Gorham, & Lamont, 1990.)

Federal Tax 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 Research. This part provides references, in relation to Federal Tax 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 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 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 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 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 Research. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Federal Tax 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 Research when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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