Legislative history can be extraordinarily useful for determining the intent behind a law, whether you're trying to determine why the law was changed or what Congress meant by a specific phrase. Legislative history is typically found in documents created during the legislative process, including reports, hearings, records of debates, and different versions of the bill.
Legislative history is a primary source that provides guidance, but it should not be cited as legal authority. Courts can only look to the legislative history of a statute to “explain the meaning and purpose of a provision whose text is genuinely ambiguous.” Sherfel v. Newson, 768 F.3d 561, 569 (6th Cir. 2014). The documents of legislative history for tax law research purposes are listed below, in the order of their importance:
1. Congressional Committee Reports / Conference Reports
2. Text of earlier or alternative versions of a bill
3. Floor Debates (Congressional Record)
4. Statements or testimony at Committee Hearings
5. Committee Prints
6. Presidential Signing Statements
The 1954 and 1939 Internal Revenue Codes are available on Westlaw in the Franklin County Law Library Computer Labs.
Before compiling a legislative history of a code section, check to see if someone else has already compiled one and published it.