In 2000, federal agencies estimated they saved at least $900 million annually through data sharing initiatives. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can use data from taxpayers and third parties to better ensure taxpayers meet their obligations. Likewise, Congress has authorized certain agencies access to taxpayer information collected by IRS to better determine benefit eligibility. In July 2004, we reported that data sharing between IRS and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has the potential to improve tax compliance as well as immigration eligibility decisions (GAO-04-972T). For this report, GAO determined (1) the potential benefits of data matching, and (2) the options and associated challenges.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|To improve taxpayer compliance and USCIS's immigration benefit decisions, Congress may wish to consider changing immigration eligibility to require businesses applying to sponsor immigrant workers to meet tax filing and payment obligations to sponsor immigrant workers.||No legislative changes have been made. On 9/15/09, USCIS said they have abandoned any work on the recommended pilot project, due to many management concerns, including public relations issues.|
|To improve taxpayer compliance and USCIS's immigration benefit decisions, Congress may wish to consider authorizing a user fee to be collected and retained by IRS to cover the costs of bringing non-compliant taxpayers into compliance.||No legislative changes have been made. On 09/15/2009, USCIS said they have abandoned any work on the recommended pilot project, due to many management concerns, including public relations issues.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|United States Citizenship and Immigration Services||To improve the accuracy and timeliness of USCIS's immigration eligibility decisions absent requiring businesses to have met their tax filing and payment obligations, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct USCIS, in consultation with the IRS, to conduct a pilot data-sharing test. In the test, USCIS should require a tax check for selected businesses and other entities applying to sponsor immigrant workers before qualifying for immigration benefits. The pilot test should assess and document the costs and benefits of data sharing including key issues such as using paper or electronic consents, or pursuing specific IRC Section 6103 disclosure authority, assessing resource implications, and considering how the agencies would allocate responsibilities for collecting and allocating user fees from the business sponsors.|