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    Subject Term: "Tax deductions"

    4 publications with a total of 7 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Charles A. Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address the legal uncertainty stemming from ERISA preemption of state laws while maintaining the advantages of ERISA for both employers and workers, Congress should consider providing states limited flexibility to pursue efforts to increase coverage under workplace retirement savings programs. To do this, Congress could, for example, direct or authorize the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, to (1) promulgate regulations prescribing a limited safe harbor under which state workplace retirement savings programs with sufficient safeguards would not be preempted and would receive tax treatment comparable to that provided to private sector workplace retirement savings programs, or (2) create a pilot program under which DOL could select a limited number of states to establish workplace retirement savings programs subject to DOL and Treasury oversight. In either case, any such initiative should ensure that state programs include adequate participant protections and are subject to agency oversight, appropriate reporting requirements, and meaningful evaluation.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken to date.
    Recommendation: To facilitate state efforts to expand coverage in workplace retirement savings programs, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury should consider their authority and review and revise, if necessary, existing regulations and guidance causing uncertainty for state efforts. For example, the Secretary of Labor could direct the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) Assistant Secretary to revise Interpretive Bulletin 99-1 to clarify whether states can offer payroll deduction Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and, if so, whether features in relevant enacted state legislation--such as automatic enrollment and/or a requirement that employers offer a payroll deduction--would cause these programs to be treated as employee benefit plans.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation. To address uncertainty facing state efforts, EBSA is initiating a regulatory agenda entitled ?Saving Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees,? which will appear in the Fall 2015 Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda. On November 18, 2015, DOL published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on state payroll deduction IRA programs. Under the proposed rule, employers complying with the state law requirements would not create a retirement plan subject to ERISA as long as the state and the employer follows certain rules. They also also published a companion Interpretive Bulletin on the same day that describes ways in which states can promote the creation of ERISA-covered plans, fully subject to ERISA?s rules and protections, without triggering ERISA preemption. The public comment period for the proposed rule closed on January 19, 2016. EBSA is evaluating the 67 public comments submitted (and posted on EBSA?s website) and working towards drafting and clearance of a final rule. EBSA has also been providing technical assistance to several states and other jurisdictions about the Interpretive Bulletin. The Administration?s 2017 Budget also included legislative proposals for piloting innovative, more portable approaches to provide retirement and other employment-based benefits.
    Recommendation: To facilitate state efforts to expand coverage in workplace retirement savings programs, the Secretary of Labor and Secretary of the Treasury should consider their authority and review and revise, if necessary, existing regulations and guidance causing uncertainty for state efforts. For example, the Secretary of Labor could direct the Employee Benefits Security Administration's (EBSA) Assistant Secretary to revise Interpretive Bulletin 99-1 to clarify whether states can offer payroll deduction Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and, if so, whether features in relevant enacted state legislation--such as automatic enrollment and/or a requirement that employers offer a payroll deduction--would cause these programs to be treated as employee benefit plans.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of the Treasury generally agreed with this recommendation and did not provide additional comments on actions to address it.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider expanding the mandate for partnerships and corporations to electronically file their tax returns to cover a greater share of filed returns.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislation enacted as of March 2017. Current law requires entities that file more than 250 returns during a year or partnerships with more than 100 partners to file electronically. A bill has been introduced in Congress, S. 3178, which would gradually lower the threshold to 20 returns. Requiring greater digitization of tax return information, as GAO suggested in May 2014, would help the Internal Revenue Service identify which partnership and S corporation tax returns would be most productive to examine. Improving IRS's selection of partnership and S corporation returns to examine would also benefit compliant taxpayers whose returns may otherwise be selected for examination. Further, expanded e-filing would reduce IRS's tax return processing costs.
    Recommendation: While IRS works to improve the quality of its Schedule K-1 data, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a plan for conducting testing or other analysis to determine whether the improved Schedule K-1 data, perhaps combined with other IRS information about businesses and taxpayers, could be used more effectively to ensure compliance with the reporting of flow-through income.

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

    Comments: IRS stated that it understands the objective of this recommendation and, at such time that resources are available to enhance capabilities, it would consider the proposed methodology of advanced testing. However, based on current and anticipated budget constraints, it does not expect its plans to change in the near future.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To reduce the compliance burden on taxpayers making noncash contributions, Congress should consider raising the threshold at which taxpayers are required to have qualified appraisals for a particular contribution. Raising the threshold and giving IRS the authority to adjust this value for inflation in the future would maintain the consistent treatment of taxpayers over time.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No actions taken as of January 2017. We continue to monitor for new legislation.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To provide federal policymakers information on the relative effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures, the Secretary of Education should take advantage of opportunities presented by recent and anticipated substantive program changes to sponsor and conduct evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education (Education) has made some progress toward sponsoring and conducting evaluative research into the effectiveness of Title IV programs and higher education tax expenditures at improving student outcomes, as GAO recommended. For example, in June 2014, Education signed an agreement with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) to share data for the purpose of policy development and research. In particular, the agreement allows the agencies to coordinate their data to understand the relationship between Title IV student aid and tax benefits, and to model the effects of potential policy changes. Education officials noted the office of Federal Student Aid is also working with Treasury to generate outcomes data by institution and make that information publicly available. In June 2016, Education officials stated their website would be updated with these new data by the end of the year. In addition, in fiscal year 2014 Education launched the Enterprise Data Warehouse and Analytics (EDW&A) project to provide internal and external stakeholders, including researchers, timely and accurate access to centralized Federal Student Aid data and analytic tools. Education officials said that the agency is in the process of improving EDW&A for a variety of purposes, including research on Title IV program effectiveness. In July 2016, through the Education Research Grants competition, Education's Institute of Education Sciences awarded two grants to researchers looking at the impact of interventions related to applying for federal student aid on college enrollment, attendance, and degree completion. While sponsoring this research represents an important step toward understanding specific financial aid interventions, Education has identified a critical research gap in the area of linking higher education financing to student outcomes, and more evaluative research may be necessary to strengthen the evidence related to key federal strategies and programs. As of May 2017, although Education awarded several grants to evaluate the effectiveness of higher education programs and interventions, most of the studies do not focus on federal assistance. GAO encourages Education to ensure that its data-sharing and future grant efforts result in actively sponsoring or conducting evaluative research on federal higher education assistance programs, and make plans to use the information in future policymaking, as appropriate. Making these data-sharing and research efforts a priority will help policymakers make fact-based decisions on the merits and value of various federal assistance efforts. To fully implement this recommendation, Education needs to ensure that its efforts result in evaluating the effectiveness of Title IV programs and federal higher education tax expenditures.