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The tax gap--the difference between the tax amounts taxpayers pay voluntarily and on time and what they should pay under the law--has been a long-standing problem in spite of many efforts to reduce it. Most recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimated a gross tax gap for tax year 2001 of $345 billion and estimated it would recover $55 billion of this gap, resulting in a net tax gap of $290 billion. When some taxpayers fail to comply, the burden of funding the nation's commitments falls more heavily on compliant taxpayers. Reducing the tax gap would help improve the nation's fiscal stability. For example, each 1 percent reduction in the net tax gap would likely yield $3 billion annually. GAO was asked to discuss the tax gap, various approaches to reduce it, and what the proposed budget for fiscal year 2008 says about it. This testimony discusses the need for taking multiple approaches and to what extent the tax gap could be reduced through three overall approaches--simplifying or reforming the tax system, providing IRS with additional enforcement tools, and devoting additional resources to enforcement. This statement is based on prior GAO work.

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