In the wake of tax reform, taxpayers and practitioners alike are anxious for guidance and clarification on how the new laws impact transactions and reporting positions. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has previously stated that implementing tax reform is its highest priority, but that issuing guidance on the entire bill would likely take a substantial amount of time. Since December 2017, the IRS has published a host of notices, revenue procedures and administrative guidance. In some instances, the guidance was mechanical (e.g., Notice 2018-38), and in others it was more substantive (e.g., Notice 2018-28, Notice 2018-18, Rev. Proc. 2018-26).

On May 31, 2018, the IRS announced an “all hands on deck” effort to implement tax reform through 11 groups working closely with the Treasury Department. The IRS originally stated that it did not plan to release any more proposed regulations before the end of the year. Instead, it would issue tax Forms (with instructions) that would need to be filed by taxpayers before the end of the year. On June 7, 2018, the IRS explained that it does plan to issue proposed regulations “covering all major portions” of the bill starting in September and ending in December 2018 (the IRS specifically plans to finalize the temporary aggregation regulations by September to stop them from sunsetting). The IRS reported it is in “very good shape” to meet these deadlines. Additionally, at a recent American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting, IRS international counsel acknowledged year-end financial reporting for global companies and stated that international tax regulations are intended to be released in the fall instead of the end of the year. Regulations under Internal Code Section 965 are planned for issuance this summer, and other areas of guidance include global intangible low-tax income, also known as the GILTI tax.


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The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report regarding how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) communicates tax guidance to the public.This report was prepared following bipartisan requests from members of both houses of Congress.

The GAO report: (1) analyzed documents that defined IRS guidance types; (2) reviewed the IRS’s policies and procedures for issuing guidance; (3) reviewed literature on the IRS’s issuance of guidance; (4) interviewed individuals at relevant government and tax practitioner organizations; and (5) reviewed IRS guidance issued during 2013 through 2015. Below is a chart included in the GAO report that illustrates various forms of guidance, and the weight that the IRS says attaches to each.

GAO blog post

The GAO found that the IRS uses many different forms of guidance to communicate its interpretation of tax laws to the public, but considers only the Internal Revenue Bulletin (IRB) guidance to be authoritative. The IRS’s statement that only IRB guidance is authoritative could be considered an oversimplification. We previously wrote (here, here, and here) about how deference principles may apply to various forms of guidance.

The GAO found further that while the IRS has detailed procedures for identifying, prioritizing, and issuing new guidance, the IRS lacks procedures for documenting the decision about what form of guidance to issue.


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