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Tax Research

This guide focuses on state and federal tax research sources available to the Boston College community.

About IRS Administrative Guidance Documents

In addition to regulations, the IRS issues a number of documents as administrative guidance. Unlike regulations, these guidance documents do not require a notice and comment period and can be issued more quickly. The documents are issued by the IRS to provide information to public on how it will interpret and apply tax code provisions. The types of documents issued, their authority, and where to find them are described here.

Generally IRS administrative guidance is classified as official or unofficial based on whether they were published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB). The IRB is the authoritative IRS publication used to announce official rulings and procedures. Treasury Decisions, Executive Orders, Tax Conventions, legislation, court decisions, and other items of general interest are also published in the IRB, which is published on a weekly basis. The Internal Revenue Bulletin is available on the IRS website here and through other tax research platforms.

IRS often releases revenue rulings, revenue procedures, and other technical tax guidance before publishing them in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. These advance items (called "early drops") are available on the IRS website and as email alerts to subscribers of the IRS GuideWire service. Which you can subscribe to on the IRS website.  

The IRS also publicly releases a variety of other administrative documents that are not published in the Internal Revenue Bulletin. These documents can help you determine the IRS position on a particular issue. They were made available to the public following Freedom of Information Act litigation which led to the enactment of Internal Revenue Code section 6110. Pursuant to I.R.C. section 6110(k)(3) these documents cannot be cited as precedent, though some can be used as authority for avoiding the substantial underpayment penalty.

For a summary of each type of IRS administrative document and the authority they carry see the chart below. 

Finding IRS Administrative Guidance

IRS administrative guidance and interpretations are available in a number of online databases in addition to the IRS website. 

When you have a citation: if you already have a citation to a document, specialty tax research databases have templates that allow you to pull up the document efficiently.  

When you have a citation to a section of the Internal Revenue Code or Regulations: if you are researching a particular section of the IRC or regulations, you can use a citator to to identify any relevant administrative guidance or interpretation to help understand or apply that section. Most of the specialized tax research databases have citator tools. 

When you have no information to start with: consider using a treatise that discusses your issue. It will provide citations and links to the controlling primary law as well as significant administrative documents. 

Tips for Citing Administrative Guidance

Check The Bluebook and local court rules for special rules for citing IRS materials. Bluebook Rule 14 and Table T1.2, which contains a table of citation forms for U.S. agency publications, will be most helpful. When you are looking for a document on the IRS website or in a commercial tax service, check how the service identifies that type of document as formats can vary across databases.

Chart of IRS Administrative Guidance

Type of Document


Officially Published in IRB

Level of Authority

Citation Format

Revenue Rulings Apply the law to a specific set of facts. Yes Authoritative if facts are materially the same. Rev. Rul. 2019-24
Revenue Procedures Statements of IRS practices and procedures. Yes Authoritative if relevant. Rev. Proc. 2020-2
Private Letter Rulings IRS responses to taxpayer requests for guidance on a proposed transaction's tax consequences. No Binding on IRS with respect to the requesting taxpayer. Constitute authority for avoiding the substantial understatement penalty. P.L.R. 201345008; Priv. Ltr. Rul. 201345008
Technical Advice Memoranda Advice issued by the IRS in response to internal staff requests  advice on the interpretation or application of the tax laws to a specific set of facts. No Not authoritative I.R.S. Tech. Adv. Mem. 85-04-005; TAM 201503019
Field Service Advice  Advice issued in response to internal staff inquiries related to the factual development of a case. Not issued by the IRS since 2003.. No  Not authoritative FSA 200247033
Determination Letters Similar to Private Letter Rulings but issued by IRS district offices only where well-established rules exist relating to the issues presented. No Not authoritative  
IRS Notices Issued by IRS prior to the issue of a revenue ruling or procedure to provide immediate guidance. Usually later issued as a formal ruling. Yes Same authority as revenue rulings and procedures Notice 95-67
Actions on Decisions Issued by the IRS to explain why it recommends appealing or acquiescing to a court decision. The recommendation need not be followed. No Not authoritative A.O.D. 2022-01
Acquiescences/nonacquiescences Notices indicating whether the IRS will continue litigating an issue after a loss in court. Yes Not authoritative Issued as a revenue ruling and notification may appear in a case citation
IRS Publications Documents published to inform taxpayers about how the tax laws are applied. Yes Not authoritative IRS Publication 17
Internal Revenue Manual The Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) contains instructions, procedures and policies promulgated for the guidance of its staff when administering the income tax laws. No Not authoritative IRM