Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Federal forms"

    4 publications with a total of 11 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Brenda S. Farrell
    Phone: (202) 512-3604

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to establish time frames to complete actions that its Federal Voting Assistance Program has identified it will take to address challenges, and also to use these time frames to demonstrate progress for stakeholders, including through its statutorily required annual reporting.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, through the Defense Human Resources Activity, should direct FVAP's Director to fully implement the six selected leading practices of federal strategic planning into the day-to-day operations of the program.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, through the Defense Human Resources Activity, should direct FVAP's Director to complete the development of a strategic plan that fully exhibits the six selected leading practices of federal strategic planning, including, but not limited to: (1) a statement of FVAP's revised mission and goals; (2) an identification of strategies that address management challenges and resources needed to achieve goals; (3) a description of leadership involvement and accountability; (4) a description of stakeholder involvement in the development of FVAP priorities; (5) a coordination strategy to communicate the program's mission and goals to other federal agencies; and (6) a description of performance measures, aligned with program goals that FVAP will use to track progress toward achieving goals.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To strengthen management of the Direct Loan Program and ensure good customer service for borrowers, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Federal Student Aid's Chief Operating Officer to review its methods of providing instructions and guidance to servicers, identifying areas to improve clarity and sufficiency, and ensure consistent delivery of instructions and guidance to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers. For example, the Department could consider implementing a detailed, common servicing manual for the Direct Loan program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agreed with this recommendation and has reviewed its guidance to servicers, as of October 2016. It has issued clarifications to servicers in several areas. In addition, the Department had been in the process of an acquisition for a new loan servicing solution but, as of September 2017, is reassessing its acquisition strategy. While the plan for the revised acquisition is not finalized, FSA expects its approach to significantly streamline the process of communicating instructions and guidance to servicers, as well as improve the overall experience for students and borrowers. Upon resolution of its acquisition strategy, Education needs to demonstrate that its final contract for a new loan servicing solution is structured to provide clear and consistent instructions and guidance to servicers to ensure program integrity and improve service to borrowers.
    Director: Charlie Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's enforcement and compliance efforts, decrease the administrative and financial burden of maintaining both electronic and paper-based form processing systems, and reduce plan reporting costs, Congress should consider providing the Department of the Treasury with the authority to require that the Form 5500 series be filed electronically.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 5/31/17, Congress has taken no action.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. DOL has also collaborated with PBGC and IRS in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once the revision is final.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. IRS has also collaborated with DOL and PBGC in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once the revision is final.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. PBDC has also collaborated with DOL and IRS in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once any revision are made final.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To simplify the burden that the corporate exemption places on payers to distinguish payees' business status and also provide greater information reporting, Congress may wish to consider requiring payers to report payments to corporations on the form 1099 MISC, as we previously suggested and as proposed in the Bush Administration's budget.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislative action has been identified to require payers engaged in a trade or business to report on payments to corporations for services, thereby reducing these payers' burden to determine which payments require reporting. On March 23, 2010, Congress enacted section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-148), which expanded information reporting to include payments made to corporations, consistent with GAO's January 2009 matter for congressional consideration. The provision also required payers to report payments for property and gross proceeds. The provision was to be effective for payments after December 31, 2011, requiring payers to report beginning in January 2013 on payments to corporations made in 2012 for property or services. However, Congress repealed the provision on April 14, 2011, by section 2 of the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-9).
    Recommendation: To gauge the extent of 1099-MISC payer noncompliance and its contribution to the tax gap, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, as part of future research studies, develop an estimate of 1099-MISC payer noncompliance.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to IRS, developing such an estimate requires a multi-pronged approach and a large amount of coordinated effort. One prong is to determine the extent of filing compliance among employers. A second prong would determine the extent to which 1099-MISC payers properly report their payments. Starting with the Tax Year 2001 individual income tax reporting compliance study, the National Research Program (NRP) office has been collecting some data related to Form 1099-MISC compliance, from both the payer and payee perspectives. With the ongoing annual individual income tax reporting compliance studies, the IRS will gather more data on this issue. However, by themselves, these efforts will not provide a comprehensive picture of the scope of potential Form 1099-MISC non-compliance. Additional data will be generated by the NRP reporting compliance study for employment tax. As part of the NRP employment tax research, IRS examiners were to review taxpayers' Form 1099 filing compliance. Data collected from these studies should shed some light on whether employers are appropriately reporting required payments on Form 1099-MISC. As of July 2017, IRS had completed portions of its analysis of the NRP employment tax sample results and was working to resolve data issues. IRS estimates its analysis of the extent of Form 1099-MISC payer noncompliance will be complete by December 2017. We will continue to monitor IRS's progress.
    Recommendation: To gauge the extent of 1099-MISC payer noncompliance and its contribution to the tax gap, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, as part of future research studies, determine the nature and characteristics of those payers that do not comply with 1099-MISC reporting requirements so that this information can be factored into an IRS-wide strategy for increasing 1099-MISC payer compliance.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS researchers are collecting data on 1099-MISC reporting as part of its National Research Program (NRP) study on employment taxes, a program that involves examinations of a sample of tax returns expected to culminate in 2015. The examinations include tax years 2008 through 2010. As part of the NRP employment tax research, IRS examiners were to review taxpayers' Form 1099 filing compliance. Collecting data on this issue will enable IRS to study the nature and characteristics of payers that do not comply with 1099-MISC reporting requirements. As of July 2017, IRS had completed portions of its analysis of the NRP employment tax sample results and was working to resolve data issues. IRS estimates its 1099-MISC payer reporting compliance analysis will be completed in December 2017.We will continue to monitor IRS's progress.