Secondary Sources of Federal Tax Law

Instructor: Morgan Gannarelli
In this lesson, we will discuss a few secondary sources of federal tax law, including commercial tax research services, treatsies, legal periodicals, and more.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

People like to know where information is coming from because it helps them evaluate the validity and accuracy of information. If you are researching information about federal tax laws, there are two types of sources that you should know about: primary sources and secondary sources. An example of a primary source is the law itself. A secondary source, on the other hand, is considered commentary on the law. Secondary sources can be helpful when you are hoping to learn about a law, trying to find the primary source of a law, or looking for persuasive authority.

Secondary Sources of Federal Tax Law

The authors of secondary sources of federal tax law may include legal analysts, scholars, tax law reporters, and other tax professionals. In this lesson, we are going to examine some of the different publications that their work might be published in. These publications are considered secondary sources of federal tax law.

Commercial Tax Research Services

Commercial services are commonly used when researching federal tax. The two most important commercial tax research collections are published by Commerce Clearing House and Research Institute of America and include sources related to code, regulation, ruling analysis, and judicial case notes. Commercial tax research services provide a comprehensive explanation of tax law and can be incredibly helpful when you need answers quickly.


Legal treatises are another secondary source of federal tax law. These works consist of single or multiple volumes that provide an in-depth examination of specific areas of law, such as organization and oversight of the Internal Revenue Service, tax returns, statutes of limitations, audit practices, assessment and tax collection, criminal tax procedure, litigation strategies, interest and penalties, tax controversy practice and more. Treatises often reference specific statutes and cases and work well for researchers looking for specific information or persuasive authority. Legal treatises can be located through library catalogs or reference manuals, such as the Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual.

Legal Periodicals

Legal periodicals, such as academic journals, are a good place to find articles on federal tax law. These articles tend to provide in-depth coverage of a specific area. Although they can occasionally be helpful for understanding laws, most articles are very theoretical and often focus on emerging trends or cutting-edge legal issues. Legal periodicals are most useful when you are looking for persuasive authority from legal scholars or when you are trying to find a law. Since most periodical articles contain loads of footnotes and citations, you can often find information that directs you to a primary source of law. You can find legal periodicals by using periodical indexes or databases, such as the Index to Legal Periodicals and LegalTrac.

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