Taxing Definitions

Priority Guidance List

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When you’re looking for the answer to a tax law question, you turn to guidance published by the Internal Revenue Service, including revenue rulings, revenue procedures, notices and announcements. These documents interpret and explain the Internal Revenue Code. The IRS Office of Chief Counsel and the Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Policy are responsible for drafting and issuing published guidance.

Since 1992, the IRS has used an annual Guidance Priority List, also known as the “Business Plan”, to identify tax issues that need to be clarified through published guidance. The IRS attempts to address items on the list on a July 1 through June 30 time frame. For example, the IRS will issue guidance for items on the 2011/2012 list from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.

Generally, the list is long–the 2010/2011 list contained 310 items–and not all items are completed. The incomplete ones either carry over to the next year’s list or are dropped, depending on tax legislation and other changes. In addition, the IRS can and does issue guidance for items not shown on the list, including items that may be a priority, but are considered sensitive, such as tax shelters. The published list also contains an appendix of procedural, or “ministerial”, guidance that requires no judgment or discretion and is published routinely, such as federal interest rates.

Anyone can make a suggestion for Priority Guidance List topics at any time, though the comment period for a particular year ends on June 1. Suggestions received after that date are considered for the next list.

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