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Communications of the ACM


Converting Laws to Programs

legal scales and information table, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates, Shutterstock

Sometimes the intricacies of tax laws are mind-boggling, even to lawyers. Sarah Lawsky, a law professor at Northwestern University School of Law and Jonathan Protzenko, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, were working to translate Section 121 of the U.S. Tax Code, which stipulates how much a taxpayer can deduct from their income taxes from the profit of the sale of a home, into programmable code.

They found themselves stumped, because while the law stipulates a profit on the first $250,000 of a home sale is not to be taxed, "there's like nine layers of exceptions," including whether a person served in the military or is married, or if a spouse is deceased, Protzenko says.


Adam Wyner

It is very welcome to see a discussion in the ACM about artificial intelligence/computer science applied to law. Applications to tax go all the way back to 1977 with the Taxman system and subsequent work:

Further work on AI and Law can be found on the International Association for Artificial Intelligence and Law:

and the Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Law:

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