IRS Documents

Table of Contents

IRS Documents

Officially Published IRS Documents

The Internal Revenue Bulletin/Cumulative Bulletin

The IRS produces many documents, most of which are published in the weekly Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB). The IRB has four main parts: the Code (which includes revenue rulings, final regulations, and Supreme Court tax decisions relating to the provisions of the IRC); Treaties and Tax Legislation (which includes treaties, tax legislation, and committee reports); Administrative, Procedural, and Miscellaneous (which includes notices and revenue procedures); and Items of General Interest (which includes notices of proposed rulemakings and announcements). The IRB also publishes notices of IRS acquiescence or nonacquiescence of judicial decisions against the government. All of these types of documents have been discussed in previous sections of this guide or will be described below. The IRB is later compiled into the Cumulative Bulletin which is published twice per year. Click on the following link for information on locating and citing the IRB and the Cumulative Bulletin.

Revenue Rulings

Revenue Rulings are official interpretations of the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations, issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in response to a taxpayer’s request for clarification of the law. If the IRS decides that a ruling, an application of law to a certain set of facts, is of general interest, it will publish it in the IRB as a Revenue Ruling. If the ruling is not of general interest the IRS will issue a Private Letter Ruling, discussed in more detail below. Revenue Rulings have modest weight and can be relied on by a taxpayer whose factual situation is substantially similar to that described in a Revenue Ruling. Revenue Rulings, however, are not as authoritative as a Treasury Regulation, and, therefore, a conflicting Regulation trumps a Revenue Ruling. Revenue Rulings can be revoked, modified or become obsolete with the issuance of a future Revenue Ruling or Treasury Decision.

Revenue Rulings contain several segments including: Purpose, Issue, Facts, Law and Analysis, Civil and Criminal Penalties, Holding and Drafting Information. Revenue Rulings are numbered with a two-part numbering system; the first number corresponds to the year and the second to the number of that ruling for that year in order of publication. Before 1953, Revenue Rulings had many different names including: Appeals and Review Memoranda, General Counsel’s Memoranda, Internal Revenue Mimeograph, Income Tax Unit Ruling, Law Opinion, and Office Decision. These can only be found in the Cumulative Bulletin. Click on the following link for information on locating and citing Revenue Rulings.

Revenue Procedures and Procedural Rules

Revenue Procedures and Procedural Rules are the official statements of the IRS on its internal practices and procedures. The Revenue Procedures are added to the Procedural Rules in 26 CFR Part 601. They are available in the IRB, the CB, in Westlaw, and in Lexis. CCH’s Standard Federal Tax Reporter contains annotations to Revenue Procedures in its compilation volumes following each IRC section. CCH’s online product, CCH Tax Research NetWork, contains the text of Revenue Procedures in the Federal Tab in the “Rulings & Other Docs.” section under Primary Sources. RIA’s United States Tax Reporter contains annotations to Revenue Procedures in its compilation volumes following each IRC section. RIA’s online product, RIA Checkpoint, contains the text of Revenue Procedures, which can be accessed via the “Rulings/IRB” section on the left side of the screen under Find By Citation, or by searching in the “IRS Rulings and Releases” database under the Primary Source Materials heading.

Click on the following link for information on citing Revenue Procedures and Procedural Rules.

Notices of Acquiescence or Nonacquiescence

These notices are important because they reveal whether the IRS will continue to litigate an issue it has lost in a judicial proceeding. An acquiescence describes why the IRS will not appeal and a nonacquiescence describes the reasons the IRS will appeal a judicial decision favorable to a taxpayer. Until 1993, the IRS issued the notices only for Tax Court Regular decisions, but now the IRS issues these notices for all trial and circuit courts. They are only available from 1981 forward and cannot be cited as precedent.

They are available in the IRB, the CB, in Lexis (FEDTAX;CB database contained acquiescence and nonacquiescence tables), in Westlaw, in CCH’s Standard Federal Tax Reporter in the Rulings Section, and in RIA’s United States Tax Reporter in the IRS Rulings volume. In addition, citators indicate the existence of an acquiescence or nonacquiescence with a notation of A, Acq., N, or Nonacq. next to the case citation. Click on the following link for more information on locating these print citators.

Publicly Released IRS Documents

The documents discussed below are helpful in determining the IRS’ position on certain issues. The documents do not have precedential value and, therefore, should not generally be cited in court documents. Some of the documents may, however, constitute authority for avoiding the substantial underpayment penalty.

Private Letter Rulings

Private Letter Rulings (also known as Letter Rulings) are written by the national office of the IRS in response to taxpayer questions seeking guidance concerning the tax consequences of future transactions. They are only binding on the taxpayer to whom they are specifically addressed, and only he can rely on that ruling. They are not officially published and lack precedential value. Therefore, other taxpayers cannot cite to them. If the issue could affect many other taxpayers, the IRS may issue a Private Letter Ruling as a Revenue Ruling. Click on the following link for information on locating and citing Private Letter Rulings. Click on the following link for information on locating and citing Revenue Rulings.

Determination Letters

Determination Letters are similar to Private Letter Rulings, but they are issued by local offices of the IRS rather than the national office. They describe how tax law applies to a completed transaction. Local offices will only write Determination Letters if clear precedent and well-established rules apply to a transaction. If there is no clear precedent, the national office will handle the inquiry. Determination Letters are not published in the IRB; they are available in the BNA´ Daily Tax Report, Tax Notes (see about Tax Notes here), in Lexis, and in CCH’s (IRS Letter Rulings Reporter).

Technical Advice Memoranda

The national office of the IRS issues Technical Advice Memoranda (TAM) to local offices of the IRS to promote the consistent application of law to completed taxpayer transactions. TAMs are specific to a taxpayer and are usually written in connection with an audit or claim for refund. Although taxpayers can request that an issue be submitted to the national office, the local offices of the IRS decide whether or not to request a TAM from the national office. Like a judicial opinion, TAMs usually contain a restatement of the facts and discussions of precedent, reasoning and conclusions specific to the request. TAMs are not officially published. Click on the following link for information on locating and citing Technical Advice Memoranda (TAMs).

General Counsel Memoranda

The Office of the Chief Counsel of the IRS issues General Counsel Memoranda (GCM) in response to requests for advice from IRS personnel. They generally answer questions relating to Technical Advice Memoranda, Private Letter Rulings, and Revenue Rulings and provide the reasoning and authority used and relied on in those documents. GCMs are numbered sequentially from the original date of publication. Click on the following link for information on locating and citing General Counsel Memoranda (GCMs).

Actions on Decisions

Actions on Decisions (AODs) are legal memoranda prepared by IRS tax litigation attorneys when the IRS loses a case. AODs provide two recommendations: 1) whether to appeal or not appeal an adverse decision and why and 2) whether to acquiesce or not acquiesce and why. This distinction is important because the IRS may decide not to appeal a specific decision at the same time that it decides not to acquiesce and to continue litigating the same issue in future cases. AODs are numbered sequentially by year. Click on the following link for information on locating Actions on Decisions (AODs).

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