April 18, 2013
If you have never taken (or never plan to take) an administrative code class, researching regulations can be confusing and difficult. Understanding what a regulation is and the difference between a regulation and a statute, will lead to a much more successful research quest.
A regulation, pursuant to Black’s law dictionary, is “a rule or order, having legal force, usually issued by an administrative agency.” It is also known as subordinate or delegated legislation. All federal regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations or CFR. Citations for regulations are structured similarly to statutes i.e. 26 C.F.R. § 25.0–1.
Regulations differ from statutes insomuch as they are not created and passed by Congress. They are not bills and they do not sit on Capitol Hill. Instead they are rules created by administrative agencies, which are considered part of the executive branch. The Department of Agricultural, the Securities Exchange Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service are just a few of the agencies that make regulations. Administrative agencies get their rulemaking authority through Congress but are not further delegated by Congress. You can find the statute that gives authority for the regulation you are looking at by checking out the “authority” section underneath the credits.
With that said, the material relating to a particular regulation is limited. We do not have legislative history on the rule and amendments generally come without much explanation. Sometimes we will have prior versions of a regulation, as they can be amended by the agency. You can also see prior versions of the regulation under the credits field, where there are links to the Federal Register creating the rule prior to codification in the Code. A federal register citation is structured like this: 26 FR 548 and are similar to Public Laws in statutes (the statute before it finds its home in the United States Code).
Overall, if you need information on a particular regulation, your best friend and first stop should be Keycite citing references. This will give you the cases, administrative decisions, and secondary sources that all address the regulation you are looking at and likely give you a better idea behind the agencies intent on creating the rule.