The Internal Revenue Code: Decoded
Posted by William Byrnes on October 8, 2010
Why is this Topic Important to Wealth Managers? Provides an introduction into the Internal Revenue Code so that tomorrow’s blogticle about specific sections of the Code may be better understood, in particular the taxation of life insurance companies.
How are the laws related to tax organized or in other words, what’s the general process in finding an answer to a tax question?
All federal laws of the United States arise out of the Constitution. The Constitution has granted Congress certain enumerated powers, such as the power to regulate commerce among the several states. Congress also has the power to create laws that are necessary and proper in governing based on its listed powers. All powers not granted to the Federal government are reserved by the States through the 10th Amendment – meaning only the States may enact laws in those areas (al least this is how it is supposed to work).
Once Congress passes a necessary and proper law to carry out its enumerated powers, that law becomes a United States Statute, or a Statute already existing is either amended or deleted. The Statutes of the United States are called the United States “Code”.
The United States Code is divided into 50 different titles. Title 26 is perhaps the most infamous, being the “Internal Revenue Code”. The Internal Revenue Code, or Title 26 of the United States Code is further delineated, into Subtitles, Chapters, Subchapters, Parts, and finally Sections and Subsections.
Congress has delegated the power of enforcement of these laws, which lies with the executive branch, of Title 26 to the Secretary of Treasury to create Regulations or Administrative Interpretations of the Statutes. The regulations are not in and of themselves laws but rather, direction from the Secretary of interpretation of the laws. The regulations have legal authority, which means they may be presented in court. In almost all tax cases, there is some Statute, that is called into question, therefore the Court’s exclusive job is to rule on interpretation of the Statute as it applies to the situation before the court, not to overrule any statute, unless it found the law unconstitutional. Therefore, additional law is generated by courts’ interpreting Statutes. This is known as “case law”.
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