Tax Forms

Tax Forms in the United States

Most Federal tax forms are posted on the the IRS Web site.

Most state tax forms are posted online. State and Federal Forms are also available from Lexis, Bloomberg BNA’s Superform (back to 1993), Checkpoint (e-Forms),Bloomberg BNA’s US Income Portfolios Library (“interactive forms”) and CCH’s Perform Plus.

Alternatively, you can try to get copies of forms from tax libraries, or you can call or visit an office of the relevant taxing authority.

If you truly can’t find a Federal form anywhere else, try the IRS library (202-622-8050).

Historical tax forms: The IRS posts selected historical tax forms for free, accessible through the Forms & Publications page. Some go back to the 1980s, and I saw one from the 1960s.

Superform has forms online back to 1993; subscribers can order tax forms back to 1970 from the Superform “tax form hotline” (800-541-7197). Alternatively, the Jenkins Law Library has tax forms back to at least 1970 (membership required).

For more on state tax forms, see the entries for individual states.

IRS Tax Form Coordinating Committee: The Tax Form Coordinating Committee designs and modifies IRS tax forms. You can get minutes and agendas for their meetings by writing to the IRS Office of Disclosure. Be sure to reference the name of the relevant form and year(s) in question.

Complexity of Tax Forms

Compliance behavior is a direct function of taxpayers’ ability to understand their obligations and to correctly report tax-relevant transactions. Therefore, tax forms, instructions, and publications are a critical link between the tax laws and compliance by taxpayers. These materials themselves affect the complexity faced by taxpayers. They also have a direct impact on effective administration by the IRS. Legislative sensitivity to the manner in which tax law provisions must be implemented is the foundation of effective communication of compliance responsibilities to taxpayers.

In structuring tax forms, the IRS must continue to strive for the most user-friendly products: using familiar words and terminology, limiting the request for information to necessary for accurate reporting, and being well organized and easy to read.

The ability to reduce complexity in these materials is constrained because the forms must implement statutory requirements. For example, the form implementing the 1986 Tax Reform Act treatment of home mortgage interest had to incorporate calculations of deductible interest on acquisition indebtedness as well as on home equity loans for medical and educational expenditures. In addition, the form had to accommodate special calculations for grandfathered debt and the cost-basis ceiling for new acquisition indebtedness. Congress subsequently simplified the limitation on the deductibility of home mortgage interest, removing the need for a separate form altogether. This revision would not have been necessary had Congress appreciated the reporting difficulties involved in its initial proposal.

The forms and instructions for calculating the earned income credit are another example. To complete one line on Form 1040 or Form 1040A, a taxpayer may need to read three pages or more of instructions, complete three worksheets, refer at least twice to an agate type table, and complete a supplementary schedule. The required computations are very difficult and involve alternative calculations. This is a particularly perplexing problem because the affected taxpayers are those with the lowest income, the group least able to comply, because of lack of education and resources to pay for professional assistance.

New legislation places new demands on the administrative resources of the IRS and Treasury Department. The most immediate impact is felt in the task of redesigning tax forms and instructions to incorporate the changes. Interpretation of the law through regulations and rulings is necessary and may require revision of the recently issued forms.

More Tax Legal Materials

More legal materials about Tax include the following topics (see the separate entries for them):

  • Tax
  • Tax Code – See: Internal Revenue Code and Tax Regulations
  • Tax Liens
  • Tax Management Portfolio series (BNA’s)
  • Tax Treaties – See also: Treaties and Foreign Treaties
  • Tax-Exempt Organizations
  • Taxpayer Identification Numbers

See Also

Campaign Contributions
Internal Revenue Code and Regulations
Internal Revenue Service
Tax-Exempt Organizations
Taxpayer Identification Numbers

Tax Forms: 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 Tax Forms. This part provides references, in relation to Tax Forms, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Tax Forms 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 Tax Forms 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 Tax Forms 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 Tax Forms 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 Tax Forms. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Tax Forms 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 Tax Forms when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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