Tax System:

Issues in Tax Compliance Burden

T-GGD-96-100: Published: Apr 3, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 3, 1996.

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GAO discussed business and individual taxpayers' federal tax compliance burden. GAO noted that: (1) the compliance burden is due to the tax code's complexity, ambiguous language, and frequent changes; (2) many businesses are uncertain about what they must do to comply with the code; (3) recordkeeping, time-consuming calculations, the interplay of state and local tax requirements, and Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) administration of the tax code add to the burden; (4) estimating businesses' tax compliance burden and costs would be difficult, since businesses do not collect the data needed to make reliable cost estimates of their compliance; (5) the greatest reduction in the tax compliance burden could be gained by simplifying the tax code; (6) return-free filing alternatives used in other countries could reduce individual taxpayers' tax compliance and IRS administrative burdens, but employers, tax preparers, and state tax systems could be further burdened or adversely affected; and (7) reducing businesses' and individuals' tax compliance burdens will be difficult because of tax policy tradeoffs, such as revenue, equity, and social and economic issues.

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