Administrative Law's Growing Influence on U.S. Tax Administration

Kristin E. Hickman


In its 2011 decision in Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research v. United States, the United States Supreme Court declared itself reluctant “to carve out an approach to administrative review good for tax law only.” Since then, the government in litigation has conceded and lower courts have recognized that tax administration in the United States is subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, which imposes procedural requirements for and authorizes judicial review of the actions of federal government agencies. A growing body of tax jurisprudence in the United States explores which tax administrative practices are susceptible to legal challenge under the Administrative Procedure Act and whether particular provisions of the Internal Revenue Code justify tax-specific departures from general administrative law norms, doctrines, and requirements. This essay explores three cases that are particularly illustrative of this trend and, in turn, draws attention to the role of judicial review as a tool for prompting improvements in the administration of the tax laws.

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