University of Houston Law Center

O’Quinn Law Library

Researching Federal Income Tax Law



Introduction to the Research Guide


Researching federal income tax law involves a variety of sources and there are several approaches that can be used. Legal Research by tax practitioners should involve becoming familiar with the Internal Revenue Code or at least comfortable finding the relevant code sections. After finding the appropriate code section it is important to find the corresponding treasury regulation for further guidance. Case law can interpret difficult to understand code sections. Administrative decisions can also be helpful but vary with respect to authority depending on the type of document. Documents that are intended for release to the public such as Revenue Rulings or Revenue Procedures are usually binding whereas documents that are released because of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are non authoritative.



Primary Sources


A. Internal Revenue Code


The Internal Revenue Code is a compilation of tax statutes arranged by subject and is located under title 26 of the United States Code (U.S.C.). The Code is the foundation of all tax law and is the most authoritative source. The code is not very popular given that it is very difficult to interpret and use.


  • United States Code (U.S.C.) Title 26                                                   

(KF62.A2 Federal Collection)

  • United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) Title 26                              

(KF62.U5 Federal Collection)          

  • United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) Title 26                                   

(KF62.U6 Federal Collection)

  • U.S.C.C.A.N. Internal Revenue Code                                        



B. Treasury Regulations


Treasury Regulations are designed to interpret the internal revenue code. They are issued by the Department of Treasury with the intent of providing guidance to the code. Final Treasury Regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations and announced in the Federal Register as Treasury Decisions. Treasury Decisions are also announced in the Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin.




1. There are three types of regulations.


Proposed: Treasury Regulations typically go through a minimum 30 day notice and comment period. During this period professional organizations including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the American Bar Association (ABA) can review the proposed regulations and make comments and suggestions for changes. Proposed regulations are not considered to be binding until they are finalized.


Final: Final regulations are authoritative as long as they are “reasonable and consistent interpretations” of the code. Once final regulations are issued they are announced in the Federal Register and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).


Temporary: Temporary Regulations are regulations that are issued for a maximum period of three years. During this three year period the regulations are as authoritative as the final regulations.


2. Using the Treasury Regulations with the Internal Revenue Code


Given the fact that the Treasury Regulations are designed to interpret the Internal Revenue Code they are issued in conjunction with the code. Consequently, almost every section of the code has at least one corresponding treasury regulation that is issued for that specific code section. Therefore, it is important to find the relevant code section first and then find the treasury regulations that were issued and look at both the code section and regulations together.


3. Finding the Treasury Regulations


The final, temporary, and proposed regulations are first announced in the Federal Register. The Final and Temporary Regulations are listed as Treasury Decisions (T.D.s) in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB), a weekly newsletter issued by the Internal Revenue Service and eventually compiled into the Cumulative Bulletin semi-annually.

The final and temporary regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations


The following chart will provide information on where to locate the regulations





Sample Citation


Code of Federal Regulations


Announced as Treasury Decisions in the following Sources:


Federal Register

Internal Revenue Bulletin

Cumulative Bulletin




Federal Register



Code of Federal Regulations


Federal Register

Internal Revenue Bulletin

Cumulative Bulletin




C. Case Law


Looking at case law is very important in tax research given that there are issues that the code and regulations may not have adequately addressed. Tax cases can originate from three different courts including the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. District Court, and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Most cases are filed in the U.S. Tax Court given the fact that any disputed amount between the IRS and the individual taxpayer does not have to pay until the matter is resolved. Should the taxpayer decide to file with the other two courts any disputed amount owed would have to be satisfied prior to filing with the court. Despite this tax cases are filed with the U.S. District Court because it provides the right to a jury trial whereas the U.S. Tax Court does not provide this. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims is the court where tax cases are least likely to be filed given that it does not provide the right to a jury trial and disputed amounts must be settled prior to filing with the court. Regardless of court of origin, it is important to remember that tax cases can be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court.


1. Types of Tax Court Cases


Regular Tax Court Decisions


These decisions deal with substantive tax matters usually where there is a dispute between the IRS and the taxpayer regarding the code. This is often an area that has not been addressed by the courts.


Tax Court Memorandum Decisions


These are cases where there is no disagreement about the law but there is a dispute between the Internal Revenue Service and the taxpayer with respect to factual issues.


Tax Court Summary Opinions


These are small cases (involving less than $10,000) under IRC § 7463. These began in 2001 are all available at


2. Locating Tax Cases



Tax Case

Official Reporter

Unofficial Reporter

Tax Court Regular

U.S. Tax Board of Tax Appeals (1924-1942)  


U.S. Tax Court Reports (1943-2006)   



CCH Tax Court Reporter (vol. 2)(KF6324.A515)   

RIA Tax Court Reports

(RIA Checkpoint Database)

Tax Court Memorandum

There is no official reporter

CCH Tax Court Reporter

(vol. 1) (KF6324.A515)  


U.S. District Court

Federal Supplement (F.Supp., F. Supp 2d)

(KF120.F4 2d)

United States Tax Cases* (USTC) (KF6324.A514)

American Federal Tax Reports (AFTR) (KF6324.A5142) (RIA Checkpoint Database)



U.S. Claims Court

United States Court of Federal Claims Reporter (Fed. Cl.) (1992-present)

(KF125 .C6) 

United States Tax Cases* (USTC) (KF6324.A514)

American Federal Tax Reports (AFTR) (KF6324.A5142) (RIA Checkpoint Database)


U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals






Federal Reporter (F.; F.2d; F.3d) (KF105.F4 2d)    

United States Tax Cases* (USTC) (KF6324.A514)

American Federal Tax Reports (AFTR) (KF6324.A5142) (RIA Checkpoint Database)


U.S. Supreme Court

United States Reporter (U.S.) (KF101.A2)       


United States Tax Cases* (USTC) (KF6324.A514)

American Federal Tax Reports (AFTR) (KF6324.A5142) (RIA Checkpoint Database)




*Note: The United States Tax Cases are published by CCH. The latest cases can be found in the U.S. Tax Cases Advance Sheets volume of the Standard Federal Tax Reporter (KF6366.C65)


D. Administrative Decisions


In addition to the statutes, regulations, and case law there are a number of administrative materials available from the I.R.S. that a tax practitioner will need to utilize. The Revenue Rulings and Procedures will often refer to issues not adequately addressed by the code, regulations, or case law. While some of these materials including the IRS announcements and notices are purposely made available to the public most of these materials are only accessible because of the Freedom of Information Act. Researching online databases is the best method of finding many of these materials.





Revenue Rulings

Rev. Rul. 2005-74

Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin (KF6301.A42)

Revenue Procedures

Rev. Proc. 2003-77

Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin (KF6301.A42)

Treasury Decisions

T.D. 6796

Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin (KF6301.A42)

Federal Register

Private Letter Ruling

PLR 200712006

Online Databases

Technical Advisory Memoranda (TAM)

Technical Advice Memoranda 200240001

Online Databases

IRS Announcement/notices

Announcement 2003-8, 2005-5 IRB 12

Notice 2003-1; 2003-1 C.B. 257

Internal Revenue Bulletin

Cumulative Bulletin (KF6301.A42)

Actions on Decisions

A.O.D. 1993-001

Online Databases

Chief Counsel Advice and Notices


Online Databases

General Counsel Memoranda

G.C.M. (39783)

Online Databases

Field Service Advice Memoranda

FSA 2000-31-033

Online Databases

Internal Revenue Manual


Online Databases

CCH Internal Revenue Manual (KF6301.A6C66)


IRS Publications

IRS Publication 216

Online Databases

IRS Web site






F. Legislative History


The Law library contains a number of compiled legislative histories on major tax acts as well as the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.).


  • Federal Deficit Control (P.L. 100-119) Reams-McDermott
  • Balanced Budget Act 1987 

(KF6222.120.A15 1989)

  • U.S. Revenue Acts
  • Tax Reform Acts from 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1988.
  • Revenue Act 1978
  • Internal Revenue Acts                                                                          


  • U.S.C.C.A.N. Internal Revenue Code                                        



The LexisNexis Congressional Database will allow you to conduct more detailed and general legislative history research. The law library contains the CIS Congressional Information Services documents in microfiche (1970-2004), and Congressional Record Debate in print and on the HeinOnline database. HeinOnline and LexisNexis Congressional are accessible through the terminals at the Law Library or through VPN access.


Secondary Sources


A. Practice Guides


Practice Guides such as the Federal Standard Tax Reporter include editorial analysis and annotations to the Treasury Regulations, cases, and administrative decisions.


1. Arranged by Code Section


  • CCH Federal Standard Tax Reporter                                      



  • RIA United States Tax Reporter

(RIA Checkpoint Database)


  • CCH Federal Estate and Gift Tax Reporter                                          



2. Arranged by Subject


  • RIA Federal Tax Coordinator

(RIA Checkpoint Database)



B. Handbooks


Handbooks provide convenient source of information for tax practitioner. They summarize almost every federal tax topic and contain a variety of charts. These are not meant for extensive research but are designed for quick information.


  • Federal Tax Handbook (2007)

(RIA Checkpoint)

  • U.S. Master Tax Guide (2007)(KF6370.C65)


C. Hornbooks/Treatises


Treatises and Hornbooks are ideal for legal research These are useful because they provide an overview of different areas of tax law and include annotations to statutes, cases, and administrative decisions for further research.


  • BNA, Tax Management Portfolios                                           


  • Federal Income Taxation of Corporations and Shareholders, Bittker, Eustice, (KF6462.B5 1995 Reserve)
  • Federal Income Taxation of Corporations and Shareholders-Forms, Bittker, Emory, and Streng

(KF6462.B5 1995 Reserve)

  • Federal Income Taxation of Individuals, Bittker, McMahon, Jr., Zelenak

(KF6369.B53 3d Reserve)

  • Federal Income Taxation, 7th, Posin, Tobin

(KF6369.P67 2005 Reserve)

  • Federal Estate and Gift Tax, 8th, Stephens, Maxfield

(KF6572.F42 Reserve)

  • Little, Brown Tax Practice Series

(KF6297.A45 L513-KF6297.A45 L5643)


D. Nutshells


Nutshells published by Thomson West are similar to hornbooks but are more concise.


  • Federal Income Taxation of Corporations and Stockholders

(KF 6465.S58 2003 5th ed. Reserve)

  • Federal Income Taxation of Individuals

(KF 6369.3.M35 2004 Reserve)

  • Federal Income Taxation of Partners and Partnerships

(KF 6452.Z9 B87 2005 Reserve)

  • International Taxation

(KF6419.Z9D64 2007 Reserve)





E. Periodical Indexes


The periodical indexes provide a way to locate articles law reviews, journals, and other periodicals.


  • Federal Tax Articles (CCH)

(KF6335.A6 C65)

  • Index to Federal Tax Articles (WG&L)

(RIA Checkpoint)


F. Tax Journals and Periodicals


There are numerous periodicals such as law reviews and journals that address topics and issues important in the tax area.


  • Journal of Taxation


  • Tax Analysts Tax Notes Weekly. (K24.A96) (Tax Notes Daily available on Tax Analysts Database)
  • BNA Tax Management Weekly


  • BNA Tax Management Memorandum

(KF6365.B872) (available on BNA Tax and Accounting Database)


G. Legal Encyclopedias


Legal encyclopedias can be a good starting point for legal research and contain numerous discussions of the law on different subjects. These subjects are arranged alphabetically.


  • American Jurisprudence Second (KF154.A5 2d)

The topic “Federal Taxation” is found in Volumes 33 through 34a.


H. Dictionaries


Tax dictionaries are useful given that they contain tax specific terms that cannot be found elsewhere


  • West’s Tax Law Dictionary—2006 Edition (KF6287.W8 Reference Collection)
  • WG&L Tax Dictionary-(RIA Checkpoint Database)


I.  Joint Committee on Taxation


The Joint Committee on Taxation is a non legislative committee that works with counsel from the standing committees in the house and senate in drafting statutes and legislative history. The Joint Committee’s Blue Book published annually provides explanation of recently enacted tax statutes.


  • Joint Committee on Taxation’s General Explanation of Tax Legislation Enacted in the 109th Congress (Blue Book)

(KF6355.5.G46 2007)



International Tax


International tax largely focuses on bilateral tax treaties and conventions. Often the tax treaties will deal with preventing double taxation and hiding assets offshore to avoid paying taxes.


  • Rhoades and Langer-International Taxation and Tax Treaties


  • International Taxation, Isenbergh

(KF6419.I83 2005)                            

  • Fundamentals of International Tax (WG&L)

(KF6419.B495 2006)                                        


Tax Policy Institutes


These are annual tax institutes that publish the papers of tax scholars on a variety of tax topics.


  • Southern Federal Tax Institute                          


  • National Tax Association-Annual Conference                           


  • Institute on Federal Taxation-NYU                              


  • Tax Conference-Marshall Wythe         

School of Law College of William &


(KF6289.A2 T3)

  • Annual Taxation Conference-Tulane                             

Tax Conference

(KF6289.A2 T8)                         


Mertens Federal Income Tax is located in the M.D. Anderson library and is also available on Westlaw.


Online Databases


The law library subscribes to a number of databases that provides information in the area of tax law in addition to the information available on Westlaw and LexisNexis. RIA Checkpoint, BNA Tax and Accounting, and Tax Analysts can be accessed through the Law Library’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) on the Law Library’s indexes and databases page. Westlaw and LexisNexis can be accessed directly through their website using issued passwords.


A. RIA Checkpoint (



1. Features


  • Find by Citation
  • Keyword Search
  • Browse with Table of Contents
  • Searching more sophisticated than CCH because RIA recognizes Boolean search terms and quotation marks


2. Sources


Editorial Materials


  • Citator 2d (RIA)
  • Federal Tax Coordinator (RIA)
  • United States Tax Reporter with Annotations (RIA)
  • United States Tax Reporter with Explanations (RIA)


Primary Source Materials


  • Code, Regulations, Committee Reports
  • Current Pending/Enacted Legislation
  • Federal Tax Cases


Archive Materials


  • Collection begins in 1991




B. LexisNexis (Taxation)



1. Primary Sources


  • United States Code Service (USCS), Internal Revenue Code
  • Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Treasury Regulations
  • Letter Rulings & Technical Advice Memos
  • IRS Cumulative Bulletin and Internal Revenue Bulletin
  • IRS General Counsel Memos
  • Actions on Decisions and Technical Memos
  • Tax Analysts Regs-Final, Temporary, Proposed & Comments


2. Treatises


  • Tax Analysts Tax Notes Today
  • BNA Tax Management Portfolios (available because of our access to BNA Tax and Accounting database)
  • Rhoades & Langer U.S. International Taxation & Tax Treaties
  • New York University Annual Institute on Federal Taxation
  • Rabkin & Johnson, Federal Tax Guidebook
  • Tax Controversies: Audits, Investigations, Trials


3. Taxation Research Tasks


  • Allows keyword and natural language searches through multiple sources of federal income tax law.
  • Multiple sources can be searched simultaneously
  • Allows quick citation searches for the code, regulations, cases
  • Convenient access to IRS administrative decisions including the revenue rulings and procedures among others.
  • Accessing Taxation Research Tasks:
    1. Click the “Research Tasks” tab at the top of the main page
    2. Select “tax” from the list


C. BNA Tax and Accounting (Tax Management Portfolios)





1. Expert Analysis (Tax Portfolios)


  • U.S. Income Portfolios
  • Estates, Gifts, Trusts Portfolios
  • Foreign Income Tax Portfolios
  • State Income Tax Portfolios
  • U.S. Tax Overview


2. Primary Sources


  • Internal Revenue Code
  • Treasury Regulations
  • IRS Proposed Regulations
  • Treasury Decision Preambles
  • IRS Documents
  • Federal Tax Cases


E. Westlaw



1. Primary Sources


  • Internal Revenue Code (FTX-USCA)
  • Final Temporary and Proposed Regulations (FTX-REG, FTX-CFR, FTX-FR, FTX-TD)
  • Tax Cases (FTX-CS, FTX-TCT)
  • Revenue Rulings (FTX-RR)
  • Revenue Procedure (FTX-RP)
  • Combined IRS Releases (FTX-REL)


2. Tax Tab Feature


  • Compiles tax sources available on Westlaw and places them on one screen for easy access.
  • Allows you to search primary and secondary tax sources simultaneously
  • Allows you to access “Keycite for Tax” citator
  • “Find a Federal Tax Document” allows you to use a citation to find a specific document.
  • Use the “Add/Remove Tabs” at the top of the screen next to the tabs to add this feature.




F. Tax Analysts Web Services (


1. Tax Analysts Web Services provides federal, state, and international tax news, financial news as well as information on tax treaties. Our subscription includes electronic access to Tax Analysts Tax Notes Today, Financial Reporting Watch, State Tax Notes Today, Worldwide Tax Daily, and International Tax Treaties.


2. Tax Notes Today provides the latest federal income tax news. You can search current news and archives from 1987 until present. Search features include finding articles by code section and subject area. Commentary and analysis can be searched by author, subject, or title of the article.


3. Financial Reporting Watch provides current financial news, tax disclosures by company and industry, and includes an archival search feature.


4. State Tax Today provides access to the most current state tax news from all fifty states. You can search articles by state and subject area. Contents and highlights from the current edition are available as well as the archives from1987 until present.


5. Worldwide Tax Daily includes tax news from around the world and will allow you to find news by nation and subject area. Worldwide Tax Treaties features a quick treaty locator and will enable you to select from different nations and locate tax treaties available. You can search for all types of treaties between the United States and other nations and also retrieve legislative history for treaties. This database contains information on tax treaty conventions.







Karlin, Barbara. Tax Research. 3rd ed. Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, NJ 2006


Compiled by Christopher C. Dykes,

Reference/Research Librarian