Form as Formalization

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 20-09

Ohio State Technology Law Journal, forthcoming

44 Pages Posted: 3 May 2020

Date Written: April 27, 2020


This article argues that large portions of the Internal Revenue Code are already formalized, because tax forms themselves formalize significant portions of tax law. (Tax preparation programs such as TurboTax do not encode the law—they encode the forms.) Tax forms turn portions of the law into an algorithm for taxpayers to apply. And because forms turn law into algorithms, the forms themselves—not the instructions, but the actual forms, the actual way that entries are set to interact with each other—may contain judgements about the law.

Keywords: tax, artificial intelligence, tax forms, formalization of law

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Lawsky, Sarah B., Form as Formalization (April 27, 2020). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 20-09, Ohio State Technology Law Journal, forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Sarah B. Lawsky (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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