Tax Policy and Administration:

Information Related to the Scope and Complexity of the Federal Tax System

GAO-01-301R: Published: Apr 6, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2001.


Michael Brostek
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The National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommended in 1997 that IRS simplify the tax law. The Commission reported a connection between the complexity of the Internal Revenue Code and the difficulty of administering it and taxpayer frustration with the tax system. It reported that such complexity can lead to inadvertent noncompliance, increase costs to taxpayers, and complicate tax collection. The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 requires the Joint Committee on Taxation to report to Congress on the overall state of the federal tax system and on proposals to simplify it. This report provides information to help the Joint Committee with its study. Specifically, GAO provides information on (1) the scope and size of the code, the number of Congressionally-mandated studies of the tax system, and the amount of tax guidance and regulations issued by IRS; (2) the number and scope of IRS forms, schedules, publications, and worksheets; (3) the number of tax returns filed and people claimed on these returns, by various characteristics for selected years; and (4) the number of assistance provided to taxpayers by IRS, return preparers, and computerized software for selected years.

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