Timeliness of the Statistics of Income

PAD-77-3: Published: Oct 20, 1976. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 1976.

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Statistics of Income (SOI) publication schedules have considerable built-in lag. The generous schedules often are not met even by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Although some delay between the income year and the filing and processing of the tax returns is unavoidable, some of the lag is due to such inefficient and questionable procedures as the manual typing of all tables for printing, searching repeatedly for errors, and including nonessential features in the reports. Perhaps the most important reason for the lag lies in giving lower priority to a timely product than to such other factors as the quality of the data, the writing and reviewing of the text, and the appearance of the report. IRS is aware of many of the problems and has made some progress in improving efficiency. Possibilities for further improvements include: adopting some form of computer composition for printing the SOI tables, eliminating special features that tend to delay publication, and revision of the timeframe of the samples and redefining the quality standards. The need to publish SOI on a firm schedule should be recognized as an important goal by the IRS management, and priorities in processing different types of SOI data should be reordered with this in mind. Another approach would be to consider other IRS data which could be made available earlier than SOI. In the long run, these improvements should not involve any substantial additional costs.

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  • budget icon, source: GAO

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