Interpreting Statutory Silence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Like fences, the statutes in subtitle F of the Tax Code define the operational area in which the IRS administers the tax laws. Statutory words - like pickets - place important boundaries on IRS action. Statutory silence - the spaces surrounding the words - can be just as important to understand the boundaries. As with any other aspect of language, meaning comes from both what is said and what is not said. This article examines a dispute over the meaning of the spousal relief provisions in §6015 where the silence is particularly disquieting. The problem is this: while there is a statutory two year limitation period for taxpayers to seek spousal relief under §6015(b) or §6015(c), the statute contains no such limitation period for those seeking section 6015(f) relief. Only silence surrounds section 6015(f). The IRS has taken that silence and, in Treas.Reg. 1.6015-5(b)(1), used it to construct an immovable 2 year limitation period that the IRS applies against any person seeking section
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13
JournalTax Analysts
StatePublished - Aug 2 2010


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