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 incentives"

    3 publications with a total of 13 open recommendations
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To promote retirement savings without creating permanent tax-favored accounts for a small segment of the population, Congress should consider revisiting the use of IRAs to accumulate large balances and consider ways to improve the equity of the existing tax expenditure on IRAs. Options could include limits on (1) the types of assets permitted in IRAs, (2) the minimum valuation for an asset purchased by an IRA, or (3) the amount of assets that can be accumulated in IRAs and employersponsored plans that get preferential tax treatment.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its October 2014 report, GAO found that individuals with limited, occupationally related opportunities could engage in sophisticated investment strategies and accumulate considerable tax-preferred wealth in IRAs and subsequently suggested to Congress legislative options. As of March 2017, legislation had not been introduced on any aspect of this suggestion, although the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on IRA policy in September 2014 for which GAO provided a statement for the record.
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's ability to detect and pursue noncompliance associated with undervalued assets sheltered in IRAs and prohibited transactions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should conduct research using the new Form 5498 data to identify IRAs holding nonpublic asset types, such as profits interests in private equity firms and hedge funds, and use that information for an IRSwide strategy to target enforcement efforts.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken some action to develop a research plan using the new information on types of nonpublic IRA assets reported on Form 5498. Previously, IRS searched terms in Form 5498 filings to identify IRAs holding assets with the greatest risk of noncompliance. In January 2016, IRS started a research project to examine a sample of tax returns based on certain nonpublic IRA asset types. IRS plans to use the research results due in June 2018 to develop an IRS-wide strategy to target enforcement efforts to those IRAs where the beneficiary of the IRA has caused his or her IRA to engage in a prohibited transaction. Once IRS completes electronically compiling the new Form 5498 information for tax year 2016 that is filed in 2017, IRS researchers plan to use the asset type data to streamline the process of identifying those IRAs. As of March 2017, IRS examination officials did not have a date on when the new IRA asset type data will be available for further analysis.
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's ability to detect and pursue noncompliance associated with undervalued assets sheltered in IRAs and prohibited transactions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should work in consultation with the Department of the Treasury on a legislative proposal to expand the statute of limitations on IRA noncompliance to help IRS pursue valuation-related misreporting and prohibited transactions that may have originated outside the current statute's 3-year window.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed with GAO's October 2014 recommendation on IRAs with large balances and said it had discussed the recommendation with Treasury's Office of Tax Policy and Benefits Tax Counsel. Consequently, IRS said Treasury is aware of IRS's willingness to support legislative efforts in this area. However, Treasury and IRS have not drafted a legislative proposal as of March 2017.
    Recommendation: To help taxpayers better understand compliance risks associated with certain IRA choices and improve compliance, the Commissioner of Revenue should, building on research data on IRAs holding nonpublic assets, identify options to provide outreach targeting taxpayers with nonpublic IRA assets and their custodians, such as reminder notices that engaging in prohibited transactions can result in loss of the IRA's tax-favored status.

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

    Comments: IRS has taken some action to provide general outreach but has not yet compiled data to target outreach to taxpayers with nonmarketable IRA assets at greater risk of noncompliance, as GAO recommended in October 2014. In June 2016, IRS published information on IRS.gov outlining the new information to be reported for nonmarketable IRA assets and included a general caution that IRAs with nonmarketable investments or assets under direct taxpayer control may be subject to a heightened risk of committing prohibited transactions. This caution, similar to those that IRS added to its publications about IRA contributions and distributions, is a step toward helping taxpayers better understand which investments pose greater risks. IRS said results from an ongoing compliance research project may help in targeting outreach to taxpayers holding certain IRA assets at greater risk of noncompliance. IRS said it could refine its outreach to those taxpayers with nonpublic IRA assets using the new asset type data once compiled electronically. As of March 2017, IRS was compiling the IRA assets data for tax year 2016 that is filed in 2017, but IRS had not provided a date on when the new IRA asset type data will be available for further analysis.
    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: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9039

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As Congress considers whether tax-exempt governmental bonds should be used for professional sports stadiums that are generally privately used, it may also wish to consider whether other facilities, including hotels and golf courses, that are privately used should continue to be financed with tax-exempt governmental bonds.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislative action enacted as of March 2017. A bill was introduced in Congress in February 2017 (H.R. 811) which, if enacted, would, in general, not allow tax-exempt government bonds to be used to finance professional sports stadiums. Reconsidering the tax-exempt status of certain bonds could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal revenue.