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Federal Tax Law Research. Xiaomeng Zhang University of Michigan Law Library Urban Community Clinic Seminar 956 February 15 th , 2010. What is Covered. What are the major primary laws Statutes and Regulations Case law IRS rulings and documents How to find the laws

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federal tax law research

Federal Tax Law Research

Xiaomeng Zhang

University of Michigan Law Library

Urban Community Clinic Seminar 956

February 15th, 2010

what is covered
What is Covered
  • What are the major primary laws
    • Statutes and Regulations
    • Case law
    • IRS rulings and documents
  • How to find the laws
    • Start with Secondary Resources
    • Loose-leaf Services
    • Commercial databases
primary sources of federal tax law
Primary Sources of Federal Tax Law
  • Statutes and Regulations
    • Internal Revenue Code: Title 26 of the United States Code
      • Most authoritative
      • Publications:
          • Official publication: United States Code
          • Commercial Publication: Annotated Codes (U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S)
          • Commercial Publications: CCH’s Standard Federal Tax Reporter; RIA’s United States Tax Reporter; Lexis/Westlaw, CCH and RIA Commercial Databases
primary sources of federal tax law1
Primary Sources of Federal Tax Law
  • Statutes and Regulations
    • Treasury Regulations: Promulgated by Internal Revenue Service under the supervision of Treasury Department.
      • Legislative Regulation (under a specific congressional delegation) v. Interpretative Regulation(under the general authority)
      • Less Authoritative than the Code: Greater details; more practical examples
      • Types of Treasury Regulations:
          • Proposed Treasury Regulations (Prop. Treas. Reg.): notice of proposed rulemaking
          • Final Regulations (Treas. Reg.)
          • Temporary Regulations (Treas. Reg. 1.71-1T)
      • Publication: Title 26 of Code of Federal Regulations; CCH’s Standard Federal Tax Reporter; RIA’s United States Tax Reporter
primary sources of federal tax law2
Primary Sources of Federal Tax Law

United States Supreme Court

Geographic Circuit Courts of Appeals

(1st through 11th and D.C. Circuits)

Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

District Courts

United States Tax Court

Court of Federal Claims

Regular opinions (most authoritative)

Memorandum opinions

Summary opinions (no precedential value)

Adapted from Federal Tax Research, figure 5.1

primary sources of federal tax law3
Primary Sources of Federal Tax Law
  • A few words about finding case law
      • For official publication: check bluebook (no official publication for US Tax Court Memo opinions and Summary opinions)
      • But all are available through commercial publications: CCH, RIA etc.
primary sources of federal tax law4
Primary Sources of Federal Tax Law
  • IRS rulings and decisions
    • Public Guidance:
      • Revenue Rulings: (Rev. Rul.):
        • Purpose: interpret the Code by IRS;
        • Authoritative but subservient to the Code, regulations, and case law; apply retroactively (distinguish, supersede, supplement, revoke , suspend etc.)
      • Revenue Procedures (Rev. Proc.)
      • Action on Decisions: (AOD)
        • Acquiesce v. Refuse to Acquiesce
        • Not authoritative
      • IRS Announcements/Notices
      • Publications: Internal Revenue Bulletin and Cumulative (official); CCH’s Standard Federal Tax Reporter and RIA’s United States Tax Reporter
primary sources of federal tax law5
Primary Sources of Federal Tax Law
  • Administrative Agency Decisions: IRS rulings and decisions
    • Written Determinations: no precedential value; binding on the individual taxpayer; available to public
      • Private Letter Rulings: not yet under examination, litigation or in appeals.
      • Determination Letters:
      • Technical Advice Memoranda :
      • General Counsel Memo (GCM): 1992;
    • Publication: Varies; Check Library Catalog and IRS website; CCH Tax Research Network and RIA Checkpoint
how to find the law
How to Find the Law
  • Research Question

Client is “CDC” – a community development organization in a low-income, urban community. CDC is incorporated as a non-profit corporation. The stated purpose of CDC according to the filed Articles of Incorporation is to (a) aid and benefit the unemployed, underemployed and/or minority residents of an economically depressed area by establishing businesses owned by and employing the residents of the community and providing them with business planning, funding, marketing, and mentoring, etc.; (b) improve and develop skills and employment opportunities of the members of the community; and (c) make distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the Code.

CDC was created by three directors from “XYZ”, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in the same urban community. XYZ is an evangelical youth group with the purpose of sharing religious beliefs and encouraging social involvement. XYZ has been having fundraising problems and the three XYZ directors decided to create a separate nonprofit corporation (CDC) that would be held at arms length. In addition to the purpose stated above, XYZ’s other purpose for CDC is to funnel donations back to XYZ. The small businesses being set up by CDC would, when they began to earn a profit, donate 10% back to CDC. CDC would then distribute those profits to other 501(c)(3)s in the community, including (but not limited to) XYZ.

Questions: What are the tax and nontax implications of (1) requiring donations from the businesses they created, and (2) taking the donations and redistributing them to other nonprofits in the community, and specifically, XYZ?

how to find the law1
How to Find the Law
  • Research Process
    • Start with Secondary Resources: Overview + References to primary law
      • Treatises: BookLists: http://umil.iii.com/screens/booklists.html
        • Mertens’ Law of Federal Income Taxation: multi-volume treatises (available in Westlaw (MERTENS)) http://umil.iii.com/record=b1253823~S0
        • KW or Subject Search in the Library Catalog: e.g. nonprofit and tax (as kws); or Nonprofit organizations -- Taxation -- Law and legislation – United States
          • The Law of the Tax-exempt Organizations (available in Lexis) http://umil.iii.com/record=b1383010~S0
          • Nonprofit Organizations: Law and Taxation (available in Westlaw: NPOLT) http://umil.iii.com/record=b1492942~S0
how to find the law2
How to Find the Law
  • Research Process
    • Start with Secondary Resources:
      • Law Review and Journal Articles : Specialized Law Reviews/Journals on Tax; practitioner-oriented tax journals
        • Catalog search: e.g. Taxation -- United States – Periodicals
        • See handout: a list from Legal Research Guides: Federal Income Tax Law, p42-43
      • Commercial Databases:
        • Lexis (Legal>Area of Law - By Topic>Taxation>Search Analysis, Law Reviews & Journals>By Subtopic>Exempt Organizations>): browse TOC/search; Tax Analyst publications
        • Westlaw (TX-TP)
        • RIA (Warren Gorham & Lamont journals and treatises )
how to find the law3
How to Find the Law
  • Research Process
    • Loose-Leaf Services: put both Primary and Secondary Commentaries together with cross-references; Currency; Heavily Regulated Areas of Law including Tax
      • CCH’s Standard Federal Tax Reporter: 19 vol. http://umil.iii.com/record=b1075510~S0
      • RIA’s United States Tax Reporter: 20 vol. http://umil.iii.com/record=b1077687~S0
      • Tips on using print edition: read the user’s guide first; then use finding aids such as index
how to find the law4
How to Find the Law
  • Research Process
    • Online Databases:
      • CCH’s Tax Research Network: including the Standard Federal Tax Reporter http://umil.iii.com/record=b1262137~S0
      • RIA’s Check Point: including the United States Tax Reporter and RIA Tax Coordinator http://umil.iii.com/record=e1000308~S0 ;
      • Lexis: Tax Center
      • Coverage is not the same, but all cover many primary and secondary resources including some treatises and journals and newsletters.
      • Lots of Cross-References; but may be hard to Navigate
take away points
Take Away Points
  • Federal Tax Law Research can be complicated: many primary sources
  • Start with Secondary Resources: Treatises and Law Review and Journal Articles
  • Updating laws: Shepard’s, Keycite, Citator 2d (RIA), and Check Citator (CCH)
  • Loose-Leaf Services: put both primary and secondary resources in one place; using Finding Aids
  • Three Commercial Databases: CCH, RIA and Lexis (Tax Notes)
  • Reference Desk: askalawlibrarian@umich.edu
sources of help
Sources of Help
  • Joni Larson & Dan Sheaffer, Federal Tax Research (2007) http://umil.iii.com/record=b1402236~S0
  • Christopher C. Dykes, Federal Income Tax Law: A Legal Research Guide (2010) http://umil.iii.com/record=b1495398~S0
  • Jasper L. Cummings, Legal Research in Federal Taxation, Tax Notes (Oct. 17, 2005) (see handout)