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ABA Tax Challenge Research Guide: Finding Administrative Decisions

Introduction to Administrative Decisions

Research administrative decisions can be challenging. There are different types of decisions, and the precedential value of those decisions varies. There is also no standardized system of publication and no central place in which you can find all decisions. 

This section of the guide will provide multiple options for research administrative decisions and discuss tools for updating them. 

Where to Find Decisions

Because decisions come from different agencies and are published multiple places, it is best practice to check a few different resources when researching administrative decisions.

Agency Websites

Freely accessible websites have increased access to decisions and are often the best starting point for your research. When this information is available, it is usually reliable and very current. While there may be a number of iterations of an agency's website, including sub-agencies, be sure that the website you are consulting shows ".gov" as the top-level domain. See the links at the bottom of this box to help you get started. 

Lexis and Westlaw

Lexis and Westlaw each publish the administrative decisions of select executive branch and independent federal agencies. Their coverage varies, so where these databases may be very helpful for researching some agencies, they may not be as useful for others.

Other publications

Like with caselaw, administrative decisions may be compiled in official reporters. For a list of reporters, see T. 1 in the Bluebook. 

Online Mini-libraries

Some legal research databases have specialized libraries in which all statutes, cases, regulations, administrative decisions, and treatise commentary are pulled together based on subject. One example is RIA Checkpoint, linked below, which provides a lot of tax-related materials. 

Assessing and Updating Decisions

While different agencies have varying level of authority, agency actions are generally reviewable and the first level of that review is usually appellate court. A reviewable agency action can include the promulgation of regulations and final agency decisions or other quasi-judicial activities.

Whenever possible, you should use Shepard's and Keyciting to find out more about an administrative decision.

  • A citator which indicates that there was a judicial action on regulations is extremely useful for determining how courts rules on challenges to those regulations.
  • It is best to use both Lexis and Westlaw citators when available because each database may have a different breadth of information available on a topic. 

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