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Highlights

The Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) recent estimate of the difference between what taxpayers timely and accurately paid in taxes and what they owed ranged from $312 billion to $353 billion for tax year 2001. IRS estimates it will eventually recover some of this tax gap, resulting in a net tax gap from $257 billion to $298 billion. The tax gap arises when taxpayers fail to comply with the tax laws by underreporting tax liabilities on tax returns; underpaying taxes due from filed returns; or "nonfiling," which refers to the failure to file a required tax return altogether or in a timely manner. The Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Finance asked GAO to review a number of issues related to the tax gap. This testimony will address GAO's longstanding concerns regarding tax compliance; IRS's efforts to ensure compliance; and the significance of reducing the tax gap, including some steps that may assist with this challenging task. For context, this testimony will also address GAO's most recent simulations of the long-term fiscal outlook and the need for a fundamental reexamination of major spending and tax policies and priorities.

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