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Federal Tax Research Guide: Overview of Sources & Research Guides

A guide to Brooklyn Law School's federal tax resources. Call numbers are specific to Brooklyn Law School Library.

Overview of Sources & Research Guides

Key U.S. federal tax primary sources:

U.S. Tax Treaties

See guide tab: U.S. Tax Treaties/Agreements

U.S. Constitution 

See ArtI.S8.C1.1 Taxing Power + Jasper L. Cummings, Jr., The Supreme Court, Federal and State Taxation, and the Constitution (2d ed. 2022).

Internal Revenue Code (codified in 26 United States Code

Westlaw: Title 26 Internal Revenue Code provides a current, annotated version of the Internal Revenue Code.  (Source = United States Code Annotated

  • A Code section includes an effective date and a link to check Currentness.  A Code section includes Notes of Decisions and KeyCite Citing References to cases, other primary sources and secondary sources.  A Code section also might display a KeyCite status flag.  Tab: Compare Versions shows recent amendments.  Researchers who seek a historic version of a Code provision also can try entering a date in the Effective Date box at Westlaw: Title 26 Internal Revenue Code.  Note: This Westlaw page also links to the Internal Revenue Codes of 1939 & 1954 (on right, under: Federal Legislation).

Checkpoint Edge also provides a current, annotated version of the Internal Revenue Code.  (Source = Internal Revenue Code (RIA)

  • In Checkpoint Edge, access Federal page > beneath search box, click link: Citation and Other Search Tools > enter a Code section in the Current Code box.  Above the text of the current Code section, tab: Expl links to editors' analysis from U.S. Tax Reporter.  Tab: COMPARE CHANGES allows researchers to compare the current Code section to selected prior versions.  Tab: Hist provides a detailed history of the Code section, including links to many U.S. Public Laws in the history.  Tab: Regs yields related Treasury Regulations.  (Source = Final, Temporary & Proposed Treasury Regulations (RIA))  Tab: Annos provides annotations of decisions.  Citation and Other Search Tools also allows researchers to enter a Code section in search box: Find Pending Legislation That Would Amend a Code Section.

VitalLaw provides an annotated Current Internal Revenue Code.  (Source = Standard Federal Tax Reporter) 

  • Text of a current Code section links to: History Notes.  Text also links to many Related Items, including CCH [editorial] Explanations and related Regulations.

See guide tab: Internal Revenue Code.

Treasury Regulations (first published in Federal Register; "general and permanent" regulations codified in 26 Code of Federal Regulations

Tip: A "Treasury Decision" (TD or T.D.) = a final or temporary regulation  (See Internal Revenue Manual, Part 32, section available here)

See guide tab: Regulations, Revenue Rulings.

Court Decisions (federal tax cases begin in U.S. Tax Court, U.S. District Court or U.S. Court of Federal Claims; courts that hear appeals are U.S. Courts of Appeals > U.S. Supreme Court) 

Westlaw: Tax Cases provides a search feature for all available tax cases + links (on right) to search American Federal Tax Reporter (RIA); U.S. Supreme Court Tax Cases; U.S. Courts of Appeals Tax Cases; U.S. District Courts Tax Cases; U.S. Court of Federal Claims Tax Cases; and U.S. Tax Court Cases.  Link: U.S. Tax Court Cases includes subcollections: U.S.. Tax Court Division Opinions; Memorandum Opinions; and Summary Opinions. 

  • Many of the tax cases in Westlaw also include West Headnotes - some  headnotes link to "Case(s) that cite(s) this headnote."  Many of the tax cases in Westlaw also include West Digest Topics/Key Numbers - click a Digest Topic/Key Number to find additional cases.     
  • When reviewing a case in Westlaw, check for a KeyCite status flag + check KeyCite Citing References.  Westlaw also provides an additional federal tax citator for federal tax cases and administrative rulings cited in RIA reporters: Citator 2d (RIA) (scope: 1954-).  

See guide tab: Subscription Databases.

Free online sources of cases include U.S. Supreme Court > tab: Opinions (scope: Term 10/1991-) and U.S. Tax Court > tab: Orders & Opinions (scope: 05/01/1986-).  Note: U.S. Courts Federal Court Finder often links to court sites that provide recent opinions and links to PACER (see Manage Your Account box for a description of PACER registration and billing).  BLS students who wish to conduct in-depth tax case law research should consult guide tab: Subscription Databases.      

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance (e.g., Revenue Rulings and Revenue Procedures published in Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin

The IRS publishes Revenue RulingsRevenue ProceduresNotices and Announcements in its Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin.  It provides taxpayer-specific rulings and determinations (Private Letter Rulings and Determination Letters), Technical Advice Memoranda and Chief Counsel Advice material at its Written Determinations page.  

Westlaw: Tax Administrative Decisions & Guidance provides searchable collections of IRS Revenue Rulings, Revenue Procedures and Private Letter Rulings.

See guide tab: Regulations, Revenue Rulings.

Useful free sites:

The IRS provides: an organizational chart; Tax Code, Regulations and Official Guidance; a Tax Professionals page of online tools/information (path: Stay Compliant > Understand Your Responsibilities links to Circular No. 230, Regulations Governing Practice before the Internal Revenue Service); a Tax Pro News and Resources page (with instructions to subscribe to weekly e-News for Tax Professionals); and information about IRS-Sponsored Continuing Education Programs.

Tax Notes Research: Federal is a searchable collection of many federal tax primary sources and additional material (e.g., public comments on regulations). 

Subscription databases:

Subscription databases that include tax reporters (e.g., Checkpoint Edge & Westlaw: U.S. Tax Reporter + VitalLaw: Standard Federal Tax Reporter) often are highly useful research starting points.  Tax reporters provide primary law and analysis.  They also highlight new developments.  A search in Checkpoint Edge's "Federal" tax page can be a useful way to identify current, pertinent primary authority, commentary and news on an unfamiliar federal tax topic. 

See description of U.S. Tax Reporter in guide tab: Subscription Databases > box: CheckPoint Edge See description of Standard Federal Tax Reporter (2023) in guide tab: Subscription Databases > box: VitalLaw. 

Helpful secondary sources:

Helpful secondary sources include: practitioners' guide Federal Tax Coordinator 2d in Checkpoint Edge; legal treatises (e.g., Mertens Law of Federal Income Taxation and additional federal tax treatises in Westlaw); articles; research papers/reports; and news sources

  • Tip: Federal tax law changes frequently - researchers need to check the dates of secondary sources they consult.  In Checkpoint Edge, researchers who read analysis in Federal Tax Coordinator 2d can view related news updates (on right).  BLS Library's Checkpoint Edge vendor representative noted that Federal Tax Coordinator 2d "is updated daily, and these updates are uploaded en masse twice a week.”  In Westlaw, researchers can access the Mertens treatise, which includes monthly updates.  BLS students, faculty and administrators who create individual accounts can track current legislative, IRS and judicial developments in Tax Notes Today Federal. 

See CheckPoint Edge in guide tab: Subscription Databases, guide tab: Studies, Practitioners' Tools & Treatises; guide tab: Articles & Research; and guide tab: News.

Starting points for U.S. tax policy research:

At Tax Policy, the U.S. Department of the Treasury provides an explanation of the current U.S. Administration's revenue proposals, selected Office of Tax Policy reports and Office of Tax Analysis working/technical papers.  Starting points to find articles, books and additional material include: pre-prints of articles and book chapters retrievable by keyword searches (e.g., fiscal policy/policiestax policy/policies, tax discrimination, tax racism) in free SSRN; articles indexed under tax policy in free Tax Law Commons; published legal articles indexed under tax policy in subscription Current Index to Legal Periodicals; and material classified by subject headings: Fiscal Policy - United States and Racism - Economic Aspects - United States in BLS Library's SARA catalog.  Researchers also can search by these subject headings in WorldCat (a "catalog of catalogs" available through SARA).

For discussion of how specific provisions of the tax code have impacted African American economic conditions in the United States and the consequences of inequitable and predatory tax laws, see Dr. Andrew W. Kahrl's new book: The Black Tax: 150 Years of Theft, Exploitation, and Dispossession in America (2024).

For discussion of civic organizations' influence on tax policy and administration in the form of case studies from France, Guatemala, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Uganda, and the United States, see the open access book: A Taxing Journey: How Civic Actors Influence Tax Policy (Jan. 24, 2024).  

Dean Paul L. Caron highlights websites of tax policy groups on the Resources page of Tax Prof Blog.  Research guides also are useful.  See the tax policy conferences/institutes listed on pp. 38-39 of Federal Income Tax Law: A Legal Research Guide (2nd ed. 2021); the examples of policy-focused tax research/documents on pp. 8-9 of Tax Research Techniques (20th ed. 2015); and Georgetown Law Library's Tax Policy Research Guide

See also guide tabs: News and Articles & Research (in particular: Tax Policy & Advocacy page of AICPA; Tax Policy Center of Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, NBER Working Paper Series; and National Tax Journal).

Research guides:

New in Lexis: Summer Associate Research Kit: Tax includes Practical Guidance notes "on fundamental tax topics."  Kit also includes Practical Guidance notes on: taxation of business entities; advanced taxation issues; taxation issues in corporate transactions; tax court litigation/tax controversies; and international taxation issues.  Kit links to many state law surveys (like Corporate Income Tax Rates State Law Survey) in Practical Guidance: Tax.  Also available: Federal Government Summer Intern Resource Kit: Tax.  

Below are detailed print federal tax research guides available in Brooklyn Law School (BLS) Library's "Reference" collection.  (Request at first-floor circulation desk.)  Georgetown Law Library also provides Tax Research - Federal Guide and New York University Law Library offers the guide Federal Tax ResearchDean Caron's TaxProf Blog includes a Resources page to assist tax professors and students. 

When Was This Guide Last Updated?

This guide was last substantively updated by: Jean Davis on: May 10, 2024 at: 4:49 PM.