Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Boston University Law Review

Publication Date

1992

Abstract

The language of the Internal Revenue Code is subject to continuous interpretation by courts and administrators. On a seemingly daily basis, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issue departmental positions on selected statutory provisions. Treasury pronouncements most commonly take the form of regulations and revenue rulings. Regulations are issued in accordance with formal publication, notice, and comment procedures dictated by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Revenue rulings, however, emerge through a process that takes place solely within agency confines. Free from the burden of formal issuance procedures, the IRS may promulgate revenue rulings frequently and expeditiously. These pronouncements play a vital role in statutory administration by providing uniform guidelines for administrative enforcement and voluntary public compliance. Courts have traditionally accorded less consideration to revenue rulings than to regulations construing statutory ambiguities. Although courts have repeatedly stated that revenue rulings do not have the force and effect of Treasury regulations, the legal status of revenue rulings has not been characterized with consistency. Most courts have regarded revenue rulings as representing merely the opinion of one party to litigation, deserving no special treatment. A few courts have accorded revenue rulings greater weight than taxpayers' positions, generally on the basis of the issuing agency's substantive expertise.Courts, however, have rarely considered themselves bound by revenue rulings.

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