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    Subject Term: "Tax law"

    16 publications with a total of 42 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    8 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should communicate more clearly the limitations of information not published in the IRB to taxpayers. Such action could include adding clarifying language to some pieces of information not published in the IRB, like FAQs, and amending policies and procedures, such as the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), to clarify when IRS information should contain a statement regarding its legal authority and whether the item can be used or cited as precedent.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should amend current policies and procedures for drafting guidance to include factors to consider when deciding what type of guidance to issue and procedures for documenting those decisions internally.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop policies and procedures to help guidance-drafting teams assess whether non-regulatory guidance should be considered a rule for purposes of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and in turn major, and document those assessments internally.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take action to ensure that required steps are consistently documented during key phases of the non-regulatory guidance process, as defined in the Chief Counsel Directives Manual.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should examine the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) oversight; and if relevant, make publicly available any reaffirmation of the agreement and the reasons for it.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Treasury agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2017, Treasury stated that it has been reviewing IRS regulations in light of GAO's recommendations. Treasury also stated that Treasury and OMB have been assessing and discussing the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements, but are waiting for key new appointees, including the OIRA administrator, to formalize the discussions.
    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should examine the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) oversight; and if relevant, make publicly available any reaffirmation of the agreement and the reasons for it.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, OMB has not responded to GAO's request for information about any actions taken to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Director of Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should develop a process to ensure that OIRA has the information necessary to determine whether IRS rules are major under CRA and significant under E.O.12866. Consideration should be given on ways to solicit public comments on the potential effects of proposed regulations and non-regulatory guidance, including measures of economic impacts, and on how to document internally the consideration of significant comments by both IRS and OIRA.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2017, Treasury stated that it has been reviewing IRS regulations in light of GAO's recommendations. Treasury also stated that Treasury and OMB have been assessing and discussing the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements, but are waiting for key new appointees, including the OIRA administrator, to formalize the discussions.
    Recommendation: The Director of Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should develop a process to ensure that OIRA has the information necessary to determine whether IRS rules are major under CRA and significant under E.O.12866. Consideration should be given on ways to solicit public comments on the potential effects of proposed regulations and non-regulatory guidance, including measures of economic impacts, and on how to document internally the consideration of significant comments by both IRS and OIRA.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, OMB has not responded to GAO's request for information about any actions taken to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Rebecca Shea
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To maximize resources for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explore options to obtain proprietary data to enhance IRS's efforts to ensure taxpayer compliance with the inland waterways fuel tax.

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

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure SB/SE's audit selection program meets its mission and selects returns fairly, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly define and document the key term "fairness" for return selection activities.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed to incorporate a definition of fairness into the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), which serves as a single point of reference for guidance to IRS examiners. In February 2016, the Deputy Commissioner of Services and Enforcement (S&E) reiterated IRS's definition of fairness in the examination process to S&E employees. In January 2017, IRS issued interim guidance on fairness in examination case selection. IRS officials said that this guidance is considered "final" until the IRM is updated, no later than January 2019. In February 2017, IRS issued an article on its IRWeb and a message from the Deputy Commissioner S&E on defining fairness in the exam process. We are awaiting resolution of how this definition will be used in three other recommendations on communicating examples as well as developing both a related objective and measure.
    Recommendation: To help ensure SB/SE's audit selection program meets its mission and selects returns fairly, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly communicate examples of fair selections to staff to better assure consistent understanding.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed to communicate examples of fairness to managers and examiners involved in selecting tax returns for examination. In March 2017, the Director of IRS Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE) Examination-Headquarters issued a memo to SB/SE examination directors that included examples illustrating the fairness definition in return selection. The examples were to be shared with directors, management, and examiners involved in return selection. To close this recommendation, we are waiting for resolution of how the fairness definition will be implemented through related recommendations on developing program objectives and measures assessing fairness in return selection.
    Recommendation: To help ensure SB/SE's audit selection program meets its mission and selects returns fairly, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop, document, and implement program-level objective(s) to evaluate whether the return 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: IRS agreed to review its current objectives for the SB/SE examination program and found that an additional program-level objective to evaluate fairness in the return selection was necessary. The new objective is "Ensure examinations are initiated based on indicators of noncomplicance. In addition, ensure a review of the decisions to survey a return (i.e., not initiate an examination) are based on upon factors outlined in the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) and approved by an appropriate level of management." In March 2017, IRS issued interim guidance communicating the new objective, which was sent to Examination Directors. The guidance and objective were also posted on the IRweb, which is available to all IRS employees. IRS officials said that the interim guidance is considered final until it can be incorporated into the IRM, which should be done within 2 years of when the interim guidance is issued. We are awaiting IRS's response to a related recommendation on developing a measure for this selection objective before deciding to close this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that SB/SE's audit selection objective(s) on fairness are used and met, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop, document, and implement related performance measures that would allow SB/SE to determine how well the selection of returns for audit meets the new objective(s).

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

    Comments: IRS agreed to develop, document, and implement additional performance measures if new objectives related to fair return selection were implemented. In March 2017, IRS developed a new objective on fair return selection. In April 2017, IRS officials said that they were working on performance measures related to the new objective on fair return selection. They plan to meet with GAO in 1-2 months to obtain our feedback on the measures.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that SB/SE's audit selection objective(s) on fairness are used and met, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should incorporate the new objective(s) for fair return selection into the SB/SE risk management system to help identify and analyze potential risks to fair selections.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed to consider any new objectives related to fair return selection within SB/SE's current risk management process framework. In March and April 2017, SB/SE developed a tool (RAFT) to include the fair selection objective (and related activities) into its risk register, which is monitored quarterly. IRS provided documentation from the Exam Risk Council meeting that they have discussed and assessed these risks. IRS is still working on documentation to show they are addressing our recommendations and the associated risks. IRS officials said the documentation is due in August 2017.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and implement consistent documentation requirements to clarify the reasons for selecting a return for audit and who reviewed and approved the selection decision.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed to evaluate the need to improve its documentation of return selection decisions and the review and approval process. In March 2017, various IRS functions completed templates showing the current status of return selection documentation requirements. As a result, they found that they could improve the consistency and clarity in documentation, approval and review requirements across workstreams by clearly defining procedures and ensuring they are formally documented in the IRM. The Director of Exam Case Selection issued a memo directing that documentation requirements be made consistent in the IRM. IRS officials said that revised documentation requirements are due in August 2017, with IRM incorporation at a later date.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop, document, and implement monitoring procedures to ensure that decisions made and coding used to select returns for audit are appropriate.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed to review its current procedures for monitoring return selection decisions and coding used to select returns. In April 2017, IRS officials provided documentation showing they had reviewed campus examination selection dollar thresholds and campus source code definitions. They found that improvements could be made in clarifying source code definitions and reviewing dollar thresholds used to categorize and select, respectively, returns for examination. IRS has issued an IRM procedural update to implement these changes. During our meeting with IRS, we clarified that our recommendation covered monitoring selection decisions more broadly, which IRS acknowledged. Officials said that additional documentation on monitoring selection decisions will be due by August 2017.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve taxpayer service amid declining budgets and increased responsibilities, Congress should consider requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy in consultation with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that (1) determines appropriate telephone and correspondence levels of service, based on service provided by the best in business and customer expectations; and (2) thoroughly assesses which services IRS can shift to self-service options.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, no legislative action had been taken.
    Recommendation: To improve performance management of taxpayer services, the Secretary of the Treasury should update the Department's performance plan to include overage rates for handling taxpayer correspondence as a part of Treasury's performance goals.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, Treasury officials told us that they plan to include correspondence data as part of Treasury's fiscal year 2018 annual performance plan and fiscal year 2016 annual performance report. They expect it to be available online before Summer 2017.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the IRS collection program meets its mission and selects cases fairly, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should establish, document, and implement objectives for the collection program and ACS, and define the key term of "fairness" as it applies to collection activities, which can be communicated to IRS staff.

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

    Comments: In January 2017, IRS supplied documentation on how it had established a fairness policy statement, which is incorporated into the Internal Revenue Manual, communicated to staff in email, and provided via a powerpoint present to staff. IRS also established and documented collection program objectives as part of its FY2017 Collect Program Letter. However, IRS still needs to identify how these objectives have been implemented and how ACS contributes to specific objectives. IRS plans to provide this documentation by September 2017.
    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: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: As a result of turnover in IRS's Senior Executive Team and in order to enhance budget planning and improve decision making and accountability, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a long-term strategy to address operations amidst an uncertain budget environment. As part of the strategy, IRS should take steps to improve its efficiency, including (1) reexamining programs, related processes, and organizational structures to determine whether they are effectively and efficiently achieving the IRS mission, and (2) streamlining or consolidating management or operational processes and functions to make them more cost-effective.

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

    Comments: IRS agreed with our recommendation and is taking steps to implement it. For example, IRS has adopted a new, more strategic approach to identify and select budget program priorities. In its fiscal year 2017 budget justification, IRS introduced six themes of its Future State Initiative for tax administration, which in part aims to deliver service improvements across different taxpayer interactions such as individual account assistance, refunds, identity theft, and billings and payments. The budget also linked requested spending increases to the themes laid out in the initiative. The themes were derived from a subset of its 19 objectives identified in the IRS 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. In addition to the future state themes and strategic objectives, IRS has identified enterprise goals to guide the IRS toward the future state. As of December 2016, IRS has yet to set targets for meeting the goals but plans to have targets in place by June 2017. We acknowledge the steps IRS has taken and will continue to monitor its progress as the process is further developed.
    Recommendation: Because ROI provides insights on the productivity of a program and is one important factor in making resource allocation decisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should calculate actual ROI for implemented initiatives, compare the actual ROI to projected ROI, and provide the comparison to budget decision makers for initiatives where IRS allocated resources.

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

    Comments: No executive action taken. While IRS agreed that having actual ROI data for implemented initiatives would be useful, it did not believe it was feasible to produce such estimates, as GAO recommended in June 2014. GAO maintains that IRS should be able to provide some information on past initiatives, such as whether funds requested were used in the manner originally proposed. As of December 2016, IRS officials reported there is no timeline for full implementation. In March 2017, IRS officials confirmed that they do not isolate the revenue attributable to a specific initiative, but pointed to other efforts to help manage IRS's budget, including establishing the Office of Planning, Programming and Audit Coordination and the Planning Community of Practice, which are intended to improve investment planning processes. While these efforts are intended to help IRS act more strategically, comparing projected ROI to actual ROI can help hold managers and IRS accountable for the funding received.
    Recommendation: Because ROI provides insights on the productivity of a program and is one important factor in making resource allocation decisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should use actual ROI calculations as part of resource allocation decisions.

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

    Comments: No executive action taken as of March 2017. IRS's Research, Analysis, and Statistics Division has begun to estimate marginal direct revenues and marginal costs attributable to specific compliance projects. The estimates are necessary inputs to establish a measure of ROI, which in turn can guide resource allocation decisions. IRS plans to use these estimates to inform future examination plans, but considerable work remains in this long-term effort. In October 2016, IRS officials reported there is no timeline for full implementation, but that the work is on-going. In June 2016, IRS officials confirmed that projected revenue will be considered in investment decision making as part of fiscal year 2018 enterprise planning guidance, but did not report any progress in using actual ROI data. Until such action is taken, IRS may not be allocating its resources in the most effective way, thus potentially forgoing additional revenues.
    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: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that IRS can adequately enforce certain tax provisions, Congress may wish to consider providing IRS with MEA to use tax return information from previous years to ensure that taxpayers do not improperly claim credits or deductions in excess of lifetime limits where applicable.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, Congress had not yet provided IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use tax return information from previous years to ensure that taxpayers do not improperly claim credits or deductions in excess of lifetime limits.
    Director: White, James
    Phone: (202) 512-9039

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the increasing extent of business travel to the U.S. and the eroding effect of inflation, Congress may wish to consider raising the amount of U.S. income paid by a foreign employer that is exempt from tax for nonresidents who meet the other conditions of the exemption.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Congress had not raised the amount of U.S. income paid by a foreign employer that is exempt from tax for nonresidents who meet the other conditions of the exemption.
    Recommendation: Given the difficulty of enforcing the requirement for aliens to obtain certificates of compliance--sailing permits--before departing the country and the existence of withholding requirements and tax treaties, Congress may wish to consider eliminating the sailing permit requirement.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the Congress has not eliminated the sailing permit requirement.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to ensure the most efficient, fair, and consistent administration of civil tax penalties, and that penalties are achieving their purpose of encouraging voluntary compliance, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the Office of Servicewide Penalties (OSP) to evaluate penalty administration and penalties' effect on voluntary compliance.

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

    Comments: The Office of Servicewide Penalties (OSP) initiated a plan to comprehensively evaluate penalty administration and the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance. They stated that they understand such a plan will be useful in identifying priorities and determining additional potential resource needs. However, OSP put this plan on hold while they developed a business case for obtaining more staff and resources. OSP is in the process of obtaining feedback to refine their business case for final submission. While they await approval of the business case they have not done any work on the comprehensive plan. As the comprehensive plan remains incomplete, OSP has not yet undertaken an evaluation of penalties' effect on voluntary compliance. In December 2011 OSP formed a Civil Penalties Administrative Improvement Initiative team that has the goal of making improvements to civil penalty administration. Activities underway as of February 2013 include developing measures to improve taxpayer consistency and taking actions to improve the Reasonable Cause Assistant computer system. We learned in February 2015 that the program is now under a new executive. When we met with the new agency officials in April 2015 they told us that they had a new effort underway to develop a comprehensive strategy that examines the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance while ensuring quality. IRS finalized a Penalty Performance Plan on March 6, 2017, which we are currently reviewing.
    Recommendation: In order to ensure the most efficient, fair, and consistent administration of civil tax penalties, and that penalties are achieving their purpose of encouraging voluntary compliance, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct OSP to develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze penalty-related data. The plan should address the constraints officials have identified as impeding progress in analyzing penalties.

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

    Comments: Office of Servicewide Penalties (OSP) initiated a plan to comprehensively evaluate penalty administration and the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance. However, OSP put this plan on hold while they developed a business case for obtaining more staff and resources. As of February 2013 the business case has not progressed and OSP has taken no additional action to complete the comprehensive plan. We learned in February 2015 that the program is now under a new executive. When we met with the new agency officials in April 2015 they told us that they had a new effort underway to develop a comprehensive strategy that examines the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance while ensuring quality. IRS finalized a Penalty Performance Plan on March 6, 2017, which we are currently reviewing.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the potential for improving compliance now and in the future, Congress may wish to provide IRS with the authority to use math error checks to identify and correct returns with ineligible (1) IRA "catch-up" contributions, and (2) contributions to traditional IRAs from taxpayers over age 70-1/2.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, the Congress has not provided IRS with the math error authority to ensure that taxpayers comply with certain catch-up and contributions requirements.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide clarity for which taxpayers with rental real estate activity must report expense payments on information returns and to provide greater information reporting, Congress may wish to consider amending the Internal Revenue Code to make all taxpayers with rental real estate activity subject to the same information reporting requirements as other taxpayers operating a trade or business.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, no legislation had been identified to make owners of rental real estate subject to the same payment reporting requirements regardless of whether they engaged in a trade or business under current law. In the 112th Congress, Congress enacted the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-240), which contained a provision that required, in general, persons receiving rental income from real estate to be considered engaged in a trade or business and therefore subject to the reporting requirements of section 6041 of the Internal Revenue Code, which was consistent with GAO's August 2008 matter for congressional consideration. However, Congress repealed the provision on April 14, 2011, by section 3 of the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-9).
    Director: Ragland, Susan
    Phone: (202)512-9471

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs to develop a framework for OIA employees to use in conducting site visits to help ensure objectives are achieved, to assure that relevant information is shared with responsible officials, and to allow more efficient and effective monitoring of issues.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: On May 24, 2017, the Department of Interior (DOI) sent out an email to its staff showing the dissemination of the new format required for completing trip reports by the staff of the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA). The new format requires staff to include travel justification (i.e., purpose/objective, location, and travel period) and trip report (i.e., meetings, site visits, results, and next steps, as applicable.) The intent of the recommendation is for DOI to have a framework that includes (1) status of required single audit reports; (2) the progress of actions to resolve reported internal control weaknesses; and (3) current needs for technical assistance, capacity building, and staff level expertise. Further, the intent of GAO's recommendation is that this information be integrated into a comprehensive monitoring process. We did not see these elements included in DOI's new format. We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
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    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should match independent contractors' information returns with their tax returns to more systematically identify employers who are misclassifying employees as independent contractors and to better target audit resources for doing employment tax examinations.

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

    Comments: Call 202/512-6100 for additional information.
    Recommendation: Section 630 of the Revenue Act of 1978 restricts IRS' authority to ensure that current and future classifications will be correct. In view of the equity issues and tax revenues involved, Congress may wish to consider repealing this restriction against requiring employers to prospectively reclassify employees who have been misclassified as independent contractors.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Call 202/512-6100 for additional information.