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Tax Law

Pre-1954 Legislative History

Because the Internal Revenue Code has gone through several changes over the years, there may be a need to refer to prior versions of a statute to see what they looked like.  Below are some sources that can be used to help conduct legislative history in this area.

Joint Committee On Taxation (JCS) Prints.  (Available electronically via Westlaw Edge).  These committee prints detail the cost estimates of federal tax expenditures and legislation, and also provide "General Explanations" of the tax act.  They are particularly useful in filling in the gaps of legislative history.   This resource covers editions sporadically from the late 1970s and consistently from 2001-present.

Pre-1954 Changes

Barton's Federal Tax Laws Correlated: The Federal Income, Estate, and Gift Tax Laws from the Revenue Act of 1913 to the Internal Revenue Code of 1954KF6335.A3 B371 1968.  (Available electronically via HeinOnline).   This tool is a great resource for comparing pre-1939 acts with more recent laws.

IRS Cumulative Bulletin.  (Available electronically via LLMC Digital).  This resource is a weekly publication that announces official rulings and procedures of the Internal Revenue Service.  This particular link has statutes adopted since 1922-1954.

Internal Revenue Acts. KF6289 .R43 1950r. (Available electronically via HathiTrust). This collection includes House and Senate hearings, revenue bills and laws, and treasury studies.  Use the print index to narrow your search.

Seidman's is a highly respected author of tax law legislative history resources and has several texts regarding this topic.  Some of the highlights are seen below:

  • Seidman's Legislative History of Federal Income Tax Laws 1938-1861. KF6356.53 .A15 1938.  (Available electronically via HathiTrust and HeinOnline).  This text covers the legislative history of the course of federal income tax laws as they have worked their way through Congress.  Included in this text are committee reports and discussion relating to the provisions of the Revenue Acts from 1861-1938.
  • Seidman's Legislative History of Excess Profits Tax Laws 1946-1917. (Available electronically via HeinOnline).  Similar to the above, this resource traces the changes in language of federal income tax laws as they have made their way through Congress.

Post-1954 Legislative History

These resources are excellent sources of changes in the Internal Revenue Code after 1954.

The Internal Revenue Code of 1954: Bill H.R. 8300KF6276.526 .A15 1993.  This 2 volume set contains all the pertinent versions of H.R. 8300, which led to the creation of Internal Revenue Code of 1954.  Bills included in this text are those from the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee.

Barton's Federal Tax Laws Correlated: The Federal Income, Estate, and Gift Tax Laws from 1913-1954. KF6335.A3 B371 1968. (Available electronically via HeinOnline).  This looseleaf contains corresponding sections of law arranged in parallel columns under the appropraite Revenue Act for easy comparison. 

Cumulative Changes in the Tax Regulations Under the 1986 Code.  KF6285 .P78 1986.  This resource has the reprints of prior provisions of the tax statutes.

Internal Revenue Acts. KF6275.99 .U54. (Available electronically via HeinOnline). The law library has the volumes of this source until 2011.  Similar to the above resource for the 1939 version, this includes the House and Senate Hearings, revenue bills and laws, and treasury studies.

Seidman's Legislative History of Federal Income and Excess Profits Tax Laws 1953-1939. K46.L39 C67 no.158. (Available electronically via HeinOnline).  Arranged by act, this text allows you to trace teh language of major pre-1939 Code tax laws.

Tax Management Primary SourcesKF6365 .B872. This is a looseleaf service that contains the legislative history of the Internal Revenue Codes of 1954 and 1986.  There are 5 series total for these documents, and each of them contains statutes, legislative history, hearings, and post-enactment documents.  The 5 sections divided below are as follows:

  • Series 1: Internal Revenue Code from the Tax Reform Act of 1969-1975.
  • Series 2: Tax Reform Act of 1976-1977.
  • Series 3: Revenue Act of 1978 through Miscellaneous Revenue Acts of 1980
  • Series 4: Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981.
  • Series 5: Revenue Act of 1986.

Compiled Legislative Histories

A compiled legislative history in a particular law or area of law that is compiled into one document and published.  These types of sources are useful for determining statutory intent or ambiguous language.

U.S. Federal Legislative History Library. This resource lists government and commercial sources that contain the text of or citations to legislative history documents.

U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News. KF48 .U58 2011.  (Available electronically via Westlaw Edge).  This resource selectively reprints committee reports for legislation and contains references to reports and other dates of debate.  The Law Library holds resources from between 1953-2011, but the electronic version of these reports on Westlaw contains more comprehensive coverage.

Committee Reports

Similar to hearings, these reports are useful for acquiring background information about a bill. This free resource allows you to search through committee reports.  Additionally, this resource provides access to the Congressional Research Service Reports, which may be helpful as well.

Government Accountability Office Reports: Federal Tax. This database collects federal income tax-related documents that are released by the General Accounting Office and contain the cost and performance of legislative proposals and programs in addition to the reports on tax issues.  Coverage is from 1994-present.

GPO's Federal Digital System. This free resource provides access to the Congressional Serial Set, which is the most comprehensive source for committee reports and House and Senate documents.  In addition, there is access to Congressional Bills, Documents, Hearings, Records, and Reports.

Internal Revenue Cumulative Bulletin. This database holds selected committee reports dealing with tax issues.


Hearings are useful for acquiring background information about a proposed bill or pending legislation.  Below are a few resources about accessing federal hearings, but see the Law Library's Guide on Federal Legislative History for further resources.

Internal Revenue Acts. KF6289 .R43 1950r. (Available electronically via HathiTrust). This collection includes House and Senate hearings, revenue bills and laws, and treasury studies.  Use the print index to narrow your search.

IRC Legislative History.  This resource gives legislative history documents for each Internal Revenue Code section that is passed and provides pertinent excerpts from the Congressional Committee Reports.  It provides a chronology of hte creation, revision, and/or repreal of the IRC sections.

Proquest Congressional. This database allows you to trace through the history of bills and laws, committee hearings, and House & Senate reports.  The coverage dates back as far as the early 1800s for some resources.

U.S. Political Transcripts. This tool provides access to transcripts of news conferences, press briefings, political speeches, and oral testimony from congressional committee hearings from 1994-present.

Floor Debates

Floor debates are useful for learning more about arguments for or against the bill or specific provisions of an amendment.

Congressional Recordv. 164 2-Index 5 (2018). (Available electronically via GovInfo).  This resource contains transcripts of floor debates on pending bills.  While it is available online, the Law Library has the microfiche versions of this text available from 1989-2018.  This free resource is also a good place to start when looking for floor debate information.