Federal Register & Code of Federal Regulations

The Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations are two resources that are commonly discussed jointly. The reason is that information first published in the Federal Register is later published again in the Code of Federal Regulation. In basic terms, the Federal Register is the daily journal of the U.S. Government. The Federal Register records the agencies’ proposed new rules/regulations, final rules, changes to existing rules, notices of meetings and proceedings, and Presidential documents (i.e. executive orders, proclamations, and administrative orders). The Federal Register is published daily and is organized into four categories: Presidential documents, rules and regulations, proposed rules, and notices. The Federal Register was created to allow citizens access to the most current rules and regulations relating to federal agencies. The Federal Register serves to provide notice of a documents existence, contents, and legal effects.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States. The CFR, updated yearly, contains the complete and official text of agency regulations. The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation. The 50 subject matter titles contain one or more individual volumes, which are updated once each calendar year, on a staggered basis. The annual update cycle is as follows: titles 1-16 are revised as of January 1; titles 17-27 are revised as of April 1; titles 28-41 are revised as of July 1, and titles 42-50 are revised as of October 1. Each title is divided into chapters, which usually bear the name of the issuing agency. Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas. Large parts may be subdivided into subparts. All parts are organized in sections, and most citations to the CFR refer to material at the section level.

The purpose of the CFR is to present the official and complete text of agency regulations in one organized publication and to provide a comprehensive and convenient reference for all those who may need to know the text of general and permanent Federal regulations. The CFR is keyed to and kept up-to-date by the daily Federal Register. These two publications must be used together to determine the latest version of any given rule. When a Federal agency publishes a regulation in the Federal Register, that regulation usually is an amendment to the existing CFR in the form of a change, an addition, or a removal. It is important to remember that the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations are resources for understanding federal agencies’ rules and regulations, and not federal laws. Congress passes laws, while federal and executive agencies issue rules.

Additional Resources:

Federal Register tutorial, http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/tutorial/online-html.html

CFR Subject List, https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/subjects.html

Thesaurus of Indexing Terms, https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/cfr/thesaurus.html

Where to Access:

The Federal Register from 1995 to present is digitized and available through FDSys, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/submitcitation.action?publication=FR

The Code of Federal Regulations from 1996 to present are also digitized and available through FDSys, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionCfr.action?collectionCode=CFR

The Indiana State Library has current and historical copies of both the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations.

Understanding Government Citations:

The following describes how information is contained in a CFR citation.

Example CFR citation: 10 CFR 2.451 (2006)

  • Title:Is the numeric value (10) to the left of “CFR”
  • Part:Is the numeric value (2) to the right of “CFR” and preceding the period “.”
  • Section/Subpart:Is the numeric value to the right of the period (451) “.”
    • A subpart is a letter of the alphabet (A-Z) that is used to retrieve an entire subpart of the CFR rather than many individual sections. For example: Subpart E.
  • Year/Revision Year:The four digit year (2006) of publication; for revisions, use the four digit year from the “Revised as of” text represents the year being cited. The revision year is not always available when the CFR is cited.

Example FR citation: 56 FR 29187

  • Volume: Is the numeric value (56) to the left of “FR”
  • Page: Is the numeric value (29187) to the right of “FR”