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: Debt

    8 publications with a total of 25 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Alicia Puente Cackley
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As Congress considers reauthorizing NFIP, it should consider comprehensive reform to improve the program's solvency and enhance the nation's resilience to flood risk, which could include actions in six areas: (1) addressing the current debt, (2) removing existing legislative barriers to FEMA's revising premium rates to reflect the full risk of loss, (3) addressing affordability, (4) increasing consumer participation, (5) removing barriers to private-sector involvement, and (6) protecting NFIP flood resilience efforts. In implementing these reforms, Congress should consider the sequence of the actions and their interaction with each other.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Allison Bawden
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To preserve the balance between the importance of repaying federal student loan debt and protecting a minimum level of Social Security benefits put in place by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, Congress should consider modifying Social Security administrative offset provisions, such as by authorizing the Department of the Treasury to annually index the amount of Social Security benefits exempted from administrative offset to reflect changes in the cost of living over time.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Congress has not yet taken action on this matter.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform affected borrowers of the suspension of offset and potential consequences if the borrower does not take action to apply for a TPD discharge. Such information could include notification that interest continues to accrue and that offsets may resume once their disability benefits are converted to retirement benefits.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education does not currently notify borrowers of the suspension of offset, but plans to implement a process to do so in the future using a new mailing sent to affected borrowers by their default servicer. The current budget situation does not allow for this type of enhancement, and it is not clear when that will change. In the interim, the agency is exploring alternative notification approaches that could be put in place prior to the implementation of an automated solution. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should revise forms sent to borrowers already approved for a TPD discharge to clearly and prominently state that failure to provide annual income verification documentation during the 3-year monitoring period will result in loan reinstatement.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that the current Office of Management and Budget (OMB) TPD-Post discharge forms contain the recommended language in the first bullet of the Earned Income Section. In order to more clearly provide this information they recommended that the new OMB form, which is in its public comment period, (1) use a larger font size for the form and (2) use "plain language." GAO will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should evaluate the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process, including determining whether the agency has the necessary legal authority to implement such a process.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education stated that over the next six months, they are committed to working with SSA to determine the feasibility and benefits of implementing an automated income verification process. The verification will address both the legal authority to implement such a process as well as operational and budgetary feasibility. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should inform borrowers about the financial hardship exemption option and application process on the agency's website, as well as the notice of offset sent to borrowers.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees with the recommendation and said that they will include this change in upcoming revisions to the agency's web content. The agency reported that the Notice of Offset to borrowers is sent by Treasury and that they will share this recommendation with Treasury and discuss possible changes to the notice. We will consider closing this recommendation when the agency has completed this effort.
    Recommendation: To improve program design for Social Security offsets and related relief options, the Secretary of Education should implement an annual review process to ensure that only eligible borrowers are exempted from offset for financial hardship on an ongoing basis.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education reported that it plans plan to fully automate their process for tracking hardships and other exceptions from offset. However, due to competing priorities and funding limitations, full implementation of these improvements have not been scheduled. As they fully implement this process, they will review complementary strategies to assist borrowers in complying with annual reporting requirements. We will monitor the agency's progress.
    Director: Kimberly M. Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better manage the AD/CV duty liquidation process, CBP should issue guidance directing the Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Centralization Team to (a) collect and analyze data on a regular basis to identify and address the causes of liquidations that occur contrary to the process or outside the 6-month time frame mandated by statute, (b) track progress on reducing such liquidations, and (c) report on any effects these liquidations may have on revenue.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection
    Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. CBP has issued guidance requiring the collection, analysis, and reporting of AD/CV data to identify and address the causes of liquidations that occur contrary to the process or outside the 6-month time frame mandated by statute, as GAO recommended in July 2016. CBP is analyzing the results of its fiscal year 2017 self-inspection program to assess its progress on reducing such liquidations and report on the revenue effect. CBP expects to complete its analysis by Fall 2017. Systematically collecting and analyzing liquidation data on a regular basis to identify and address the causes of untimely liquidations and tracking and reporting on progress toward reducing such liquidations could help CBP reduce revenue loss.
    Recommendation: To improve risk management in the collection of AD/CV duties and to identify new or changing risks, CBP should regularly conduct a comprehensive risk analysis that assesses both the likelihood and the significance of risk factors related to AD/CV duty collection. For example, CBP could construct statistical models that explore the associations between potential risk factors and both the probability of nonpayment and the size of nonpayment when it occurs.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection
    Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. As of September 2017, CBP had not regularly conducted a risk analysis that assesses both the likelihood and significance of risk factors related to AD/CV duty collection, as GAO recommended in July 2016. However, CBP was in the process of developing a model to enable it to conduct such a risk analysis on a regular basis. CBP expects to test the model by Fall 2017; however, CBP officials said that full implementation of the model will not take place until the end of fiscal year 2018 due to the complexity of the project. CBP officials noted that they are working to hire additional staff to dedicate to model development; acquire a dedicated server for processing data to regularly update the models; and identify other CBP programs that would benefit from risk models similar to the ones they are developing for AD/CV duties. Regularly conducting a comprehensive risk analysis of factors related to AD/CV duty non-collection could enhance CBP's capacity to collect additional revenue. For example, it could result in the identification of new factors generating a requirement for an importer to provide additional security in the form of bonds as part of an enhanced bonding requirement.
    Recommendation: To improve risk management in the collection of AD/CV duties, CBP should, consistent with U.S. law and international obligations, take steps to use its data and risk assessment strategically to mitigate AD/CV duty nonpayment, such as by using predictive risk analysis to identify entries that pose heightened risk and taking appropriate action to mitigate the risk.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Customs and Border Protection
    Status: Open

    Comments: CBP concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. As of September 2017, CBP was in the process of developing a risk analysis model to use in mitigating AD/CV duty nonpayment, as GAO recommended in July 2016. The model will use predictive risk analysis to identify entries that pose a heightened risk of nonpayment. CBP has contacted the Customs Surety Association and the Commercial Customs Operations Advisory Committee to discuss bonding options to help mitigate the risk of nonpayment. Developing a risk analysis model to use in mitigating AD/CV duty nonpayment could enhance CBP's capacity to collect additional revenue. For example, it could be used to identify entries from importers requiring additional security in the form of bonds as part of an enhanced bonding requirement.
    Director: bertonid@gao.gov
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    8 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should clarify its policy for assessing the reasonableness of expenses used in determining beneficiaries' repayment amounts to help ensure that withholding plans are consistently established across the agency and accurately reflect individuals' ability to pay.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, SSA gained the ability to use the Access to Financial Information (AFI) system to verify information about the assets of beneficiaries. In February 2017, the agency reported it is continuing to work on clarifying its policy for assessing the reasonableness of expenses used in determining repayment amounts, including guidance on using the new AFI process. As part of this effort, SSA is also reviewing the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Collection Financial Standards and determining whether it can incorporate these or similar standards in its policies for determining reasonable repayment amounts. We will continue to track SSA's efforts to clarify its policies, including efforts to incorporate IRS standards.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should improve oversight of DI benefit withholding agreements to ensure that they are completed appropriately. This could include requiring supervisory review of repayment plans or sampling plans as part of a quality control process, and requiring that supporting documentation for all withholding plans be retained to enable the agency to perform such oversight.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation, but does not believe that it is necessary to conduct supervisory reviews. As of February 2017, SSA reported that it is exploring system, policy, and training opportunities to better ensure staff appropriately complete benefit withholding agreements. We will continue to track SSA's efforts to improve oversight in this area.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should explore the feasibility of using additional methods to independently verify financial information provided by beneficiaries to ensure that complete and reliable information is used when determining repayment amounts. These additional tools could include those already being used by the agency for other purposes.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to SSA, Section 834 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 gave the agency the authority to use the Access to Financial Information system as part of the agency's waiver determination process. SSA reported that, as of February 2017, it also considered using the National Directory of New Hires Query for verifying an overpaid beneficiary's financial information, but preliminarily determined that the information in this system would be of limited value since it is a quarterly report of past earnings. SSA states that it continues to explore other options to verify financial information such as The Work Number and the Interstate Benefit Inquiry. We will monitor SSA's efforts to explore additional options for verifying financial information.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should adjust the minimum withholding rate to 10 percent of monthly DI benefits to allow quicker recovery of debt.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and as of April 2017, it estimated that this would result in an additional $213 million in collections over a 5-year period. The fiscal year 2017 President's budget submission contained a legislative proposal to make this change, but has not yet been enacted. In April 2017, the agency reported that, in the third quarter of fiscal year 2017, it intends to resubmit a regulatory change to establish the minimum withholding rate to 10 percent in the event that its legislative proposal is not included in the fiscal year 2017 budget.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should consider adjusting monthly withholding amounts according to cost of living adjustments or charging interest on debts being collected by withholding benefits. Should SSA determine that it is necessary to do so, it could pursue legislative authority to use recovery tools that it is currently unable to use.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA continued to disagree with this recommendation. For debt subject to benefit withholding, which is not considered delinquent debt, SSA asserted that these measures would not have a significant effect on the amount of debt recovered, especially compared to the option of changing the minimum withholding rate to 10 percent of monthly benefits. For delinquent debt, SSA stated charging interest on debts would require substantial changes to multiple systems that affect its overpayment businesses processes, and would require extensive training to its employees. We continue to believe there is merit in further consideration of these measures. While SSA reported it has studied the potential changes needed to charge interest on debt, without further consideration of, for example, the costs and benefits of charging interest or adjusting withholding amounts according to cost of living adjustments, SSA cannot know the extent to which these options would improve debt recovery efforts or help protect the value of debts against the effects of inflation, which can be substantial given that withholding plans can take decades to complete.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should pursue additional debt collection tools for collecting delinquent penalties. This includes taking steps to implement tools within its existing authority and exploring the use of those not within its authority, and seeking legislative authority if necessary.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, SSA reported that: it had drafted regulations to use existing external debt collection tools for penalties, was developing a legislative proposal to allow the use of additional debt collection tools such as Federal salary offset and credit bureau reporting, and had started planning for a multi-activity, multi-year administrative sanctions project. In February 2017, SSA reported that, as part of its administrative sanctions project, the agency revised policy guidance on factors significant to OCIG's civil monetary penalty determinations. We will track SSA's progress in applying new tools to collecting penalties.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should take steps to collect complete, accurate, and timely data on, and thereby improve its ability to track civil monetary penalties and their disposition.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA reported that it is developing a workload tracking tool for penalties to provide accurate management information on cases. SSA expects to implement this tool by September 2017, and have the first full year of management information available in fiscal year 2018. We will close this recommendation once SSA implements and begins using this tool.
    Recommendation: To ensure effective and appropriate recovery of DI overpayments and administration of penalties and sanctions, the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration should take steps to collect complete, accurate, and timely data on, and thereby improve its ability to track administrative sanctions and their disposition.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, SSA reported that it has been developing a new workload tracking tool for administrative sanctions. The first phase of this tool was implemented in December 2016 and allows SSA to track administrative sanction cases throughout the development process. The second phase, expected to be implemented by September 2017, will provide SSA with management information on sanctions cases. We will continue to monitor SSA's process in developing this tool. We will close this recommendation once the tool is implemented.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness serve their intended beneficiaries to the greatest extent possible, the Secretary of Education should take steps to consistently and regularly notify all borrowers who have entered repayment of income-driven repayment plan options, including Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Education generally concurred with our recommendation, stating that it is committed to ensuring the federal student loan borrowers have the information they need to manage their debt, including details regarding income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs. However, Education stated that it is not clear that providing information on repayment options to all borrowers is the most efficient or effective way to achieve this goal. The agency indicated that the steps it is taking to raise awareness about income-driven repayment would include streamlined processes for learning about, applying for, and recertifying eligibility for income-driven repayment plans with enhanced communications targeted to borrowers most likely to benefit from these plans. While these are positive steps, because Education does not have income and family size information needed to determine which borrowers could benefit from income-driven repayment, we maintain it is important for Education to notify all borrowers of these options.
    Director: Mctigue, James R Jr
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that economically similar outcomes are taxed similarly and minimize opportunities for abuse, the Secretary of the Treasury should undertake a study that compares the current approach to alternative approaches for the taxation of financial derivatives. To determine if changes would be beneficial, such a study should weigh the tradeoffs to IRS and taxpayers that each alternative presents, including simplicity, administrability, and economic efficiency.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury disagreed with this recommendation based on the fact that many outside studies already exist and IRS did not comment. While Treasury disagreed with the recommendation, debate on tax reform, both in Congress and within IRS, continues and actions to ensure that economically similar outcomes are taxed similarly seem likely. GAO continues to maintain that further study is needed in coordination with IRS. If financial derivatives are included in tax reform, this could lead to savings for the federal government. GAO will continue to monitor progress on tax reform and whether it includes changes to the taxation of financial derivatives consistent with the recommendation.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance IRS's ability to detect noncompliance with mortgage debt forgiveness provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should modify Form 982, Part 1 to segregate the total dollar amount of forgiven debt by exclusion type and capture the information in IRS's databases.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS has not yet revised the Form 982 consistent with our recommendation. Form 982 directs taxpayers to identify the type(s) of forgiven debt. For example, taxpayers check a box to indicate forgiven mortgage debt used to buy, build, or substantially improve a principal residence. However, the Form 982 is used to report other types of forgiven debt, such as debt related to real property used in a trade or business, and the form does not require taxpayers to report the dollar amounts for each exclusion type. This means that IRS does not necessarily know how much of the forgiven debt should be attributed to a taxpayer's principal residence. Section 151 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) extended the exclusion of forgiven mortgage debt to debt discharged before January 1, 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension will be more than $5.1 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 making it important for IRS to have more specific information from taxpayers concerning the amount of forgiven debt attributable to a taxpayer's principal residence.
    Recommendation: To enhance IRS's ability to detect noncompliance with mortgage debt forgiveness provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should modify the Form 982 and Form 1099-C so that filers disclose the address of the secured property for which the debt is being forgiven and capture the information in IRS's databases.

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

    Comments: While IRS has not revised the Forms 982 and 1099-C consistent with our recommendation, Congress directed IRS to collect additional information concerning mortgage interest payments, which prompted IRS to revise a related form. Congress in July 2015 enacted the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act (Public Law 114-41). Section 2003 of the act requires taxpayers receiving mortgage interest payments to report the origination date of the mortgage, the amount of outstanding principal at the beginning of the calendar year, and the property's address. This new reporting requirement applies to returns that would be filed in 2017. In response to the legislation, IRS updated Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement. While IRS officials have told us that they believe the new data to be collected on this form have the potential to be helpful, they will not know the extent of any benefits from this new reporting requirement for several years. As of March 2017, IRS had not yet revised two other forms to the extent we recommended--the Forms 982 and 1099-C--to collect specific information from taxpayers and lenders concerning the amount of forgiven debt attributable to a principal residence and the location of the taxpayer's principal residence. Specifically, Form 982 does not direct taxpayers to identify the address for which debt is being forgiven nor does Form 1099-C direct lenders to report the address. Section 151 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) extended the exclusion of forgiven mortgage debt to debt discharged before January 1, 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension will be more than $5.1 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, making it important for IRS to have more specific information concerning the address of the properties for which debt is being forgiven.
    Recommendation: To enhance IRS's ability to detect noncompliance with mortgage debt forgiveness provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should use the additional data reported on the revised Form 982 and Form 1099-C to assess the extent to which taxpayers are compliant.

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

    Comments: While IRS has not fully revised the Forms 982 and 1099-C consistent with our recommendation, Congress directed IRS to collect additional information concerning mortgage interest payments which prompted IRS to revise a related form, and IRS officials are considering how to use the additional data. As of March 2017, the Form 982 does not direct taxpayers to identify the address for which debt is being forgiven. For the Form 1099-C, IRS began requiring lenders to provide more information about the type of event that resulted in the cancellation of the debt. However, as of March 2017, the Form 1099-C does not direct lenders to report the address of the property for which mortgage debt is being forgiven. In July 2015, Congress enacted the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act (Public Law 114-41). Section 2003 of the act requires taxpayers receiving mortgage interest payments to report the origination date of the mortgage, the amount of outstanding principal at the beginning of the calendar year, and the property's address. This new reporting requirement applies to returns that would be filed in 2017. In response to the legislation, IRS updated Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement for the 2017 filing season. While IRS officials told us that they believe the new data to be collected on this form have the potential to be helpful, they will not know the extent of any benefits from this new reporting requirement for several years. Section 151 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) extended the exclusion of forgiven mortgage debt to debt discharged before January 1, 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension will be more than $5.1 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, making it important for IRS to use the additional data we recommended they collect in enforcement efforts.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9039

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure the notice phase is achieving desired results at the lowest costs, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should provide IRS collection managers and executives accessible, reliable information on what the business rules are.

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

    Comments: IRS said in January 2016, that it planned to review current business rules and communicate clear guidance and documentation on business rules to appropriate IRS staff by July 2016. In October 2016, IRS provided documentation of some actions taken and planned, and noted it expects to provide additional business rules information in evaluations planned by June 2017. IRS confirmed this status in March 2017.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the notice phase is achieving desired results at the lowest costs, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should periodically and regularly evaluate the business rules in terms of efficiency and effectiveness or other results and ensure the results are available to managers so the data and methodologies can be used or considered in future evaluations.

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

    Comments: IRS said in January 2016, that it would conduct periodic reviews, update business rules if needed, and ensure follow-up for ad hoc evaluations by June 2017. In October 2016, IRS provided documentation of planned actions to periodically evaluate the business rules and communicate evaluation results and business rules information to appropriate IRS staff by June 2017. IRS confirmed this status in March 2017.