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Researching Federal Tax Law

Last Updated 4/2012. Direct feedback on this page to lawlib@umn.edu.


Introduction

 

Statutes. The statutes that regulate taxation are often referred to as the Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C. or "the Code"). They appear in the United States Code, United States Code Annotated, and United States Code Service. The statutes are also printed in two major looseleaf services: CCH's Standard Federal Tax Reporter and RIA's United States Tax Reporter. There are three major versions of the Code: 1939, 1954 and 1986.

Regulations. The Internal Revenue Service makes rules and regulations to implement the statutes. Taxation regulations are codified under Title 26 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). Final and temporary tax regulations are issued as Treasury Decisions (T.D.s), and published in the Cumulative Bulletin (C.B.). The Federal Register also publishes proposed, temporary and final regulations. CCH's Standard Federal Tax Reporter and RIA's United States Tax Reporter include regulations, organized by Code section.

Note: Tax regulation section numbers start with a numerical designation of the type of tax issue involved. Common classifications are: 1. Income Tax; 20. Estate Tax; 25. Gift Tax; 31. Employment Tax; 301 Procedural Matters. The numbers after the decimal start with the number of the Code section under which they are promulgated. E.g., 26 C.F.R. 1.167(a)-1 is the first regulation under the income tax code section 167(a).

Administrative Materials.

1. The following official documents are all published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (I.R.B.). This weekly publication is cumulated twice yearly in the Cumulative Bulletin (C.B.).

  • Treasury Decisions. Final and temporary tax regulations. Authoritative.
  • Proposed regulations. Not authoritative.
  • Revenue Rulings. Ruling applying the law to particular facts presented by a taxpayer. Authoritative for same factual circumstances, unless officially revoked.
  • Revenue Procedures. Statements of I.R.S. practices and procedures. Authoritative.
  • Other notices (for example, meeting notices).

2. Other documents (to find where these are published, see chart below):

  • Private Letter Rulings (P.L.R's or L.T.R's). Written by the I.R.S. National Office in response to a taxpayer. They interpret specific facts. Letter rulings are assigned a file number (e.g., 8102077) in which the first two digits show the year of issuance, the next digits show the week of issuance, and the remaining digits show the order of issuance in that particular week. Not authoritative.
  • Technical Advice Memoranda (T.A.M.'s). Contain advice from the I.R.S. National Office to an I.R.S. District Director Appeals Officer (auditor). Not authoritative.
  • General Counsel Memoranda (G.C.M.)-issued by the I.R.S. Office of Chief Counsel to explain reasoning and authority underlying revenue rulings, letter rulings, and technical advice memoranda. Not authoritative.
  • Action on Decision (A.O.D.)-memo published by I.R.S. counsel to indicate whether Commissioner should appeal, acquiesce in or not acquiesce in a Tax Court decision.
  • Transmittal or Technical Memoranda-background information prepared to accompany published regulations (in addition to the preamble introducing the regulation).
  • Operating policies. Internal I.R.S. procedures.

Judicial Decisions. The United States Tax Court issues two kinds of decisions: Regular decisions and Memo decisions. The Tax Court Regular Opinions are published in the United States Tax Court Reports (official publication; Looseleaf Services KF 6324 .A5 U54). Tax Court Memo Decisions are not published officially.

All Tax Court decisions are published in the CCH Tax Court Reporter (Looseleaf KF 6324 .A6 U65) and RIA's Tax Court Reported and Memorandum Decisions (Looseleaf KF 6324 .A5 U544). Older decisions are moved to transfer binders.

More research help. For additional resources on how to research tax law, see William A. Raabe, West's Federal Tax Research, 5th ed. (Reference Office KF 241 .T38 W47); Gail Levin Richmond, Federal Tax Research: Guide to Materials and Techniques, 6th ed. (Reserve and Reference Office, KF 241 .T38 R5 2002); and Kathryn Fitzhugh's "Federal Income Taxation," Chapter 3 of Leah Chanin's Specialized Legal Research (Reference Office KF 240 .S63x). Online research of Tax Procedure (power point slides) by Darrin Fox. The Virtual Tax Library: A Comparison of Five Electronic Tax Research Platforms, Katherine Pratt, Jennifer M. Kowal, and Daniel Martin.


Major Sources for Primary Tax Authorities

 

MAJOR PUBLICATIONS CONTAINING PRIMARY TAX AUTHORITIES
(available at the University of Minnesota Law Library)

 
Sources
Authorities
  Legis. Hist. Statutes Code Treaties TD Prop. Regs. Rev. Proc. Rev. Rul. LTR TAM GCM AOD TM Oper. Pol. Fed. Ct. Cases TC TCM
Internal Rev. Bull. X X   X X X X X             X    
Cumulative Bull. X X   X X X X X             X    
Tax Ct. Rptr.                               X  
Std. Fed. Tax Rptr. X   X   X X X X X             X X
U.S. Tax Rptr. X   X   X X X X X             X X
Fed. Tax Coordinator 2d X   X X X X X X X                
Tax Mgmt. Portfolios X     X                          
Cumulative Changes (RIA Checkpoint)
X X X                            
Tax Mgmt. Primary Sources X X                              
Tax Treaties       X                          
Internal Rev. Manual                           X      
IRS Letter Rulings                 X X X X X        
Mertens X   X   X   X X                  
Rabkin & Johnson X   X   X X X X                  
Daily Tax Rpt. X X   X X X X X                  
Internal Rev. Acts   X                              
Internal Rev. Code     X                            
Seidman X X                              
Reams X X                              
Am. Fed. Tax Rep.                             X    
Tax Ct. Rprtr.                               X  
Tax Ct. Rpts.                               X  
Tax Ct. Memo. Dec.                                 X
T.C. Memo. Dec.                                 X
U.S. Tax Cases                             X    
LEXIS X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
WESTLAW X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
RIA Checkpoint.com X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X


Looseleafs & Reporters

Tips on using looseleaf services: For new users, it's worth reading the "How to Use this Publication" information at the front of the first volume. Also, keep in mind that citations are to paragraph numbers, not pages.

Standard Federal Tax Reporter. Chicago: Commerce Clearing House (CCH), 1913- Looseleaf KF 6285 .C67. A good starting point for most federal tax research, this set is arranged by code section. Includes statutes, regulations, notes of court and administrative decisions, other administrative documents, some legislative history, and commentary. Finding aids include lists of Revenue Rulings, cases, Treasury Decisions, Private Letter Rulings, etc., linked to the relevant paragraphs in the Compilation volumes. These finding aids appear in the Citator Volume (M-Z).

United States Tax Reporter. New York, N.Y.: Research Institute of America (RIA), c1990- Looseleaf KF 6285 .U55x . [Note: This is the former P-H Federal Taxes set that was published by Prentice-Hall.] Another good starting point for most federal tax research, this set is also arranged by code section. Includes statutes, regulations, notes of court and administrative decisions, other administrative documents, some legislative history, and commentary In Volume 2, the USTR has lists of Revenue Rulings, cases, Treasury Decisions, Private Letter Rulings, etc., linked to the relevant paragraphs within the set.

The Law of Federal Income Taxation [Mertens]. St. Paul, MN : West Group, 1942- Looseleaf KF 6365 .M47 Arranged by topic, this set includes code sections, final regulations, Revenue Rulings, and commentary. Supplements are located at the front of each volume.

Internal Revenue Manual. Chicago: CCH, Looseleaf KF 6301 .A6 C645. The Internal Revenue Manual consists of IRS instructions to its employees. The Manual is divided into Audit and Administration volumes.

Federal Tax Coordinator 2d. New York: RIA, 1977- Looseleaf KF 6365 .R47

Includes code and regulations, with analysis. Covers income, FICA, FUTA, estate, gift and excise taxes.

Tax Management Portfolios. Washington, D. C.: Tax Management Inc.[BNA],1963?- Reserve KF 6289 .A1 T42 Each portfolio covers a separate topic; see Code Section Index to find portfolios by Code section.

Federal Income, Gift, and Estate Taxation (Rabkin & Johnson). Albany: M. Bender, 1953- Looseleaf KF 6335.A6 R32. Arranged by topic.

Federal Estate and Gift Tax Reporter. Chicago: CCH, c1955- Looseleaf KF 6571 .A8 C65.

Arranged like CCH's Standard Federal Tax Reporter; i.e., by code section.

Federal Excise Tax Reporter: Code, Regulations, Rulings, Decisions. Chicago: CCH, 1966- Looseleaf KF 6600 .A6 C65 Arranged like CCH's Standard Federal Tax Reporter; i.e., by code section.

Cumulative Changes in the 1986 Code and Regulations Reconstructed. New York: RIA, c1987- . Publication in hardcopy format ceased 3/2011, now available online via RIA Checkpoint.  Useful for tracing back to prior versions of the code and regulations.

IRS Letter Rulings Reporter. Chicago: CCH, 1977- Looseleaf KF 6301 .A6 C65 Includes Topical index and Code Finding List.


Newsletters, Journals & Periodical Indexes

 

Newsletters

The Washington Tax Review. Washington, D.C.: BNA, 1978- Looseleaf KF 6355 .8 Suppl

Bloomberg BNA Daily Tax Report. Washington, D.C.: BNA, 1975  [Available in Mondale Hall & remotely to law students]   (Looseleaf KF 6289 .A1 .D3--cancelled 2010)

Tax Notes. Arlington, Va.: Tax Analysts,1972- Periodicals Per .T36 

Journals (selected)

Akron Tax Journal. Akron, Ohio: University of Akron School of Law, 1983-

Estate Planning. Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont,1973-

The Journal of Corporate Taxation. Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, 1974-

The Journal of Taxation. New York: Journal of Taxation, 1954-.

Taxes: The Tax Magazine. Chicago: CCH, 1923-

The Tax Lawyer: Bulletin of the Section of Taxation, American Bar Association. Washington, D.C.: The Section, c1967-

Tax Management Estates, Gifts, and Trusts Journal. Washington, D.C.: Tax Management Inc., c1984-

Periodical Indexes

Federal Tax Articles: Income, Estate, Gift, Excise, Employment Taxes. CCH, New York, 1968- Looseleaf KF 6335.A6 C57. Coverage from 1954-1978 only.

Index to Federal Tax Articles [Goldstein]. Reserve KF6335 .A6 C58.

These above two indexes cover federal taxation in particular, but you can also use the general legal periodicals indexes below:

LegalTrac indexes articles appearing in law reviews, law journals and legal newspapers.  Coverage starts in 1980. It includes some articles in full-text and is available within Mondale Hall via the Law School Network and in the Law Library via public workstations. Law School faculty and students may access LegalTrac from outside Mondale Hall. LegalTrac is also available under the name, Legal Resource Index via these databases: LexisNexis Academic, LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Index to Legal Periodicals & Books (ILP) indexes many of the same periodicals as LegalTrac as well as books.  Dates of coverage vary but begin no earlier than 1980 for periodicals and 1993 for books.  ILP is available throughout Mondale Hall via the Law School Network and at public workstations in the Law Library. Law School faculty and students may access ILP from outside Mondale Hall.  ILP is also available via Westlaw.

Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP). This weekly service indexes 500+ legal periodicals into over 100 subject headings. In addition to the subject index, it lists the table of contents for each new journal issue covered. Weekly issues archived back to 1999 may be browsed or downloaded (PDF & MS Word).  Also available on Westlaw (database identifier = CILP).


Citators

 

Statute citators: Shepard's Federal Tax Citator (Reference KF 6280.5 .S46) and Federal Statute Citations (Reference KF 101.2 .S53) can be used to find judicial treatment of tax statutes.

Case citators: RIA (Federal Taxes Citator) and CCH (Standard Federal Tax Reporter Citator) have case citators arranged in alphabetical order by taxpayer name. Shepard's Federal Tax Citator uses the typical Shepard's format.


Texts & Treatises

 

Federal Taxation of Income, Estates, and Gifts. Boris I. Bittker, Lawrence Lokken. 3rd ed. Boston: Warren Gorham & Lamont of the RIA Group, c1999- Reserve KF 6335 .B57 1999.

Arranged by topic.

IRS Practice and Procedure. Michael I. Saltzman. Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, KF6301.S262. Covers IRS procedures from drafting a ruling request to preparing for an appeals conference, from handling a criminal investigation to dealing with a revenue officer in a tax collection case.

Internal Revenue Service Practice and Procedure Deskbook.  Erin M. Collins, Edward M. Robbins, Jr.  New York:  Practising Law Institute, 2010-   KF6301.C65x.

Federal Income Taxation of Individuals. Boris I. Bittker, Martin J. McMahon, Jr. Boston: Warren, Gorham & Lamont, Reserve KF 6369 .B58x. Organized by topic, but contains tables of I.R.C. sections, Treasury regulations, revenue rulings, revenue procedures, and other I.R.S. Releases.

RIA Federal Tax Handbook 2000. Reserve KF 6289 .R523 (editions for earlier years in Looseleaf Services at that call number) Designed as a quick reference tool; not as comprehensive as the big looseleaf services. Covers individual and corporate taxation, pension plans, employee benefits, deductions, passive losses, estate and gift taxes, etc.

Federal Income Tax: A Student's Guide to the Internal Revenue Code. Douglas A. Kahn. 4th ed. New York: Foundation Press. Reserve KF 6369 .K3 1999

Federal Income Taxation: A Law Student's Guide to the Leading Cases and Concepts. Marvin A. Chirelstein. Rev. 10th ed. New York : Foundation Press, 2005. Reserve KF 6369 .C43 2005. This relatively small book has helped many tax-impaired students survive tax law classes.

Federal Income Taxation of Individuals with Diagrams for Easy Understanding of the Leading Cases and Concepts. Daniel Q. Posin. 5th ed. St. Paul, MN: West Group, 2000. Reserve KF 6369 .P67 2000

Federal Income Taxation. Michael D. Rose and June R. Chommie. 3rd ed. St. Paul, MN : West, 1988. Reserve KF 6369 .R67 1988.


Legislative Histories

 

Reams, Bernard D., et al. A Guide and Analytical Index to the Internal Revenue Acts of the United States, 1909-1950: Legislative Histories, Laws, and Administrative Documents. KF6275.8 1979x Index.

Seidman's Legislative History of Federal Income Tax Laws, 1938-1861. J. S. Seidman. New York: Prentice-Hall. Looseleaf KF6355.8 1938.

Seidman, Jacob Stewart. Legislative History of Federal Income and Excess Profits Tax Laws, 1953-1939. New York, Prentice-Hall, 1954. KF6355.8 1954.

The Internal Revenue Code of 1954: Bill H.R. 8300, an Act to Revise the Internal Revenue Laws: The Bill in its Various Forms as Considered by the 83rd Congress, 2d Session. Compiled by Bernard D. Reams, Jr. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 1993. KF 6276.526 .A15 1993.

Federal Income, Gift, and Estate Taxation (Rabkin & Johnson). Albany: M. Bender, 1953- Looseleaf KF 6335.A6 R32.

Internal Revenue Acts of the United States: Revenue Acts of 1953-1972 with Legislative Histories, Laws and Congressional Documents. Compiled by Bernard D. Reams, Jr. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 1985. Mfiche KF6275.8 1985.

Internal Revenue Acts of the United States, 1950-1951: Legislative Histories, Laws, and Administrative Documents. Edited by Bernard D. Reams. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 1982. Mfiche KF6275.8 1982a.

Tax Reform 1984: A Legislative History of the Tax Reform Act of 1984: The Law, Reports, Hearings, Debates, and Related Documents. Bernard D. Reams Jr. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 1985. KF6276.557 .A15 1985.

Tax Reform 1986: A Legislative History of the Tax Reform Act of 1986: The Law, Reports, Hearings, Debates, and Related Documents. Bernard D. Reams Jr. and Margaret H. McDermott. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 1987. KF 6276.559 .A15 1988x.

1939 Code history is also published in the Cumulative Bulletin, 1939-2, pt. I.

Legislative History Sources for Federal Tax Law by Darrin Fox.


Tax Forms

 

Reproducible Copies of Federal Tax Forms and Instructions. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. Reference Office. US- T22.57

Minnesota Tax Forms. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Dept. of Revenue. Reference Office . KFM 5870 .A65 M56x.

Current federal tax forms and publications are on the internet at http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/formspubs/index.html

Current Minnesota tax forms are on the internet at http://www.state.mn.us/ebranch/mdor/02forms.html


Databases

 

These databases provide comprehensive coverage of state and federal tax law, e.g. statutes, codes, rules, regulations, court opinions, administrative decisions and IRS materials. Some tax law periodicals and other publications are also provided. Note: LexisNexis is available to all library users on the U of M campus and off-campus access is available to U of M affiliated users. RIA Checkpoint, is available to all users via the U of M Law School Network (see Law Library Reference Office for assistance). LexisNexis and Westlaw databases are only available to U of M Law School students, staff and faculty.

  • LexisNexis Academic http://www.lib.umn.edu/cgi-bin/lex2.cgi. From the LexisNexis Academic click on the red "Legal" tab from the red tab bar (top left side of screen) and on the next screen click on the "Tax Law" link (far right side, in the "Legal Searches" section) to get to the tax law search screen.

     

  • BNA databases.  Numerous BNA tax databases are available through the Law Library network.  They are listed on the Law Library's electronic resources page.

 

  • RIA Checkpoint
    Comprehensive coverage of all aspects of international, federal, state and local taxation law.

     

  • LexisNexis (U of M Law student, staff and faculty access only, registration and password required)

     

  • Westlaw (U of M Law student, staff and faculty access only, registration and password required)

Web Sites

 

Below is a short list of free web sites that may be helpful for researching tax-related issues.