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: "Tax credit"

    18 publications with a total of 67 open recommendations including 17 priority recommendations
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    15 open recommendations
    including 4 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to annually report improper payment estimates and error rates for the advance PTC program.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that in FY 2016, it completed a risk assessment of the advance PTC program and reported results in the FY 2016 Agency Financial Report. Currently, HHS is unable to specify the year the rate and amount will be reported due to the complexity and timing of the error rate measurement methodology process, which involves conducting pilot testing, using those pilots to refine the methodology, and then undergoing the rulemaking process before implementing the methodology to ensure accurate and efficient reporting of an improper payment rate.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, and until annual reporting of improper payment estimates and error rates for the advance PTC program is performed, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to disclose significant matters relating to the Improper Payments Information Act (IPIA) estimation, compliance, and reporting objectives for the advance PTC program in the agency financial report, including CMS's progress and timeline for expediting the achievement of those objectives and the basis for any delays in meeting IPIA requirements.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that it reported information on the status of the advance PTC risk assessment in the FY 2014 to FY 2016 Agency Financial Reports. Now that the program's improper payment risk assessment is completed, HHS will continue to report on its progress in designing and implementing an improper payment estimate for the advance PTC program in future Agency Financial Reports.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to design and implement procedures for verifying the identities of phone and mail applicants to reasonably assure that ineligible individuals are not enrolled in qualified health plans in the marketplaces or provided advance PTC.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. However, regarding verification of filer identity, HHS stated that for individuals starting a new application via phone, the call center representatives use verbal attestations for identity verifications from individuals. HHS stated that for paper applications, individuals must provide names and complete addresses as well as other information. In addition, HHS stated that individuals must attest that the information they provide on all applications is accurate by signing under penalty of perjury. GAO continues to believe that because CMS does not validate the identities of individuals who apply by phone or mail, CMS is vulnerable to enrolling ineligible individuals in qualified health plans with advance PTC.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to assess and document the feasibility and availability of obtaining sufficiently reliable data to verify individuals' residencies and lack of minimum essential coverage from nonfederal employers and, if appropriate, design and implement procedures for using such data in its verification processes.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that its previous assessments of available electronic data sources did not identify any comprehensive national data source for verifying residency. HHS recently conducted a study to assess the feasibility of developing an employer-sponsored coverage database and determined that development would be costly and highly burdensome given available resources. Additionally, HHS stated that it would impose extra burden on employers to collect the information needed to build a comprehensive employer-sponsored coverage database. HHS will continue to assess and document whether any sufficiently reliable data sources exist and examine the feasibility of implementation.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to design and implement procedures for sending notices to nonfederal employers routinely and terminating advance PTC for individuals who have access to minimum essential coverage from their employers.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. However, regarding sending notices to nonfederal employers, HHS stated that it is evaluating its 2016 employer notice program to determine the best approach for notifying employers in the future. Such an evaluation may provide useful information; however, GAO continues to believe that designing and implementing procedures for sending notices to nonfederal employers and terminating advance PTC to individuals with access to employer-sponsored coverage can reduce the risk of providing advance PTC to issuers on behalf of ineligible individuals.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to assess and document the feasibility of approaches for (1) identifying duplicate government-sponsored coverage for individuals receiving Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program coverage in federally facilitated marketplace states outside of the states where they attest to residing and (2) periodically verifying individuals' continued eligibility by working with other government agencies to identify changes in life circumstances that affect advance PTC9 eligibility--such as commencement of duplicate coverage or deaths-- that may occur during the plan year and, if appropriate, design and implement these verification processes.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that its preliminary analysis indicates that identifying government sponsored coverage for individuals receiving Medicaid and CHIP in Federally-facilitated Exchange states outside of the state where the applicant is enrolled in coverage would add several months to the time needed to execute the process of identifying duplicate enrollees and ending their advance PTC. Such additional time would significantly reduce the timeliness and effectiveness of the process and lead to an increase in burden on the state Medicaid systems used to verify duplicate coverage. HHS stated that it will continue this analysis and document the feasibility of approaches for identifying duplicate government sponsored coverage for individuals receiving Medicaid and CHIP coverage in Federally-facilitated Exchange states outside the application state of the consumer as well as periodically verifying individual's continued eligibility. In addition, HHS stated that it has implemented a Periodic Data Matching process to proactively identify consumers who may be receiving Minimum Essential Coverage through Medicare, and thus are no longer eligible for financial assistance to help pay for Exchange coverage. HHS is also exploring approaches to identifying Exchange enrollees who may be deceased and should thus be disenrolled from coverage.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to assess and document the feasibility of approaches for terminating advance PTC on a timelier basis and, as appropriate, design and implement procedures for improving the timeliness of terminations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that it continues to assess the feasibility of terminating advance PTC at various times of the month as a result of consumers not resolving inconsistencies. HHS currently terminates advance PTC between the 1st and 15th of the month following the end of the inconsistency clock in order to accommodate issuer processes. HHS stated that processing in these cohorts also allows for operational and quality efficiencies for HHS since processes can be completed in batches.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to design and implement procedures for verifying compliance with applicable tax filing requirements--including the filing of the federal tax return and the Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit--necessary for individuals to continue to be eligible for advance PTC.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that the IRS provides information to Exchanges on consumers who received advance PTC in the prior coverage year but have not taken the necessary steps to file a tax return and reconcile advance PTC. Beginning in Open Enrollment for 2018, the Federally-facilitated Exchange will end advance PTC on behalf of the tax filers who have not filed or have not reconciled advance PTC when that information is reported to the Exchange by IRS.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to design and implement procedures for verifying major life changes using documentation submitted by applicants enrolling during special enrollment periods.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation. HHS stated that it is continually monitoring the operations of the Exchange and has taken several steps to analyze and strengthen current rules and procedures to ensure that only those who are eligible enroll through special enrollment periods. While special enrollment periods provide a criticial pathway to coverage for qualified individuals who experience qualifying events, it's equally important that special enrollment periods are not misused or abused. HHS also stated that in April 2017, it issued a final rule on Market Stabilization that promotes program integrity by requiring individuals to submit supporting documentation for special enrollment periods and ensures that only those who are eligible are able to enroll. It will encourage individuals to stay enrolled in coverage all year, reducing gaps in coverage and resulting in fewer individual mandate penalties and help to lower premiums. This process will begin in June 2017.
    Recommendation: To improve annual reporting on PTC improper payments, control activities related to eligibility determinations, and calculations of advance PTC, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Administrator of CMS to design and implement procedures for verifying with IRS (1) household incomes, when attested income amounts significantly exceed income amounts reported by IRS or other third-party sources, and (2) family sizes.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. However, regarding verification of household income and family sizes, HHS stated that as part of its eligibility verification requirements, it verifies consumer-reported income with data from IRS. However, HHS stated that because household incomes may fluctuate year to year, it is difficult for consumers to project income for the year in advance. According to HHS, in instances where applicant-reported income is higher than the IRS data, HHS accepts the consumer attestation. However, HHS stated that it will assess the feasibility and burden on individuals of setting a reasonable threshold for the generation of annual household income inconsistencies that would require additional verification for consumer-attested income that significantly exceeds income amounts reported by IRS or other third party sources. We believe that such an evaluation is a reasonable step to address our recommendation to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the program related to verification of household income. In addition, HHS stated that it currently accepts attestation when the family size provided by the individual does not match IRS's records. HHS stated that establishing a process to verify family size with IRS would require significant operational and privacy complexity. While we recognize that there may be certain complexities in the verification of family sizes, it is important that CMS develop policies and procedures to reasonably assure that such verifications are made on a regular basis.
    Recommendation: To comply with improper payments reporting requirements and improve procedures related to processing PTC information on tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to assess the program against applicable IPIA-defined thresholds and conclude on its susceptibility to significant improper payments, and revise the scope of its improper payments susceptibility assessment for the PTC program to include instances in which advance PTC is greater than or equal to the amount of PTC claimed on the tax return. If the program meets the IPIA definition for being susceptible to significant improper payments based on this assessment, estimate and report improper payments associated with the PTC program consistent with IPIA requirements.

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

    Comments: The IRS partially agreed with this recommendation. IRS stated that instances in which the advance payment of the PTC is greater than or equal to the amount of the PTC claimed on the tax return do not result in the IRS increasing the outlay related to PTC, and so by definition these occurrences are not subject to IPIA, as amended. The IRS understands and shares the concern about the misreporting of items on tax returns, including cases where the taxpayer misreports excess advance PTC, but the IRS has many compliance programs that operate outside the scope of IPIA and that address taxpayer error and noncompliance. The IRS conducted its fiscal year 2016 PTC improper payment risk assessment consistent with guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which concurred with our methodology. However, the IRS is committed to discussing with OMB a future change to the agreed-upon procedures to assessing PTC improper payments as part of our larger and ongoing discussions with OMB about the administration of refundable tax credits and the challenges of reporting those credits through the framework of improper payments legislation and guidance.
    Recommendation: To comply with improper payments reporting requirements and improve procedures related to processing PTC information on tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to assess and document the feasibility of approaches for incorporating information from the marketplaces on individuals who did not demonstrate that they met the eligibility requirements for citizenship or lawful presence in the tax compliance process. If determined feasible, IRS should work with Treasury to require marketplaces to periodically provide such information on individuals and use such information to recover advance PTC made for those individuals.

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

    Comments: The IRS agreed with this recommendation. IRS stated that it will evaluate the feasibility of receiving information from the marketplaces, and the value of using that information in its processes. If IRS determines that obtaining the data would be feasible and using it would be cost-effective, IRS will consult with Treasury on regulations or other guidance needed to obtain the information. Although eligibility determinations for the advance PTC are made outside the IRS's purview, the IRS has taken steps to ensure that the PTC is administered fairly and properly. For example, IRS has updated guidance in Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit, to clarify that any advance payment of the PTC made on behalf of individuals who did not meet the citizenship or lawful presence requirements must be repaid in full. Taxpayers are required to report the excess advance PTC on their tax returns. If they do not, IRS will address it through post-filing compliance. We will request and review supporting documentation for IRS's reported actions.
    Recommendation: To comply with improper payments reporting requirements and improve procedures related to processing PTC information on tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to assess whether IRS should require its examiners to verify health care coverage of individuals to determine eligibility for PTC. To do this, IRS should complete its evaluation of the level of noncompliance related to duplicate health insurance coverage. Based on this evaluation and if cost effective, IRS should design and implement formal policies and procedures to routinely identify individuals inappropriately receiving PTC because of their eligibility for or enrollment in health care programs outside of the marketplaces and notify such individuals of their ineligibility for PTC.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed with this recommendation. IRS stated that it developed an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Compliance Strategy in October 2016, which included post-filing checks for the PTC. The IRS must rely upon post refund checks to verify if taxpayers had other healthcare coverage and therefore were not eligible to claim the PTC. For tax year 2017 the IRS plans to implement additional capabilities to evaluate coverage. The IRS will continue to evaluate the results and design and implement cost effective policies and procedures that routinely identify individuals inappropriately receiving PTC, as warranted.
    Recommendation: To comply with improper payments reporting requirements and improve procedures related to processing PTC information on tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to design and implement procedures in the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) for examiners in the post-filing compliance units to review tax returns for health insurance coverage for the entire year, and to identify and assess individual shared responsibility payments (SRP) from those who are not appropriately reporting SRPs on their tax returns.

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

    Comments: IRS disagreed with this recommendation. However, IRS stated that, among other things, it has drafted a new IRM section for examiners who are responsible for reviewing tax returns to determine whether health insurance is reflected for the taxpayer for the entire year, and for identifying and assessing SRP on taxpayers who are not appropriately reporting SRP on their tax returns. IRS stated that the IRM section is pending approval by Exam Policy. Although IRS stated that it disagreed with our recommendation, we believe that the actions that IRS described in its response to our draft report would sufficiently address our recommendation if implemented effectively.
    Recommendation: To comply with improper payments reporting requirements and improve procedures related to processing PTC information on tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to design and implement procedures in the IRM to regularly notify nonfilers of the requirement to file tax returns in order to continue to receive advance PTC in the future.

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

    Comments: The IRS partially agreed with this recommendation. IRS stated that using a research-based approach to evaluate the 2015 tax filing season, it developed a post-compliance process for sending notices to individuals who received advance PTC paid on their behalf in the previous calendar year but failed to file a tax return and also to those who requested an extension to file. IRS stated that being flexible in its approach has allowed IRS to refine the process to improve efficiency and effectiveness. IRS further stated that based on the 2017 research analysis, IRS will determine whether the information should be included in an existing IRM. We agree that IRS should review its process to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations. However, we continue to believe that designing and implementing procedures to regularly notify non-filers of the need to file to continue receiving advance PTC decreases the risk that the ad hoc notification process will not be followed consistently in each filing season.
    Director: Krause, Heather M
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the contributions of tax expenditures toward the achievement of agency goals are identified and measured, the Director of OMB, in collaboration with the Secretary of the Treasury, should work with agencies to identify which tax expenditures contribute to their agency goals, as appropriate--that is, they should identify which specific tax expenditures contribute to specific strategic objectives and agency priority goals.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In July 2017, OMB staff said that although they still agreed with our recommendation, it was not an effort they were pursuing due to competing priorities, as well as capacity and resource constraints.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to, building on current efforts, develop a comprehensive operational strategy that includes all the RTCs for which RCPPM is responsible. The strategy could include use of error rates and amounts, evaluation and guidance on the proper use of indicators like no-change and default rates, and guidance on how to weigh trade-offs between equity and return on investment in resource allocations.

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

    Comments: As of February 2017, IRS is taking steps toward developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes the three refundable tax credits GAO reviewed, as well as the PTC. These steps include initial planning meetings with Lean Six Sigma consultants and refundable credit policy and program managers and soliciting volunteers for the teams needed to develop the strategy. GAO will continue to monitor the progress of this effort.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to assess whether the data received from the Department of Education's Postsecondary Education Participants System (PEPS) database (a) are sufficiently complete and accurate to reliably correct tax returns at filing and (b) provide additional information that could be used to identify returns for examination; if warranted by this research, IRS should use this information to seek legislative authority to correct tax returns at filing based on PEPS data.

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

    Comments: In February 2016, Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management asked Wage & Investment Strategy & Solutions (WISS) to test the Department of Education's Postsecondary Education Participants System database (PEPS) to match and validate the EINS reported on Form 8863, Education Credits. According to IRS, preliminary assessment of the PEPS database indicates that it is not a sufficiently complete database to confirm AOTC eligibility during return processing or post processing. GAO reviewed the study results and submitted several follow-up questions to IRS in May 2017. GAO followed-up with IRS on the status of that information request in June 2017.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to take necessary steps to ensure the reliability of collections data and periodically review that data to (a) compute a collections rate for post-refund enforcement activities and (b) determine what additional analyses would provide useful information about compliance results and costs of post-refund audits and document-matching reviews.

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

    Comments: IRS raised concerns about the cost of studying collections data for post-refund enforcement activities. GAO recognizes that gathering collections data has costs. However, a significant amount of enforcement activity is occurring after refunds have been paid, and use of these data could better inform resource allocation decisions and improve the overall efficiency of enforcement efforts.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to, as RCPPM begins efforts to track the number of erroneous returns claiming the ACTC or AOTC identified through pre-refund enforcement activities, such as screening filters and use of math error authority, it should develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze these data that includes such characteristics as identifying timing goals, resource requirements, and the appropriate methodologies for analyzing and applying the data to compliance issues.

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

    Comments: As of February 2017, IRS is taking steps toward developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes the three refundable tax credits GAO reviewed, as well as the PTC. These steps include initial planning meetings with Lean Six Sigma consultants and refundable credit policy and program managers and soliciting volunteers for the teams needed to develop the strategy. GAO will continue to monitor the progress of this effort.
    Director: Daniel Garcia-Diaz
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To receive more consistent information on LIHTC noncompliance, the IRS Commissioner should collaborate with the allocating agencies to clarify when allocating agencies should report such information on the Form 8823 (report of noncompliance or building disposition). The IRS Commissioner should collaborate with the Department of the Treasury in drafting such clarifications to help ensure that any new guidance is consistent with Treasury regulations.

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

    Comments: In August 2016, IRS stated it would review the Form 8823 Audit Technique Guide to determine whether additional guidance and clarification were needed for allocating agencies to report noncompliance information on the form. If published legal guidance is required, IRS stated that it will submit a proposal for such guidance for prioritization. IRS indicated an expected implementation date by November 2017. In addition, in March 2017, officials stated that IRS Counsel attended an industry conference with allocating agencies at which issues related to the Form 8823 were discussed. We will continue to monitor IRS's progress in implementing our recommendation to clarify when allocating agencies should report noncompliance.
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's processes for identifying the most significant noncompliance issues, the IRS Commissioner should evaluate how IRS could use HUD's Real Estate Assessment Center databases, including how the information might be used to reassess reporting categories on the Form 8823 and to reassess which categories of noncompliance information have to be reviewed for audit potential.

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

    Comments: IRS officials stated that since HUD's database with property inspection data was not complete as of March 2017 and contained data from 30 states, it was unclear how the database could be used. IRS officials said they would continue exploring the HUD database if the data for all LIHTC properties were included and it was possible to isolate the LIHTC property data from other rental properties in the HUD database. We will continue to monitor IRS's progress in evaluating the use of HUD's database for reporting information on noncompliance.
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase the transparency to Congress about the total amount of funds agencies have available in a given year, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should identify and publicly report the total amount of actual budget authority government-wide that is temporarily sequestered and "pops up," or becomes available again to agencies for obligation in the subsequent fiscal year.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OMB staff told us they will consider additional options for reporting a government-wide total amount of actual budget authority that is temporarily sequestered during preparation of the full 2018 President's Budget.
    Recommendation: To promote further transparency in measuring the federal government's progress against deficit reduction targets required under current law, the Director of the Office of Management of Budget should identify and publicly report the total amount of actual reductions in budget authority government-wide each year as a result of sequestration or the reduction of discretionary spending limits under BBEDCA.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OMB staff maintained their position of disagreement with this recommendation as summarized in our April 2016 report.
    Director: Seto J. Bagdoyan
    Phone: (202) 512-6722

    8 open recommendations
    including 8 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study on actions that CMS can take to monitor and analyze, both quantitatively and qualitatively, the extent to which data hub queries provide requested or relevant applicant verification information, for the purpose of improving the data-matching process and reducing the number of applicant inconsistencies; and for those actions identified as feasible, create a written plan and schedule for implementing them.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported that it considered this recommendation open and it was reviewing options for conducting a feasibility study to monitor and analyze information received from the Hub as recommended. HHS plans to examine the hub process in delivering usable information for applicant verification and analyzing data to identify trends or patterns that could suggest improvements in verification or actions that could reduce the number of inconsistencies that require further attention. HHS reported that this effort began March 2016. In March 2017, the agency said it is making significant progress towards implementing the recommendation. We will continue to monitor HHS's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to track the value of advance premium tax credit and cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies that are terminated or adjusted for failure to resolve application inconsistencies, and use this information to inform assessments of program risk and performance. (See related recommendation 7.)

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported it considers this recommendation closed because it expanded the use of analytics to analyze the value of premium tax credit and CSR subsidies that are eliminated or adjusted for 2015 actions at the policy level, and that CMS continues to analyze the data to develop future operations changes. In May 2016, we requested documentation of these actions, including (1) information produced using the capability described; (2) ways in which this information is being used for analysis for purposes such as program operations, monitoring, risk assessment, or fraud cleaning; and (3) a description of the future operational changes contemplated based on the analyses done. Once received, we will review to determine whether the efforts taken warrant closing the recommendation. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to, in the case of CSR subsidies that are terminated or adjusted for failure to resolve application inconsistencies, consider and document, in conjunction with other agencies as relevant, whether it would be feasible to create a mechanism to recapture those costs, including whether additional statutory authority would be required to do so; and for actions determined to be feasible and reasonable, create a written plan and schedule for implementing them.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported it considers this recommendation closed because CMS has considered whether it would be feasible to create a mechanism to recapture CSRs and determined that this is not possible under the current statute. HHS also noted that as currently written, the statute does not provide this authority and to pursue developing a mechanism to do so would require Congress to change the statute. In May 2016, we agreed to consider the recommendation closed upon HHS advising us if it made any review or inquiry into the feasibility of recapture apart from statutory authority and providing documentation of such consideration so that we have a full record of the agency's consideration prior to closing the recommendation. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to identify and implement procedures to resolve Social Security number inconsistencies where the Marketplace is unable to verify Social Security numbers or applicants do not provide them.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported that it considered this recommendation open and was working on implementing functionality for updating consumers' Social Security numbers (SSN) and their eligibility based on the correct SSN. HHS reported that is it targeting deployment of the SSN update functionality in 2017. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to reevaluate CMS's use of Prisoner Update Processing System (PUPS) incarceration data and make a determination to either (a) use the PUPS data, among other things, as an indicator of further research required in individual cases, and to develop an effective process to clear incarceration inconsistencies or terminate coverage, or (b) if no suitable process can be identified to verify incarceration status, accept applicant attestation on status in all cases, unless the attestation is not reasonably compatible with other information that may indicate incarceration, and forego the inconsistency process.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported it considers this recommendation closed because in 2015, it made the determination to no longer require application filers to submit documentation regarding incarceration status. We were aware of that determination, but the recommendation was to reevaluate use of PUPS from the specific standpoint of using the data as it was intended to be used as in indicator of further research and then draw a conclusion on the use of the data. In May 2016, we requested documentation demonstrating that in the period since we made this recommendation, CMS has undertaken the reevaluation in the fashion that we indicated. Once received, we will review to determine whether the efforts taken warrant closing the recommendation. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to create a written plan and schedule for providing Marketplace call center representatives with access to information on the current status of eligibility documents submitted to CMS's documents processing contractor.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported it considers this recommendation closed because since May 2015, call center representatives have received daily updates on the status of eligibility documentation. It is working to provide call center representatives with real-time data that is tentatively scheduled for later in 2016. In May 2016, we noted that our recommendation was focused on providing such real-time capability and requested (1) confirmation that call center representatives currently have on-demand, real-time access to up-to-date, application-level document status; and documentation showing development and implementation of this capability; or (2) a written plan and schedule for providing this capability as recommended. Once received, we will review to determine whether the efforts taken warrant closing the recommendation. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to conduct a fraud risk assessment, consistent with best practices provided in GAO's framework for managing fraud risks in federal programs, of the potential for fraud in the process of applying for qualified health plans through the federal Marketplace.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported that it considered this recommendation open. It noted that CMS has launched a Marketplace Integrated Project Team (IPT) through the Program Integrity Board, which includes senior staff from across CMS. An objective of the IPT is to complete the fraud risk assessment of Marketplace eligibility and enrollment based on GAO's Fraud Risk Framework, as required by the recommendation. HHS said the first three steps of GAO's framework for this part were to be completed by early summer. Once HHS has completed all relevant steps of the framework, and the agency has fully documented its implementation efforts-including discussion of any items contemplated by the framework that HHS elected not to follow-we will review to determine whether the efforts taken warrant closing the recommendation. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To better oversee the efficacy of PPACA's enrollment control process; to better monitor costs, risk, and program performance; to assist with tax compliance; to strengthen the eligibility determination process; to provide applicants with improved customer service and up-to-date information about submission of eligibility documentation; and to better document agency activities, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Acting Administrator of CMS to fully document prior to implementation, and have readily available for inspection thereafter, any significant decision on qualified health plan enrollment and eligibility matters, with such documentation to include details such as policy objectives, supporting analysis, scope, and expected costs and effects.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2016, HHS reported it considers this recommendation closed because CMS prepares an annual Marketplace and Related Programs Cycle Memo to fulfill reporting requirements for internal control. The Memo describes all significant eligibility and enrollment policy and process changes, including new internal key controls associated with these changes, and the 2015 Memo was released in September 2015. In May 2016, we notified HHS that its actions do not close the recommendation. Information contained in the Memos is after-the-fact and while useful, does not meet the full range of documentation contemplated by our recommendation, especially development and analysis of changes prior to implementation. In March 2017, HHS provided us information on their response to this and other recommendations from this report. However, HHS has not provided sufficient documentation to show that they have implemented this recommendation. We will continue to monitor the agency's progress in this area.
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly define and document: (1) key terms such as "fairness"; and (2) W&I program level objectives, performance measures, and indicators for audit selection to evaluate whether the audit selection process is meeting its mission of applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS told us its definitions of fairness were documented in a policy statement and reflected in the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights. IRS said it agrees with the value of incorporating these definitions into its guidance for examiners and that it was taking appropriate action to do so. In addition, IRS said guiding principles for ensuring fairness in tax return examinations had been communicated from the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement to all Service and Enforcement employees. However, IRS did not provide documentation of this communication. IRS said it will use its definition as the basis of guidance to be incorporated into the Internal Revenue Manual to ensure the audit process supports IRS's mission of applying the tax law with integrity and fairness. IRS did not indicate how it would develop program-level objectives for W&I, as we recommended. Additionally, IRS said many of its existing performance measures provide key indicators and insights as to program performance with respect to fairness, such as the rate of examinations resulting in changes proposed to the reported tax, cycle time for the examination, and yield from the examination. However, as we noted in our December 2015 report, these performance measures focus on audit results rather than audit selection and W&I has not created indicators to evaluate what no-change rate is good or bad, or what rate would indicate fair selections. We will continue to monitor IRS's actions, including reviewing any supporting documentation the agency provides, to determine whether its actions address our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly communicate these terms, objectives, measures, and indicators to all staff involved in the selection of returns for audit.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it was writing expectations about the definition of fairness that would be communicated at the beginning of each annual audit selection planning meeting. IRS told us it plans to implement this in July 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should incorporate the new objective(s) into W&I risk assessments done for audit selection processes.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it would follow the risk process to officially report any risks associated with the outlined expectations identified during the review of the program level objectives, performance measures and indicators for audit selection. This recommendation will remain open until W&I develops program-level objectives--which would be related to its definition of fairness--and incorporates them into risk assessments for the audit selection process. IRS indicated it would implement our recommendation by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that internal control responsibilities are communicated and documented for all employees, including non-managers, tasked with revising or applying W&I audit selection criteria for potential audits.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said that by July 2017, internal control information would be provided in the expectation document provided to each member of the annual audit selection planning meeting and that receipt would be documented.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and implement procedures to ensure that all criteria or methods used in programs to select returns for audit are consistently documented and approved.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said procedures are in place to document and approve the criteria and methods used in the return selection program. It said it would review these procedures to ensure all criteria or methods used are consistently documented and approved by August 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and document a clear means for IRS staff members to promptly elevate to top management possible internal control issues related to audit selection in a timely manner.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it would expand existing feedback mechanisms to specifically cover the audit selection process by July 2017. It is unclear what specific actions IRS plans to take to address the issues we reported in December 2015. For example, we found that the Internal Revenue Manual does not specify how non-managers should report a significant deficiency (such as a problem in the design or operation of an internal control) to the next level of management or that it should be reported in a timely manner. In addition, we reported that the form that W&I staff would use to report such deficiencies in the automated filters used for return selection does not include space for reporting internal control deficiencies that do not have a proposed solution. The form also states that the reason for modification should be self-explanatory, which may not appropriately highlight the deficiency the modification seeks to address.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop, document, and implement additional monitoring procedures to ensure audit selection controls and corrective actions are implemented in a timely manner.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it has modified Form 14747, Workload Identification Change Request Modification Approval, to document the request and approval for all changes to workload selection tools. Additionally, IRS said it now requires staff to follow the Unified Work Request process to request revisions/additions to certain audit selection rules. The work requests are documented in a database and require different levels of executive review and approval. IRS said the process has strict time frames outlining required submission dates to be followed for changes for the upcoming filing season. IRS also is developing a new section of the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) to document all of the workload selection methods and to change and outline required approval processes used to revise/add selection criteria for correspondence audits -- including the Form 14747 procedures. IRS did not provide a timeframe when this new IRM section would be published.
    Director: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To build upon the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Rental Policy Working Group's efforts to improve coordination of rental assistance, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in consultation with the Rental Policy Working Group, should work with states and localities to develop an approach for compiling and reporting on the collective performance of federal, state, and local rental assistance programs. Such an effort may begin with one or more pilots to test approaches before they are considered for wider application.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In July 2017, a HUD official said HUD is still working to respond to the GAO recommendation. He said HUD is currently in the planning stages for updating the existing "Picture of Subsidized Housing" database to add the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and HOME programs and that including LIHTC and HOME will give a more complete picture of governmental assistance since LIHTC is often combined with other subsidies and HOME funds are often put into state housing trust funds and issued together with funding from state revenue sources.
    Director: Daniel Garcia-Diaz
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better align program goals with agency missions and improve program administration and oversight, Congress should consider designating the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a joint administrator of the program responsible for oversight. As part of the deliberation, Congress also should direct HUD to estimate the costs to monitor and perform the additional oversight responsibilities, including a discussion of funding options.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to give HUD an oversight role for LIHTC.
    Recommendation: To improve the utility of the credit allocation information contained in IRS's database, IRS should address weaknesses identified in data entry and programming controls to ensure reliable data are collected.

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

    Comments: IRS acknowledged the need for improvements in its controls and procedures (including data entry and quality reviews). IRS officials agreed that these problems should be corrected and data quality reviews should be conducted on an ongoing basis. As of March 2017, in response to our recommendation, IRS officials said that they had explored possibilities to improve the database, which not only houses credit allocation information, but also data from noncompliance and building disposition forms. Specifically, IRS is working to move the database to a new and updated server, which will address weaknesses identified in data entry and programming controls. IRS expects to complete the data migration step by early fall of 2017. Until IRS implements its plan to improve the data, this recommendation will remain open.
    Director: Frank Rusco
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: If Congress wishes to evaluate the effectiveness of the ITC and the PTC as incentives for the development of renewable utility-scale electricity generation projects as it considers proposals to extend the ITC or reauthorize the PTC, it should consider directing the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to provide Congress with project-level data currently collected from taxpayers who claim the ITC in lieu of the PTC--such as the number of projects for which they are claiming the credit, the technology of the projects taking the credit, and the total generating capacity added--and make such data available for analysis. Additionally, take steps to collect and report the same data from all taxpayers claiming the ITC.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not taken action on this matter.
    Recommendation: If Congress wishes to evaluate the effectiveness of the ITC and the PTC as incentives for the development of renewable utility-scale electricity generation projects as it considers proposals to extend the ITC or reauthorize the PTC, it should consider directing the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to take steps to collect project-level data from taxpayers claiming the PTC--such as the number of projects for which they are claiming the credit, the technology of the projects taking the credit, and the total generating capacity--and make these data available for analysis.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not taken action on this matter.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    3 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should issue guidance on how funding or assistance from other government programs can be combined with the NMTC including the extent to which other government funds can be used to leverage the NMTC by being included in the qualified equity investment.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Although the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) has not issued guidance on how funding or assistance from other government programs can be combined with the NMTC, as GAO recommended in July 2014, it has taken steps toward addressing this action. Specifically, the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund), which administers the NMTC program, awarded a contract in September 2015 for new empirical research assessing the extent to which other government programs are being used to leverage the NMTC. CDFI officials have said that this research would help examine the various types of public support used for community development projects and assess the depth of the subsidy necessary to mitigate risk and attract new private capital to businesses located in low-income communities. As of October 2016, CDFI officials anticipate that the contract should be completed in March 2017.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should ensure that controls are in place to limit the risk of unnecessary duplication at the project level in funding or assistance from government programs and to limit above market rates of return, i.e., returns that are not commensurate with the NMTC investor's risk.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund), which administers the NMTC program, has developed a plan to issue guidance to help ensure that Community Development Entities (CDE) accurately report on sources of public funds and projected internal rates of return, as GAO recommended in July 2014. In January 2016, the CDFI Fund released updated guidance that explains in more detail how CDEs should report data on the use of other public sources in financing NMTC projects. This guidance should help ensure that CDEs accurately report on sources of public funds. As of October 2016, CDFI Fund officials are also evaluating changes to guidance on how CDEs are to report different project rates of return. The CDFI Fund awarded a contract in September 2015 for new empirical research assessing the extent to which other government programs are being used to leverage the NMTC. According to CDFI officials, this research will help them to examine the various types of public support used for community development projects and assess the depth of the subsidy necessary to mitigate risk and attract new private capital to low-income communities.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should ensure that the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund reviews the disclosure sheet that CDEs are required to provide to low-income community businesses to determine whether it contains data that could be useful for the Fund to retain.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) reported that as of September 2016, the CDFI Fund had reviewed the CDE disclosure sheets provided to low-income community businesses, as GAO recommended in July 2014, and determined that useful data from the sheets were already being collected through other data-gathering tools used by the Fund. In January 2016, CDFI officials reported that they did an initial comparison of the data on the disclosure sheets to the data in the Community Investment Impact System (CIIS)which is the system CDEs use to submit reports to CDFI. Officials said they were continuing to investigate any differences between the disclosure sheets and CIIS. Officials also said that they are performing additional analysis on any new data reporting requirements to meet the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, which aims to minimize the burden that agency data collections impose on the public.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: If Congress agrees that significant paid preparer errors exist, it should consider legislation granting IRS the authority to regulate paid tax preparers.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, several bills were introduced in Congress that would authorize the Department of Treasury to regulate paid tax return preparers. As of September 2017, no action has been taken on any of the bills. GAO testified on October 1, 2015 on improper payments and the tax gap before Senate Finance and on December 10, 2015 on GAO recommendations before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, US Senate. Both hearings increased attention to GAO's matter to Congress that tax preparers be regulated. Paid preparer regulation may increase the accuracy of tax returns and potentially reduce the tax gap.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202)512-9521

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Based on a review of all existing contracts under $100,000 without an appointed COTR that should require contract employees to obtain favorable background investigation results, the Commissioner of the IRS should direct the appropriate IRS officials to amend those contracts to require that favorable background investigations be obtained for all relevant contract employees before routine, unescorted, unsupervised physical access to taxpayer information is granted.

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

    Comments: According to IRS, it has completed its contract review and made appropriate modifications as of July 2016. However, the modifications to the contracts were not made available for our review during the fiscal year 2016 audit. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the IRS should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish a policy requiring collaborative oversight between IRS's key offices in determining whether potential service contracts involve routine, unescorted, unsupervised physical access to taxpayer information, thus requiring background investigations, regardless of contract award amount. This policy should include a process for the requiring business unit to communicate to the Office of Procurement and the Human Capital Office the services to be provided under the contract and any potential exposure of taxpayer information to contract employees providing the services, and for all three units to (1) evaluate the risk of exposure of taxpayer information prior to finalizing and awarding the contract and (2) ensure that the final contract requires favorable background investigations as applicable, commensurate with the assessed risk.

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

    Comments: IRS's efforts to address this recommendation are ongoing. IRS stated that during fiscal year 2017, several internal organizations will partner to identify the remaining actions needed to address this recommendation. According to IRS, these actions include developing policies and procedures to reasonably assure that (1) oversight between IRS's key offices is conducted to determine whether potential service awards IRS enters into involve routine, unescorted, unsupervised physical access to taxpayer information by contractors, thus requiring background investigations, and (2) the resulting processes make clear who is responsible for completing the various steps, as well as who must maintain documentation of the approved access determination prior to the contractor being allowed to provide the services. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of the IRS should direct the appropriate IRS officials to revise the post orders for the service center campuses (SCC) and lockbox bank security guards to include specific procedures for timely reporting exterior lighting outages to SCC or lockbox bank facilities management. These procedures should specify (1) whom to contact to report lighting outages and (2) how to document and track lighting outages until resolved.

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

    Comments: IRS's efforts to address this recommendation are ongoing. IRS stated that during fiscal year 2017, it would update campus post orders to help ensure timely reporting, monitoring and repair of exterior lighting outages. In addition, AWSS engaged in discussions with personnel from FPS and GSA to coordinate responsibilities and suggested changes for post orders when security services are contracted by those entities. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: White, James
    Phone: (202) 512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Congress may wish to consider broadening IRS's ability to use math error authority (MEA), with appropriate safeguards against misuse of that authority.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has expanded IRS's math error authority in certain circumstances, but not as broadly as we suggested in February 2010. Congress enacted legislation in December 2015 that expands the circumstances in which IRS may use math error authority. Section 208 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) gives IRS the authority to use math error authority if (1) a taxpayer claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) during the period in which a taxpayer is not permitted to claim such credit as a consequence of either having made a prior fraudulent or reckless claim; or (2) a taxpayer omitted information required to be reported because the taxpayer made prior improper claims of the Child Tax Credit or the AOTC. While expanding math error authority is consistent with what we recommended Congress consider, we had suggested that math error authority be authorized on a broader basis with appropriate controls rather than on a piecemeal basis. Our previous work has identified additional tax provisions for which expanded math error authority would be helpful, such as the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, Individual Retirement Accounts, and Residential Energy Property Credit. While Congress expanded math error authority for the First-Time Homebuyer Credit in November 2009 and for other individual credits as previously described, we maintain that a broader authorization of math error authority with appropriate controls would enable IRS to correct obvious noncompliance, would be less intrusive and burdensome to taxpayers than audits, and would potentially help taxpayers who underclaim tax benefits to which they are entitled. If Congress decides to extend broader math error authority to IRS, controls may be needed to ensure that this authority is used properly. Our prior work identified potential controls, such as requiring IRS to report on its use of math error authority. The administration also requested that Congress grant the Department of the Treasury regulatory authority to expand IRS's use of math error authority as part of its budget submission for fiscal year 2017. The 114th Congress did not provide Treasury with such authority. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated this change could raise $274 million through fiscal years 2018 through 2026.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-9039

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Should the program be extended beyond 2009, to ensure that the maximum amount of capital ends up in low-income community businesses, Congress may wish to consider offering grants to CDEs that would provide the funds to low-income community businesses. If it does so, Congress may wish to require Treasury to gather appropriate data to assess whether and to what extent the grant program increases the amount of federal subsidy provided to low-income community businesses compared to the NMTC; whether the grant program otherwise affects the success of efforts to assist low-income communities; and how costs for administering the program incurred by the CDFI Fund, CDEs, and investors would change. One option may be for Congress to set aside a portion of funds to be used as grants and a portion to be used as tax credit allocation authority under the current structure of the program in a future allocation round to facilitate comparison of the two program structures.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 extended the NMTC through 2019 (Public Law 114-113). However, the act did not modify the program to include grants in lieu of credits, as GAO suggested in January 2010. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension to be approximately $2.6 billion. As of June 2017, Congress has not taken additional action that would address this matter for consideration.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202)512-6794

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To the extent that the CDBG program continues to be the primary vehicle used to provide post-disaster assistance for permanent housing, Congress may wish to consider providing more specific direction regarding the distribution of disaster-related CDBG assistance that states are to provide for homeowners and renters. If Congress wishes to change the proportion of assistance directed to homeowners and rental property owners in future recovery efforts, Congress could, for example, require states to demonstrate to HUD that they are adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters with their CDBG allocation and other resources as a condition for receiving funds. Alternatively, Congress could direct HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. Such a formula could be used by states to determine the proportions of their disaster CDBG funds that should be used for housing, specifically rental housing. Further, the formula could also reflect the anticipated production levels of other programs that provide permanent housing assistance, such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Since the Gulf Coast hurricanes, Congress appropriated CDBG Disaster Funding for subsequent disasters, including $16 billion to assist recovery in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy and other eligible events in calendar years 2011, 2012, and 2013. According to Pub. L. No. 113-2, Congress did not require states to demonstrate to HUD that they were adequately addressing the needs of both homeowners and renters. Moreover, Congress does not appear to have directed HUD to develop a formula that accounts for the housing needs of both homeowners and renters. As of January 2017, no CDBG appropriations for disaster relief have addressed this issue.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to significantly reduce the uncertainty that some taxpayers have about their ability to earn credits for their research activities, the Secretary of the Treasury should issue regulations clarifying the definition of gross receipts for purposes of computing the research credit for controlled groups of corporations.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury issued proposed regulations clarifying the definition of gross receipts on December 13, 2013 and solicited public comments. During the course of 2014 tax practitioners and business executives submitted comments criticizing the regulations and asking for them to be withdrawn. As of April 2017, Treasury has yet to issue final regulations that would include responses to these criticisms. The regulations would not become effective until tax year beginning after the date on which the regulations are published in final form.
    Recommendation: In order to significantly reduce the uncertainty that some taxpayers have about their ability to earn credits for their research activities, the Secretary of the Treasury should provide additional guidance to more clearly identify what types of activities are considered to be qualified support activities.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Treasury has not issued regulations to clarify what types of activities are considered to be qualified support activities.
    Recommendation: In order to significantly reduce the uncertainty that some taxpayers have about their ability to earn credits for their research activities, the Secretary of the Treasury should provide additional guidance to more clearly identify when commercial production of a qualified product is deemed to begin.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Treasury has not issued regulations to more clearly identify when commercial production of a qualified product is deemed to begin.
    Recommendation: In order to reduce economic inefficiencies and excessive revenue costs resulting from inaccuracies in the base of the research tax credit, Congress should consider eliminating the regular credit option for computing the research credit.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to eliminate the regular computation option for the research tax credit or add a minimum base to the ASC option, as GAO suggested in November 2009. Section 121 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 made permanent the research tax credit (Public Law 114-113). The credit designed to encourage business innovation by providing a subsidy to new research has historically been a temporary provision. However, neither this act nor other enacted legislation has adopted GAO's suggested change to the research tax credit's design. Continued use of the regular computation credit option, which arbitrarily distributes subsidies across taxpayers, can distort investment decisions so that research spending and economic activity are not allocated to sectors that offer the highest returns to society. These misallocations may reduce economic efficiency and, thereby, diminish any economic benefits of the credit.
    Recommendation: In order to reduce economic inefficiencies and excessive revenue costs resulting from inaccuracies in the base of the research tax credit, Congress should consider adding a minimum base to the ASC that equals 50 percent of the taxpayer's current-year qualified research expenses.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to eliminate the regular computation option for the research tax credit or add a minimum base to the ASC option, as GAO suggested in November 2009. Section 121 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 made permanent the research tax credit (Public Law 114-113). The credit designed to encourage business innovation by providing a subsidy to new research has historically been a temporary provision. However, neither this act nor other enacted legislation has adopted GAO's suggested change to the research tax credit's design. Continued use of the regular computation credit option, which arbitrarily distributes subsidies across taxpayers, can distort investment decisions so that research spending and economic activity are not allocated to sectors that offer the highest returns to society. These misallocations may reduce economic efficiency and, thereby, diminish any economic benefits of the credit.
    Recommendation: If Congress nevertheless wishes to continue offering the regular research credit to taxpayers, it may wish to consider reducing inaccuracies in the credit's base and to reduce taxpayers' uncertainty and compliance costs and IRS's administrative costs by updating the historical base period that regular credit claimants use to compute their fixed base percentages.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken by Congress as of February 2017 to update the historical base period that regular credit claimants use to compute their fixed base percentages.
    Recommendation: If Congress nevertheless wishes to continue offering the regular research credit to taxpayers, it may wish to consider reducing inaccuracies in the credit's base and to reduce taxpayers' uncertainty and compliance costs and IRS's administrative costs by eliminating base period recordkeeping requirements for taxpayers that elect to use a fixed base percentage of 16 percent in their computation of the credit.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken by Congress as of February 2017 to eliminate base period recordkeeping requirements for taxpayers that elect to use a fixed base percentage of 16 percent in their computation of the credit.
    Recommendation: If Congress nevertheless wishes to continue offering the regular research credit to taxpayers, it may wish to consider reducing inaccuracies in the credit's base and to reduce taxpayers' uncertainty and compliance costs and IRS's administrative costs by clarifying for Treasury its intent regarding the definition of gross receipts for purposes of computing the research credit for controlled groups of corporations. In particular it may want to consider clarifying that the regulations generally excluding transfers between members of controlled groups apply to both gross receipts and QREs and specifically clarifying how it intended sales by domestic members to foreign members to be treated. Such clarification would help to resolve open controversies relating to past claims, even if the regular credit were discontinued for future years.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken by Congress as of February 2017 to clarify for Treasury its intent regarding the definition of gross receipts for purposes of computing the research credit for controlled groups of corporations. In particular, it may want to consider clarifying that the regulations generally excluding transfers between members of controlled groups apply to both gross receipts and QREs and specifically clarifying how it intended sales by domestic members to foreign members to be treated. Such clarification would help to resolve open controversies relating to past claims, even if the regular credit were discontinued for future years.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    5 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should resume presenting tax expenditures in the budget together with related outlay programs to show a truer picture of the federal support within a mission area.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken. OMB had not presented tax expenditures in the budget together with the related outlay programs in the fiscal year 2018 budget released in May 2017. OMB did not agree that GAO's September 2005 recommendation is necessary and stated that presenting information on tax expenditures together with related outlay programs is not useful for budgeting and that such a presentation is not part of the congressional budget process. However, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires a list of tax expenditures, including special tax credits, deductions, exclusions, exemptions, deferrals, and preferential tax rates. Whereas OMB favors reporting tax expenditures separately from the rest of the budget, GAO has reported that an integrated presentation is also useful to show the relative magnitude of tax expenditures compared to spending and credit programs across mission areas. OMB previously presented tax expenditure sums alongside outlays and credit activity for each budget function in the federal budget from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2002, but discontinued the practice. Tax expenditures resulted in $1.4 trillion in forgone revenue in fiscal year 2016, more than the discretionary spending level that year.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should require that tax expenditures be included in the PART process and any future such budget and performance review processes so that tax expenditures are considered along with related outlay programs in determining the adequacy of federal efforts to achieve national objectives.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: OMB made some progress in including tax expenditures along with related outlay programs in the executive branch's budget and performance review processes, as GAO recommended in September 2005, but as of July 2017, OMB had not developed a systematic approach for conducting such reviews. The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that the administration would work toward examining the objectives and effects of the wide range of tax expenditures in the budget. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires OMB and the agencies to identify the relevant tax expenditures that contribute to each crosscutting priority goal. Beginning with its August 2012 update to Circular No. A-11 with guidance for implementing GPRAMA and continuing in subsequent annual updates, OMB has directed agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to each of their agency priority goals. Beginning with the July 2013 update, OMB expanded its guidance to include identifying these contributions to agency strategic objectives. In both its July 2013 and July 2014 guidance, OMB stated that it planned to work with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and agencies to facilitate alignment of tax expenditure information with agency priority goals and strategic objectives. However, in its June 2015 update of this guidance, OMB removed the language about working with Treasury and agencies to align tax expenditures with agency goals. OMB staff told GAO in July 2017 that it was not an effort they were pursuing due to competing priorities, as well as capacity and resource constraints. OMB's July 2017 guidance still requires agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to their agency priority goals and strategic objectives.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should develop and implement a framework for conducting performance reviews of tax expenditures. In developing the framework, the Director should (1) determine which agencies will have leadership responsibilities to review tax expenditures, how reviews will be coordinated among agencies with related responsibilities, and how to address the lack of credible performance information on tax expenditures; (2) set a schedule for conducting tax expenditure evaluations; (3) re-establish appropriate methods to test the overall evaluation framework and make improvements as experience is gained; and (4) to identify any additional resources that may be needed for tax expenditure reviews.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: No executive action taken. As of the last President's budget released in May 2017, the Director of OMB had not developed a framework for reviewing tax expenditure performance, as GAO recommended in June 1994 and again in September 2005. Since their initial efforts in 1997 and 1999 to outline a framework for evaluating tax expenditures and preliminary performance measures, OMB and the Department of the Treasury have ceased to make progress and retreated from setting a schedule for evaluating tax expenditures.The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that developing an evaluation framework is a significant challenge due to limited data availability and analytical constraints of isolating the effect of any single program. The administration planned to focus on addressing some of these challenges so it can work toward crosscutting analyses that examine tax expenditures alongside related spending programs. However, OMB and Treasury have not reported on progress on this recommendation since the President's fiscal year 2012 budget.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should develop and implement a framework for conducting performance reviews of tax expenditures. In developing the framework, the Director should (1) determine which agencies will have leadership responsibilities to review tax expenditures, how reviews will be coordinated among agencies with related responsibilities, and how to address the lack of credible performance information on tax expenditures; (2) set a schedule for conducting tax expenditure evaluations; (3) re-establish appropriate methods to test the overall evaluation framework and make improvements as experience is gained; and (4) to identify any additional resources that may be needed for tax expenditure reviews.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: No executive action taken. As of the last President's budget released in May 2017, the Director of OMB had not developed a framework for reviewing tax expenditure performance, as GAO recommended in June 1994 and again in September 2005. Since their initial efforts in 1997 and 1999 to outline a framework for evaluating tax expenditures and preliminary performance measures, OMB and the Department of the Treasury have ceased to make progress and retreated from setting a schedule for evaluating tax expenditures. The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that developing an evaluation framework is a significant challenge due to limited data availability and analytical constraints of isolating the effect of any single program. The administration planned to focus on addressing some of these challenges so it can work toward crosscutting analyses that examine tax expenditures alongside related spending programs. However, OMB and Treasury have not reported on progress on this recommendation since the President's fiscal year 2012 budget.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should require that tax expenditures be included in the PART process and any future such budget and performance review processes so that tax expenditures are considered along with related outlay programs in determining the adequacy of federal efforts to achieve national objectives.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2005, the Department of the Treasury responded that this recommendation did not relate to Treasury. OMB made some progress in including tax expenditures along with related outlay programs in the executive branch's budget and performance review processes, as GAO recommended in September 2005, but as of July 2017, OMB had not developed a systematic approach for conducting such reviews. The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that the administration would work toward examining the objectives and effects of the wide range of tax expenditures in the budget. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires OMB and the agencies to identify the relevant tax expenditures that contribute to each crosscutting priority goal. Beginning with its August 2012 update to Circular No. A-11 with guidance for implementing GPRAMA and continuing in subsequent annual updates, OMB has directed agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to each of their agency priority goals. Beginning with the July 2013 update, OMB expanded its guidance to include identifying these contributions to agency strategic objectives. In both its July 2013 and July 2014 guidance, OMB stated that it planned to work with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and agencies to facilitate alignment of tax expenditure information with agency priority goals and strategic objectives. However, in its June 2015 update of this guidance, OMB removed the language about working with Treasury and agencies to align tax expenditures with agency goals. OMB staff told GAO in July 2017 that it was not an effort they were pursuing due to competing priorities, as well as capacity and resource constraints. OMB's July 2017 guidance still requires agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to their agency priority goals and strategic objectives.