Free Tax Update ResourcesMs. Greta P. Hicks
September 3, 2013 — 1,720 views
Looking for tax law in all the wrong places? Instead of subscribing to a commercial tax update service, many of us are relying on free websites for tax information.
It is easy to “search” the web using key words, but easy may not produce reliable information. The following are websites that have been found to lead reliable current tax law.
Proposed or Final Legislation
Most of the tax laws originate in the House Ways and Means Committee, http://waysandmeans.house.gov/. The Committee web page under “legislation” has Committee Actions plus Legislation and Accomplishments. The Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee and/or taxation are often a “What’s New” or “hot Topics.” Caution: You will need to distinguish between “proposed” and “passed” legislation.
If you have a House Bill number (H.R.) or Senate bill number (S.), it is easy to search on the Library of Congress “Thomas” web page, http://thomas.loc.gov/. Thomas allows you to search by “word/phrase” or “bill number.” What’s on the loc.gov site? Every bill proposed and its status. For example: Passed on 7-16-09 and sent to Senate. Passed Joint Committee and sent back to House/Senate for vote. Caution: Make sure you have the latest version of the bill or the Public Law.
The Joint Committee or Taxation (JCT) is listed under Committees on the House web page or on the JCT web page at http://jct.gov. The JCT publishes summaries of proposed legislation and has links to full text bills and laws. One of the most popular publications by the JCT is the “Blue Book.” The Blue Book contains an overview of current law, plus the House version of tax legislation, the Senate version, and the compromise version. At the end of the year, the JCT publishes a summary of legislation passed by, for example, the “111th Congress.” At the beginning of the year, the JCT publishes a summary of “Expiring Provisions.” For example, if you want to know when a certain 2001 Tax Legislation provision expires, this summary is a great guide. Caution: What is listed as “expiring” in January 2009, may be extended or repealed by 2009 legislation.
Federal tax law beings with the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), enacted by Congress in Title 26 of the United States Code (26 U.S.C.) The IRC may be reached through the House web site at http://uscode.house.gov/lawrevisioncounsel.shtml.
Caution: Since this site contains all U.S. Codes, a “word” search may result in too much non-tax law. Limit your “key word” search to Title 26 and the Code Section you desire, for example: 419.
Cornell University also publishes the IRC, http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26/.
Caution: This is a reliable site, but determine if the “latest” law changes have been posted. Cornell is easy to search and you can also follow the links to reach the contents page easily. For example: Click on Title 26, Subtitle A, Income Taxes, Chapter 1—Normal Taxes and Surtaxes.
If you know the IRC Section, a general web search of a specific Code Section may result in a link that will direct you to an “official” Internal Revenue Code website. Caution: You may also reach a discussion of a Code Section rather than the Code itself.
Treasury (Tax) Regulations. Treasury regulations (26 C.F.R.), commonly referred to as Federal tax regulations, pick up where the IRC leaves off by providing the official interpretation of the IRC by the U.S> Department of the Treasury. Go to the Code of Federal Regulations site at http://www.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/cfrassemble.cgi?title=200826. Caution: You will need to know the Code Section. Also, not all versions on this site have been updated for recent tax legislation. More recent Final, Proposed or Temporary Regulations may be found at http://www.irs.gov/taxpors/content/0,,id=103729,00.html but even these are not well indexed. Sometimes a general search by regulation number will get you where you want to go, but you still have to determine the effective date.
IRS Notices, Announcements, Revenue Rulings, Revenue Procedure, etc. are all posted on the www.irs.gov website, but they are not in one place or easily searched. Try searching on “Tax Professionals.” The “Electronic Reading Room” is available at http://www.irs.gov/foia/article/0,,id=110353,00.html. The Internal Revenue Manual, http://www.irs.gov/irm/index.html, is an excellent resource for handling IRS examination and collection problems.
Need to know what you can get from IRS records? The Disclosure and Privacy Law is available at http://www.irs.gov/pub/ir-pdf/p4639.pdf.
When searching www.irs.gov/pub/irs.gov/web/advanced-search.htm, rather than the IRS normal search box. The advanced search link also allows you to refine a previous search.
If you know the Code Section, a general search of the web could link you to sites, some of which by their names, you know you can trust. For example: “IRC 3406” resulted in hits at irs.gov and many state government sites.
Search U.S. Tax Court for cases and TC Memorandums by name, judge, date or key word at http://www.ustaxcourt.gov/UstcInOp/asp/HistoricOptions.asp. The Supreme Court has a web page and links to its opinions that include many non-tax opinions. See http://www.supremecourtsus.gov/opinions/opinion.html. If you have a case name, a general search will produce not only references to the case, but also a link to the text of the actual case.
Send your “free and reliable” web pages to [email protected]. If we have enough interest, we may publish a related article. Good hunting!
Ms. Greta P. Hicks
Greta P Hicks CPA
Greta P Hicks is a former IRS Examination manager and Ms Hicks currently serves on the Editorial Board of the Texas Society of CPAs and is Tax Editor of Today’s CPA. Greta is active on the TSCPA IRS Relations Committee and teaches seminars on IRS.