This guide identifies different kinds of laws and secondary sources relevant to federal tax matters, and it points out access points to these materials for researchers.
Some authority carries more weight than other authority. The mandatory authority has the most weight; it is the law that applies to the facts of a matter before the court, and it must be addressed by the court. Other authority can still be is persuasive authority; it is made up of laws and secondary sources that can by very persuasive or not persuasive at all to a court. A court may, but need not, address persuasive authority. Unique to tax situations is substantial authority, which is made up of both the law and certain very special and very persuasive secondary sources. See IRC § 6662 for more information on secondary authority.
Statutes, like those codified in the Internal Revenue Code, followed by Regulations, like those from the Treasury Department arranged in the Code of Federal Regulations, are two types of law that can be relevant to a tax research matter. Judicial Opinions make up the third type of law that can be relevant.
Some documents from the IRS, an agency under the Treasury Department that deals with tax issues, can be exceptionally persuasive secondary sources. Opinions written by the U.S. Tax Court are given particular weight as well because the judges on the court are experts in dealing with tax matters.
Other secondary sources like treatises and articles on tax issues help one interpret and understand the law properly and refer one to relevant law and IRS documents.
Like other areas of legal research, the basic tax research method is as follows:
1. Establish the facts.
2. Identify the issues.
3. Locate authority.
4. Evaluate authority.
Repeat steps 1-4 as necessary to complete research and analysis of issues.
5. Develop conclusions and recommendations.
6. Communicate research results and recommendations.
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