Monday, June 21, 2021

Supreme Court Opinion on Presumptions and Burden of Proof (6/21/21)

Readers will recall that I have written on burden of proof, including its components, the burden of persuasion and the burden of production.  I have posted blogs, but my principal offering burden of proof was in Burden of Proof in Tax Cases: Valuation and Ranges—An Update, 73 Tax Lawyer 389 (2020), available on SSRN here.  Readers of this blog have surely been anxiously awaiting more on burden of proof.  The Supreme Court offered one today in Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. v. Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, ___ U.S. ___ (6/21/21), here.  Actually, I would not call it an update, but simply a rehashing of familiar burden of proof concepts in a specific setting in a class action securities fraud case.  The case is also perhaps notable because on the burden of proof issue, the majority opinion was written by Justice Barrett, and the dissent was written by Justice Gorsuch.

The case involved the burdens the parties bore in meeting the requirement that the class action plaintiffs show that the defendant’s false statements affected the market so that the plaintiffs’ reliance on the market price as a measure of value established damage.  The resolution turned on the plaintiffs’ invocation of a presumption in their favor and whether the presumption then shifted to the defendant a burden of production or a burden of persuasion.  The traditional role for a presumption, reflected in FRE 301, here, is to shift the burden of production—meaning a burden to produce some credible evidence without regard to whether that evidence persuades on the issue and without shifting the burden of persuasion.  In classic theory, the presumption does not shift the burden of persuasion, which, in Goldman, would have required that the plaintiffs bear the burden of persuasion on reliance.

The Court majority (Barrett, J.) held that, in this type of market reliance case, its precedents imposed the burden of persuasion on the defendant once the plaintiff met the requirements for creating the presumption.  In other words, the presumption in this case shifted the burden of persuasion, which is not the normal function of presumptions.

Once the majority found that its precedents imposed the burden of persuasion upon the presumption, the game was over.  Justice Gorsuch in dissent wanted to apply the general rule that the presumption only shifted the burden of production to Goldman and, once that limited production burden is met, the burden of persuasion remains with the plaintiffs.

That’s what the fight is all about.

Some interesting points from the opinions.

1. The shifting of the burden of persuasion (or, in a broader sense, the allocation of the burden of persuasion) only rarely would be outcome determinative.  (Majority Slip Op. 2 & 12-13).  This from pp. 12-13 is particularly good:

            Although the defendant bears the burden of persuasion, [*12] the allocation of the burden is unlikely to make much difference on the ground. In most securities-fraud class actions, as in this one, the plaintiffs and defendants submit competing expert evidence on price impact. The district court’s task is simply to assess all the evidence of price impact—direct and indirect—and determine whether it is more likely than not that the alleged misrepresentations had a price impact. The defendant’s burden of persuasion will have bite only when the court finds the evidence in equipoise—a situation that should rarely arise. Cf. Medina v. California, 505 U. S. 437, 449 (1992) (preponderance of the evidence burden matters “only in a narrow class of cases where the evidence is in equipoise”).

Monday, May 31, 2021

Judge Halpern Synthesizes Taxpayer and IRS Burdens when Seeking a Tax Result Based on Substance Rather than Form (5/31/21)

In Complex Media Inc. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2021-14 (as revised 3/31/21), TN here and TC Dkt entry 87 here, in a 103 page opinion, Judge Halpern had some interesting discussion on issues important to tax procedure fans.  I won’t try to slice and dice the entire opinion but will just point out the discrete parts that caught my attention.

1. “This Court has never accepted the Danielson rule. And, because the cases before us are not appealable to the Third Circuit (or to any other appellate court that has accepted the Danielson rule), the Golsen doctrine does not require us to apply that rule here.”  (Slip Op. 53-54.)

2. More interesting is the Court’s discussion as to the different burdens when the IRS and the taxpayer seeks to avoid the form of the transaction.  The key excerpt is (Slip Op. 63-64):

In sum, as our caselaw has evolved, it has become more hospitable to taxpayers seeking to disavow the form of their transactions. While we no longer reject those arguments out of hand, as we did in Swiss Oil Corp., J.M. Turner & Co., and Television Indus., we have repeatedly indicated that taxpayers may face a higher burden than the Commissioner does in challenging transactional form. On occasion, as in Glacier State Elec. Supply, we have suggested that the taxpayer's higher burden might be an evidentiary one. But we have not identified specific factual questions that should be subject to a higher burden than that imposed by Rule 142(a) or articulated the quantum of evidence necessary to meet that burden. [*64] Nor have we offered a clear justification for imposing on the taxpayer a higher burden to prove facts relevant to the disavowal of form than the generally applicable preponderance of the evidence standard.

Therefore, we now conclude that the additional burden the taxpayer has to meet in disavowing transactional form relates not to the quantum of evidence but instead to its content--not how much evidence but what that evidence must show by the usual preponderance. The Commissioner can succeed in disregarding the form of a transaction by showing that the form in which the taxpayer cast the transaction does not reflect its economic substance. For the taxpayer to disavow the form it chose (or at least acquiesced to), it must make that showing and more. In particular, the taxpayer must establish that the form of the transaction was not chosen for the purpose of obtaining tax benefits (to either the taxpayer itself, as in Estate of Durkin, or to a counterparty, as in Coleman) that are inconsistent with those the taxpayer seeks through disregarding that form. When the form that the taxpayer seeks to disavow was chosen for reasons other than providing tax benefits inconsistent with those the taxpayer seeks, the policy concerns articulated in Danielson will not be present.

I have revised the relevant discussion in my Federal Tax Procedure book working draft to be published in August.  I link here a pdf of the discussion with the changes redlined.  Note that the page numbers and footnote numbers will be different in the final version published in August.

JAT comments:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Supreme Court Holds in CIC Services that IRS Micro-Captive Notice May Be Contested Pre-Enforcement (5/17/21; 5/18/21)

This morning, the Supreme Court released its opinions in CIC Services, LLC v. IRS, 583 U.S. ___ (2021), here.  The main opinion is a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kagan.  Justices Sotomayor and Kavanaugh joined the main opinion but also filed concurrences.

I have not studied the opinion, so offer at this time only the syllabus and a couple of quick comments:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 2016–66 requires taxpayers and “material advisors” like petitioner CIC to report information about certain insurance agreements called micro-captive transactions. The consequences for noncompliance include both civil tax penalties and criminal prosecution. Prior to the Notice’s first reporting deadline, CIC filed a complaint challenging the Notice as invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act and asking the District Court to grant injunctive relief setting the Notice aside. The District Court dismissed the action as barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, which generally requires those contesting a tax’s validity to pay the tax prior to filing a legal challenge. A divided panel of the Sixth Circuit affirmed.

Held: A suit to enjoin Notice 2016–66 does not trigger the Anti-Injunction Act even though a violation of the Notice may result in a tax penalty. Pp. 5–16.

(a) The Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U. S. C. §7421(a), provides that “no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person.” Absent the tax penalty, this case would be easy: the Anti-Injunction Act would pose no barrier. A suit to enjoin a requirement to report information is not an action to restrain the “assessment or collection” of a tax, even if the information will help the IRS collect future tax revenue. See Direct Marketing Assn. v. Brohl, 575 U. S. 1, 9–10. The addition of a tax penalty complicates matters, but it does not ultimately change the answer. Under the Anti-Injunction Act, a “suit[’s] purpose” depends on the action’s objective purpose, i.e., the relief the suit requests. Alexander v. “Americans United” Inc., 416 U. S. 752, 761. And CIC’s complaint seeks to set aside the Notice itself, not the tax penalty that may follow  [*2] the Notice’s breach. The Government insists that no real difference exists between a suit to invalidate the Notice and one to preclude the tax penalty. But three aspects of the regulatory scheme here refute the idea that this is a tax action in disguise. First, the Notice imposes affirmative reporting obligations, inflicting costs separate and apart from the statutory tax penalty. Second, it is hard to characterize CIC’s suit as one to enjoin a tax when CIC stands nowhere near the cusp of tax liability; to owe any tax, CIC would have to first violate the Notice, the IRS would then have to find noncompliance, and the IRS would then have to exercise its discretion to levy a tax penalty. Third, the presence of criminal penalties forces CIC to bring an action in just this form, with the requested relief framed in just this manner. The Government’s proposed alternative procedure—having a party like CIC disobey the Notice and pay the resulting tax penalty before bringing a suit for a refund—would risk criminal punishment. All of these facts, taken together, show that CIC’s suit targets the Notice, not the downstream tax penalty. Thus, the Anti-Injunction Act imposes no bar. Pp. 5–13.

(b) Allowing CIC’s suit to proceed will not open the floodgates to pre-enforcement tax litigation. When taxpayers challenge ordinary taxes, assessed on earning income, or selling stock, or entering into a business transaction, the underlying activity is legal, and the sole target for an injunction is the command to pay a tax. In that scenario, the Anti-Injunction Act will always bar pre-enforcement review. And the analysis is the same for a challenge to a so-called regulatory tax—that is, a tax designed mainly to influence private conduct, rather than to raise revenue. The Anti-Injunction Act draws no distinction between regulatory and revenue-raising tax laws, Bob Jones Univ. v. Simon, 416 U. S. 725, 743, and the Anti-Injunction Act kicks in even if a plaintiff’s true objection is to a regulatory tax’s regulatory effect. By contrast, CIC’s suit targets neither a regulatory tax nor a revenue-raising one; CIC’s action challenges a reporting mandate separate from any tax. Because the IRS chose to address its concern about micro-captive agreements by imposing a reporting requirement rather than a tax, suits to enjoin that requirement fall outside the Anti-Injunction Act’s domain. Pp. 13–15.

JAT Comments:

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Mayo -- the other Mayo -- reversed by CA8, Sustaining Regulations Interpretation (5/13/21)

In Mayo Clinic v. United States, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 14143 (8th Cir. 5/13/21), here, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s invalidation of a regulation’s test for meeting the “qualified organization” requirement that turned upon being an educational organization under § 170(b)(1)(A)(ii).  Reg. § 1.170A-9(c)(1) defined a charitable organization as one whose “primary function is the presentation of formal instruction” and whose noneducational activities “are merely incidental to the educational activities.”  As stated by the Court, the district court “held that the Treasury Regulation is invalid ‘because it adds requirements — the primary-function and merely-incidental tests — Congress intended not to include in the statute.’”

A quick digression, I wrote on the district court opinion:  District Court Invalidates Interpretive Regulation at Chevron Step One (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 8/8/19; 3/11/19), here.  I concluded as follows:

I don't think the Court's reasoning is compelling.  The conclusion may be right.  I just don't think the reasoning articulated by the Court compels the conclusion that the statutory text does not offer sufficient ambiguity to permit the interpretation adopted by the IRS.

In reversing the district court, the Eighth Circuit panel did not adopt my implicit reasoning—that there was sufficient ambiguity in the statute to permit Chevron space for reasonable interpretations at Chevron Step Two.  (Although, if Chevron is conceptualized as a single step, all the work really could be done at Chevron Step One but I won’t go down that detour here.)  Rather, the Eighth Circuit panel stops at Step One because it found that the regulation was permitted by the unambiguous text of the statute, at least the unambiguous text as the Eighth Circuit panel interpreted the text.  (Because the regulations test is  not compelled by the statutory text and requires interpretation for it to be compelled, that means, in  my mind, that there is interpretive space in the statute; if there is interpretive space, then the court or the agency may fill that interpretive space, but if the agency has done it, the interpretation, is usually tested at Step Two)

Of course, at Chevron Step One, the usual tools of statutory interpretation apply to determine whether the statute is ambiguous and whether the interpretive regulation is within the scope of the ambiguity.  I gather what the Court did was to apply those interpretive tools to determine that there was no ambiguity and thus no remaining interpretive space under the Chevron Framework because the regulation was consistent with that unambiguous interpretation.  If that is true, then it seems to me that it is the statute that is the law and not the regulation, consistent with traditional distinctions between legislative and interpretive regulations.  Hence the interpretive regulation which is then consistent with the unambiguous statutory text (as interpreted) becomes the law and per se the regulation interpretation a is valid interpretation of the statute.  (Compare the Treasury’s adoption in some interpretive regulations of language mimicking the statute; what work and what validity do the regulations have in that context?)

 Two things further on Chevron:

Monday, May 10, 2021

Follow by Email Feedburner Email Notice Service Being Discontinued (5/10/21)

Some readers of the Federal Tax Procedure Blog have signed up for and have been receiving email notifications of new blog entries via a service called Feedburner through the “Follow by Email” widget that formerly was in the right hand column on this blog.  The Feedburner service is being discontinued in July 2021.  I am therefore eliminating that widget so that Follow by Email will not longer be available for new subscribers to that service and,  I gather, the Follow by Email service will stop working in July 2021 for persons who were already registered.

There are other services that, I understand, can provide that functionality, but I just have not spent the time to try to figure out how they work and how to implement them on the blog site.  If and when I figure that out, I will try to get a replacement Follow by Email.

I have downloaded the email addresses of those who were registered as of today.  So, if I get a substitute service for this functionality, I will email those persons with notice so that they can register.  I will also post a blog entry notifying of the replacement service (if I set up one).

Thursday, April 29, 2021

When Does the Statute of Limitations Start on the Erroneous Refund Suit? (4/29/21)

I recently read and posted a comment to the following blog discussion:  Keith Fogg, Late Filed Erroneous Refund Suit (Procedurally Taxing Blog 4/22/21), here.  I wanted to explore further the issue of the starting date for the statute of limitations for erroneous refund suits.  Readers will recall that § 7405 permits an erroneous suit for refund which is "erroneously made.”  Section 6532(b) says that the statute of limitations to initiate the erroneous refund suit is “2 years after the making of such refund, except that such suit may be brought at any time within 5 years from the making of the refund if it appears that any part of the refund was induced by fraud or misrepresentation of a material fact.”  (The Regulation, § 301.6532-2, merely repeats the statute.)  Both the 2- and 5-year statutes of limitations require a starting date.

The Procedurally Taxing Blog linked above discusses a case, United States v. Page, No. 3:20-cv-08072 (D. Ariz. April 16, 2021),  here, involving the following facts:

  • 5/5/17 – IRS mails taxpayer an erroneous refund check for $491,104. 
  • ??/??/?? – Taxpayer receives the erroneous refund check
  • 4/5/18 – Taxpayer cashes the erroneous refund check.
  • ??/??/?? – IRS writes to request return of the erroneous refund
  • 12/19/19 – Taxpayer responds by returning $210,000.
  • 331/20 – IRS sues for erroneous refund.

The Government moved for default judgment.  Taking seriously its obligation to test the validity of the Government’s claims even on default judgment, the Court held (Slip Op. 3):

Under Ninth Circuit law, “[t]he refund is considered to have been made on the date the taxpayer received the refund check.” United States v. Carter, 906 F.2d 1375, 1377 (9th Cir. 1990); see also O’Gilvie v. United States, 519 U.S. 79, 91 (1996) (“[T]he law ordinarily provides that an action to recover mistaken payments of money accrues upon the receipt of payment.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

Under the facts outlined above, that meant that the statute of limitations foreclosed the erroneous refund suit absent fraud (which the Government did not allege).

There are two problems with the holding.  First, I think it makes no sense (as I noted in my then off-the-cuff comment to the Procedurally Taxing Blog entry because I don’t think the Government could have brought an erroneous refund suit until (i) at the earliest the refund check was cashed and perhaps (ii) until the refund check cleared.  I address that below.  Second, on a more procedural issue, I think the language of the Ninth Circuit precedent was dicta and not persuasive dicta, so the Page Court was not bound by it.  I address that issue below.

Accrual of the Erroneous Refund suit

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Is the JCT Blue Book More Persuasive than a Law Review Article? (4/27/21)

Tax procedure fans will know the key role played by the Joint Committee on Taxation, here and Wikipedia here.  It is a nonpartisan committee with deep staff to serve the important role of advising Congress, principally through its tax writing committees (House Ways and Means and Senate Finance) on tax legislation.  It is fair to say that the JCT is deeply involved in the nooks and crannies of major tax legislation.  After major tax legislation, the JCT will often prepare a report, referred to as the Blue Book, summarizing the tax legislation, often adding some nuance not addressed directly in the text of the legislation.  In the past, the Blue Book was frequently used by the IRS, the public and the courts as a guide for interpretation of the legislation.  Although the Blue Book is not legislative history because published after the legislation, it is about as close as it gets to legislative history.  Nevertheless, Justice Scalia claimed the Blue Book was no more relevant and persuasive than a law review article.  United States v. Woods, 571 U.S. 31,47-48 (2013).  The Tax Court adopted the key language from this quote.  Rafizadeh v. Commissioner, 150 T.C. 1, 6. n4 (2018) (“the Blue Book is not legislative history but, ‘like a law review article, may be relevant to the extent it is persuasive, ’"quoting United States v. Woods, 571 U.S. 31, 47 2013)).  Deference fans will note that, as Justice Scalia explained it, that sounds like Skidmore deference.  Skidmore v. Swift & Co., 323 U.S. 134 (1944).  Skidmore may be no deference at all.  See Really, Skidmore "Deference?" (Federal Tax Procedure Blog 5/31/20; 6/3/20), here.

Yesterday, I was rooting around in the Attorney General’s Manual on the Administrative Procedure Act (1947), web format here and pdf format here.  The APA was enacted in 1946.  On further research, I found that the Supreme Court had often “deferred” to the Manual.  E.g., Kisor v. Willkie, 588 U.S. ___, 139 S.Ct. 2400, 2420 (2019) (plurality opinion, “some deference because of the role played by the Department of Justice in drafting the legislation.”; citing Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 435 U. S. 519, 546 (1978)); Steadman v. SEC, 450 U.S. 91, 102 n. 22 (1981) (also citing Vermont Yankee); and see also Robin J. Arzt, Recommendations for a New Independent Adjudication Agency to Make the Final Administrative Adjudications of Social Security Act Benefits Claims, 23 J. Nat'l Ass'n  Admin. L. Judges 267, 330-31 (2003) (citing Vermont Yankee and Steadman and stating that the Manual is part of the legislative history of the APA;” the statement of its status as legislative history is perhaps hyperbole in today’s refined notions of legislative history, but it does come close).

So here are my questions:

Friday, April 23, 2021

Chevron In Oral Argument in Sanchez v. Mayorkas (4/23/21)

On April 19, oral argument was held in Sanchez v. Mayorkas (Sup Ct No. 20-315), see transcript here.  The case was not a tax procedure case; nor was it even a tax case.  But the discussion was interesting and indicates some some confusion about Chevron.  I just make several comments about the discussion.  

First, the Government attorney (Tr. 32, 38, 40, 41, 54) that the Government's reading of the statute at Step Two was the “better reading” so that Chevron deference is  inapplicable.  For that reason, the Government attorney asks that the Court say the Government reading is better and “say no more.”  That is true.  If the Court finds that the Government’s interpretation is the better interpretation, Chevron does not apply.  Chevron applies in an outcome determinative sense only if the Court thinks another interpretation is “better” but the Government’s interpretation of the statute is reasonable.  Some of the Justices’ questions indicate confusion about that correct proposition.

Second, Justice Breyer said (Tr. 37): “aren't we in the world where there is  ambiguity in the statute and we have to get into the Chevron issue”?  The answer is no for the reason noted above.  If the agency interpretation is the better interpretation of the ambiguous statutory text, Chevron deference is not needed and does not apply.  Some of the Justices' discussion indicates confusion on that point.

Third, this confusion led to Brand X issue confusion.  Justice Alito asked (Tr. 40) “Well, but, if we say -- if we say the government's -- the government has the better interpretation, won't that foreclose you from later changing your position?”  Under Brand X, the Government can change an interpretation to an interpretation that is reasonable, thus attracting Chevron deference even if not the better interpretation.  The Government answer nails it, saying that under Brand X: “the agency could theoretically decide that, although it's taken a position, it has had this position since 1991, it -- it studied the question further and concluded that the statute was ambiguous and that it should resolve that ambiguity by taking a different interpretation.”  I think in context he meant a different reasonable interpretation since an unreasonable interpretation flunks Chevron Step Two.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

More Thoughts on APA and Legislative and Interpretive Regulations Inspired by Recent Cases (4/8/21; 4/11/21)

As readers of this blog know, I have recently been considering and even obsessing over the distinction between legislative and interpretive regulations for purposes of the APA and Chevron deference.  Just in the past few days, I have focused on four opinions that I think highlight the confusions in this area.  The first three are decisions by three different Circuits on the issue of the validity of a recently adopted regulation including bump stocks within the statutory definition of “machineguns,” thus prohibiting their possession with potential criminal penalty consequences.  Those decisions are:

  • Guedes v. BATFE, 920 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2019), cert. denied, 140 S. Ct. 789 (2020), D.C. Cir. here and GS here
  • Aposhian v. Barr, 958 F.3d 969 (10th Cir. 2020), 10th Cir. here and GS here; and
  • Gun Owners of Am., Inc. v. Garland, ___ F.3d ___, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 8713 (6th Cir. 3/25/21), 6th Cir. here; GS [not available].  [Note that the lengthy decision was published on the same day as oral argument.]

The regulation was sustained in Guedes and Aposhian as a Chevron-entitled interpretation of the ambiguous statutory text; the regulation was invalidated in Gun Owners as (i) violating separation of powers and the rule of lenity and (ii) in any event not passing Chevron analysis as a reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutory text.

The Fourth Opinion, a truly monster opinion, was an en banc opinion in Brackeen v. Haaland, ___ F.3d ___, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 9957 (5th Cir. 4/6/21), 5th Cir. here; GS here.  The opinions are, in the aggregate, 325 pages long and the portions of the opinions that represent the en banc opinion are scattered in two separate opinions – that of Judge Dennis and that of Judge Duncan.  Here is the Court’s description:

Dennis, J., delivered the opinion of the en banc court with respect to Parts II(B), II(C), and II(D)(2) of his opinion (except as otherwise noted in the Per Curiam opinion, supra). 

Duncan, J., delivered the opinion of the en banc court with respect to Parts III(B)(1)(a)(i)–(ii), III(B)(1)(a)(iv), III(B)(2)(a)–(c), III(D)(1), and III(D)(3) of his opinion (except as otherwise noted in the Per Curiam opinion, supra).

The exercise of working through that stuff to figure out what the en banc holdings were would be daunting indeed.  So, the Fifth Circuit helpfully offers the first opinion, a per curiam opinion, to provide a guide to the en banc opinions embodied in the opinions with the named authors.  Fortunately, for purposes of this blog entry, I and readers interested in the legislative – interpretive distinction do not have to dig through all of that morass.  In relevant part, Judge Dennis’ opinion has the en banc opinion at outline paragraph II.D.2., titled The Scope of the BIA’s Authority, on pages 138-147, beginning here.

I offer this high level summary with limited citations (I am revising my article on the subject for posting to SSRN later).  I begin with what I think should be the starting point for discussing the issue—the original meaning of the APA distinction between legislative and interpretive regulations and how that original meaning played out in deference.  I will then address the cases which evidence the distortions and distractions that have obscured the original meaning.

Original Meaning of the APA

Monday, April 5, 2021

On U.S.C. Titles, Positive Law and NonPositive Law (4/5/21)

In today’s weekly offering of Bryan Camp’s series on Lessons from the Tax Court, Passport Revocation Act Differs From Codification (Tax Prof Blog 4/5/21), here, Bryan gets into the difference between laws and codifications.  The Fast Act of 2015 imposed a regime for encouraging taxpayers to deal with delinquent taxes by imposing potential passport revocation or denial consequences for tax debt that the Treasury certifies to the State Department as being seriously delinquent.  The regime consists of  two key separate acts:

(i) an act by the IRS (the certification to the State Department of seriously delinquent tax debt, which Bryan says is “the Act is codified in title 26”) and 

(ii) an act by the State Department after receiving the IRS certification (action to revoke or deny a passport, which Bryan says "is codified in title 22").

For those not steeped in some of the arcania of legislation, there is a key difference between U.S.C. titles that have been enacted into positive law and those that have not been enacted into positive law.  Those titles that have been enacted as positive law are the law; those  that have not been enacted into positive law are not the law but the codification is “prima facie” evidence of the law.  See U.S.C. § 204(a) (Title 26 compilations “establish prima facie the laws of the United States,” but “whenever titles of such Code shall have been enacted into positive law the text thereof shall be legal evidence of the laws therein contained.”).

Titles 26 and 22 have not been enacted as positive law.  See Office of Law Revision United States Code page identifying the Titles enacted as positive law with an asterisk, here.  In the case of Title 26, the law is the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and is not its compilation into Title 26.  See 1 U.S.C. § 204, Notes (“The sections of Title 26, United States Code, are identical to the sections of the Internal Revenue Code.”)

What does all this mean in the real world?  Perhaps not much, but focusing on Bryan’s statement that the tax provision of the FAST Act was codified into Title 26, the statement is true but a more accurate statement is that the FAST Act enacted the provision into the IRC 1986 which is then codified into Title 26.

Readers wanting to chase down more on this might review Will Baude’s piece, Reminder: The United States Code is not the law (Volokh Conspiracy in WAPO 5/15/17), here.  Baude cites an article that “rocked my world when I was in law school:” Tobias Dorsey, Some Reflections on Not Reading the Statutes, 10 Green Bag 282 (2007), here.  (Readers of this blog can determine for themselves whether the article rocks, or Baude's susequent one, rocks their worlds; I have to say that I got onto this by reading Baude's and then Tobias's article and, while it did not rock my world, it sent a slight tremor through it.)

I discuss this issue in my book, Federal Tax Procedure (Practitioner Ed. 2020), beginning on page 28, here.

In the 2021 edition, I plan to replace the paragraph on p. 29 beginning “One question”  with the following two paragraphs (footnotes omitted and subject to revision by time of publication in August 2020):