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Are Congress and the Courts Especially Deferential to Treasury and the IRS?

Does the IRS have a unique relationship with Congress or the Judiciary? Professor Kristin Hickman explains that Congress does tend to revisit tax laws more frequently than other regulations, but regular communication between Congress and Treasury or the IRS does not seem to result in deference to the agencies. On the other hand, courts are more likely to defer to these agencies because judges are less familiar with the complexities of the tax code. https://youtube.com/watch?v=oeKykKJXgRQ


I don't think it's fair to say that Congress is especially deferential to the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of Treasury. Congress revisits the tax laws more often perhaps than Congress revisits other regulatory statutes. Congress has a somewhat unique body of tax expertise in the form of the joint committee on taxation, which advises Congress with respect to tax policy, and is fairly unique as an institution within Congress for that special expertise. There's no question that Treasury and the IRS and members of the joint committee staff coordinate with one another, talk with one another. And so, to the extent that Treasury or the IRS want to be sure that Congress is aware of their preferences or their concerns or their suggestions, certainly the existence of the joint committee on taxation helps facilitate those communications. But that's not the same thing as giving any sort of special weight or deference to Treasury and the IRS with respect to tax. And because tax also tends to be a fairly politically volatile sort of topic, I think that members of Congress perhaps are inclined to take into account Treasury and IRS perceptions even less than other government agencies because they have to be so much more responsive to their constituents. Perhaps judges are more inclined to defer in tax cases because of their perceptions regarding the complexity of the tax system and the Internal Revenue Code. The empirical studies that have been done generally have found higher win rates for the government in tax cases than in other kinds of regulatory cases. There is no question that the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department, as administrators of the Internal Revenue Code, are treated more deferentially than many other government agencies.

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