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Guide to Researching US Tax Policy


Legislative history refers to the documents produced by the legislature as a bill is introduced, studied and debated.  The intent of the legislature is one of the arguments you can use when arguing how a ambiguous statute should be interpreted.  Legislative histories for major laws are sometimes compiled and published in a single collection. These compilations can be very helpful because they gather all of the legislative sources relating to a law in one place. Therefore, it may be worth your while to determine if one of these exists before attempting to compile the sources on your own.

For information on finding legislative history, use the following research guides & resources:


Tracking Bills


  • (replaced Thomas) (search Bill Summary & Status).
    • Taxation is one of the filters you can use to narrow legislation.
  • OpenCongress,
  • Westlaw
    • Westlaw Classic: Go to Directory > U.S. Federal Materials  > Bill Tracking
  • Lexis Advance (Browse Sources > US Federal > Bill Tracking Report -- Current)


Other States

  • Lexis & Westlaw – just as Lexis & Westlaw have bill tracking for Federal material, they also have it for the states.  Locate the appropriate jurisdiction to find the applicable database.
  • State websites – many state websites have bill tracking capabilities.
  • National Conference of State Legislatures, (Look under Issues & Research).

Legislative History Compilations

Luckily for you, tax is one of those areas where precompiled legislative histories are plentiful!  This means someone else has already done the hard work of gathering together or finding documents that reveal legislative intent.

  • HeinOnline Taxation & Economic Reform in America Parts I & II (must be UC student, faculty or staff)
    • This historical archive contains more than 4,000 volumes and one million pages of legislative history materials and other documents. It includes the complete Carlton Fox Collection which contains nearly 42 years of historical legislation related to the internal revenue laws from 1909-1950. It includes more than 100 other legislative histories related to taxation, economic reform, and stimulus plans.
  • HeinOnline U.S. Federal Legislative History Library (must be UC student, faculty or staff)
    The U.S. Federal Legislative History Library provides a variety of complied legislative histories and also includes the database "Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories."
  • ProQuest Legislative Insight (must be UC student, faculty or staff)
  • ProQuest Congressional (must be UC student, faculty or staff)-- offers a large collection of complied legislative histories. You can search various ways including (but not limited to): keyword, bill number, or Public Law or Statute at Large Number.
    Coverage: 1790-
  • Westlaw
    • GAO Federal Legislative Histories (Westlaw Database Identifier FED-LH)
      • Legislative histories for most U.S. Public Laws enacted from 1921 to 1995, and PL 104-191, as compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
    • Arnold & Porter legislative history 
      • Federal egislative histories compiled by the law firm of Arnold & Porter.
  • Check UCLID for books in our collection:  In the keyword search fields, enter the name of the law or topic you are searching, and the words "legislative history" (include the quotation marks).

Joint Committee Bluebooks


The Joint Committee on Taxation publishes explanations of major tax acts.  These are known as “Blue Books.”  These are not legislative history but they are often persuasive to courts with respect to legislative intent.  You can find the Blue Books at:

  • Joint Committee on Taxation Website,
  • Wolters Kluwer IntelliConnect (must be UC student, faculty or staff)
    • Find and click on your topical area of interest (Federal Tax).  This will expand the category and present you with your options. Keep expanding (Federal Tax Legislation) until you reach the JCT Blue Books)
  • Westlaw

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