Comments on H.R. 3919

B-198251: Published: Mar 27, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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Comments are presented on proposed legislation which would place a tax on excess oil profits. GAO believes that the manner proposed for accounting for the net revenues of the tax is analogous to the creation of trust funds, although it is not so labeled. Because the accounts so closely resemble trust funds, it appears that Congress could appropriate revenues not only for the current fiscal year but also unused revenues from previous years. This should be clarified. The revenues cannot be obligated or spent except through appropriations made by law. A portion of the proposed legislation appears to set the appropriations process in motion, but the language used does not really achieve this purpose. GAO suggests that the President be required to propose the manner in which he wishes to use the funds within each broad purpose category established under the legislation. The bill, by itself, does not provide authorizing legislation for programs and purposes not already authorized by law. It provides that the Secretary of the Treasury shall report to Congress annually on the actual disposition of revenues for the fiscal year. The word disposition is not commonly used in referring to financial reports. GAO suggests that Congress probably would want the report to include the amounts appropriated, obligated, and disbursed. Also, it may want to provide that the reports for previous years be updated annually until all disbursements have been made for each given year.

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