Document Type


Publication Title

Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Journal

Publication Date

Winter 2002


Early in the history of the income tax, the Supreme Court indicated that when the meaning of tax legislation is uncertain, taxpayers ought to receive the benefit of the doubt. Fifteen years later the Court retreated from this position, concluding that the function of the courts is to determine the meaning of ambiguous legislation and that this function should be performed without giving either party a presumptive advantage. The Court has now come full circle, except that instead of granting a preference to taxpayers in the case of uncertainty, it grants a preference to the government under the guise of deference-whether to a regulation, a revenue ruling, or perhaps even an argument made by the government during litigation.