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    Subject Term: "Statutory limitation"

    6 publications with a total of 17 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better report the occupations filled by H-2B workers who have been approved by DHS, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should implement during its transformation process to an electronic petition form, an occupation classification system that conforms to a national standard.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, USCIS indicated that it was revising its Transformation Roadmap (schedule). The conversion to electronic nonimmigrant petitions is expected to be completed during the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. USCIS also noted that it is exploring the adoption of a single set of occupation codes across multiple form types, but has not yet made a final decision whether to implement this. USCIS estimates this recommendation will be completed by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To help potential H-2A and H-2B workers and their advocates better assess employment offers and reduce their vulnerability to abuse, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services should, during its transformation to an electronic petition form, ensure that petition job information is collected in an electronic manner and made available to the public as soon as possible following a final adjudication decision. Such job information should include number of positions, wage, and any staffing, placement or recruitment agency the employer plans to use.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, USCIS indicated that it was revising its Transformation Roadmap (schedule). The conversion to electronic nonimmigrant petitions is expected to be completed during the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. Therefore, USCIS estimates this recommendation will be completed by March 31, 2018.
    Recommendation: To help protect workers from being hired by employers who have been debarred from program participation, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, to use all employer-related information it collects on debarred employers to screen new applications.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, the agency noted that it continues to screen for debarred employers in two ways: 1) by adding debarred employers to its iCERT System, which matches incoming employer applications using the federal Employer Identification Number; and 2) by conducting additional reviews during analyst case adjudications using a more expansive set of employer-related information. While the Employment and Training Administration explored enhancing its iCERT system in 2015 to flag more information on debarred employers, the agency said this enhancement was not pursued due to technical difficulties in matching open text fields (e.g., physical employer addresses). In January 2017, DOL signed a data sharing memorandum of agreement with the Department of Homeland Security. DOL officials said this MOA will allow DOL access to DHS data, including information from the DHS system that collects information on all employers, and that DOL will be able to use this information to better screen labor condition applications. Once the agreement has been in place for several months, we plan to evaluate DOL's use of this new information and its impact on screening new employer applications for debarred employers.
    Recommendation: To ensure that H-2B workers are adequately protected and that DOL's investigative resources are appropriately focused, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, to review its enforcement efforts and conduct a national investigations-based evaluation of H-2B employers.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) indicated that it is coordinating closely with the department's Chief Evaluation Office on evaluations and special projects involving data analytics. As a result of that coordination, it is shifting away from large-scale compliance surveys and toward leveraging internal enforcement data and external survey data to assess compliance levels in priority industries. In June 2017, WHD indicated it did not believe an investigation-based evaluation of H-2B employers was appropriate given budget and litigation complications related to the H-2B regulations. WHD said it would consider moving forward once the regulations stabilize. In the meantime, WHD said it has taken several steps to improve H-2B enforcement. For example, in 2016, it held an advanced training for managers and field staff who handle H-2B investigations. In addition, it issued a memorandum that provided guidance under the 2015 Interim Final Rule on the appropriate enforcement action to take on the findings of H-2B investigations. WHD also indicated it has been sharing data with the Office of Foreign Labor Certification to identify employers with H-2B workers.
    Recommendation: To determine to what extent, if any, the 2-year statute of limitations on debarment limits its use as a remedy for employers who violate program requirements: (1) the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, and the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, to collect data on the nature of the cases where debarment would have been recommended but was not because the 2-year statute of limitations had expired, and based on that data determine whether to pursue a legislative proposal to extend the statute of limitations; and (2) the Department of Labor Inspector General should direct the Assistant Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations to provide the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration, and the Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, data on the number of referrals for debarment that the Inspector General's Office sent to the department after the 2-year statute of limitations had expired.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In June 2016, DOL indicated that it was considering the utility of collecting these data in light of the fact that the new H-2B regulations that were issued in April 2015 eliminated the 2-year statute of limitations for the H-2B program. We continue to believe, however, that this data collection would be valuable given that the H-2A program is still subject to the 2-year statute of limitations. The department indicated it was undertaking a modernization of its data systems--by implementing a data governance structure that would manage its data as a business asset--and our recommendation for the collection of these data would be vetted through this process. In June 2017, however, DOL indicated that WHD had concluded that business process improvements, rather than software changes, were more appropriate to ensure timely analysis of potential debarments. As it makes business process improvements, DOL indicated it would continue to evaluate whether data collection meets program needs.
    Director: Morris, Steve D
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better inform Congress in the future about crop insurance program costs, reduce present costs, and ensure greater actuarial soundness, the Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency should monitor and report on crop insurance costs in areas that have higher crop production risks.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Risk Management Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, the Department of Agriculture has not taken action to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better inform Congress in the future about crop insurance program costs, reduce present costs, and ensure greater actuarial soundness, the Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency should, as appropriate, increase its adjustments of premium rates in areas with higher crop production risks by as much as the full 20 percent annually that is allowed by law.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Risk Management Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, the Department of Agriculture has not taken action to implement this recommendation.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To promote retirement savings without creating permanent tax-favored accounts for a small segment of the population, Congress should consider revisiting the use of IRAs to accumulate large balances and consider ways to improve the equity of the existing tax expenditure on IRAs. Options could include limits on (1) the types of assets permitted in IRAs, (2) the minimum valuation for an asset purchased by an IRA, or (3) the amount of assets that can be accumulated in IRAs and employersponsored plans that get preferential tax treatment.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its October 2014 report, GAO found that individuals with limited, occupationally related opportunities could engage in sophisticated investment strategies and accumulate considerable tax-preferred wealth in IRAs and subsequently suggested to Congress legislative options. As of March 2017, legislation had not been introduced on any aspect of this suggestion, although the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on IRA policy in September 2014 for which GAO provided a statement for the record.
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's ability to detect and pursue noncompliance associated with undervalued assets sheltered in IRAs and prohibited transactions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should conduct research using the new Form 5498 data to identify IRAs holding nonpublic asset types, such as profits interests in private equity firms and hedge funds, and use that information for an IRSwide strategy to target enforcement efforts.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken some action to develop a research plan using the new information on types of nonpublic IRA assets reported on Form 5498. Previously, IRS searched terms in Form 5498 filings to identify IRAs holding assets with the greatest risk of noncompliance. In January 2016, IRS started a research project to examine a sample of tax returns based on certain nonpublic IRA asset types. IRS plans to use the research results due in June 2018 to develop an IRS-wide strategy to target enforcement efforts to those IRAs where the beneficiary of the IRA has caused his or her IRA to engage in a prohibited transaction. Once IRS completes electronically compiling the new Form 5498 information for tax year 2016 that is filed in 2017, IRS researchers plan to use the asset type data to streamline the process of identifying those IRAs. As of March 2017, IRS examination officials did not have a date on when the new IRA asset type data will be available for further analysis.
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's ability to detect and pursue noncompliance associated with undervalued assets sheltered in IRAs and prohibited transactions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should work in consultation with the Department of the Treasury on a legislative proposal to expand the statute of limitations on IRA noncompliance to help IRS pursue valuation-related misreporting and prohibited transactions that may have originated outside the current statute's 3-year window.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS agreed with GAO's October 2014 recommendation on IRAs with large balances and said it had discussed the recommendation with Treasury's Office of Tax Policy and Benefits Tax Counsel. Consequently, IRS said Treasury is aware of IRS's willingness to support legislative efforts in this area. However, Treasury and IRS have not drafted a legislative proposal as of March 2017.
    Recommendation: To help taxpayers better understand compliance risks associated with certain IRA choices and improve compliance, the Commissioner of Revenue should, building on research data on IRAs holding nonpublic assets, identify options to provide outreach targeting taxpayers with nonpublic IRA assets and their custodians, such as reminder notices that engaging in prohibited transactions can result in loss of the IRA's tax-favored status.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS has taken some action to provide general outreach but has not yet compiled data to target outreach to taxpayers with nonmarketable IRA assets at greater risk of noncompliance, as GAO recommended in October 2014. In June 2016, IRS published information on IRS.gov outlining the new information to be reported for nonmarketable IRA assets and included a general caution that IRAs with nonmarketable investments or assets under direct taxpayer control may be subject to a heightened risk of committing prohibited transactions. This caution, similar to those that IRS added to its publications about IRA contributions and distributions, is a step toward helping taxpayers better understand which investments pose greater risks. IRS said results from an ongoing compliance research project may help in targeting outreach to taxpayers holding certain IRA assets at greater risk of noncompliance. IRS said it could refine its outreach to those taxpayers with nonpublic IRA assets using the new asset type data once compiled electronically. As of March 2017, IRS was compiling the IRA assets data for tax year 2016 that is filed in 2017, but IRS had not provided a date on when the new IRA asset type data will be available for further analysis.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    3 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider altering the TEFRA audit procedures to require partnerships to designate a qualified Tax Matters Partner (TMP) and, if that TMP is an entity, to also identify a representative who is an individual and for partnerships to keep the designation up to date.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2015, H.R. 1314 was amended to include the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which included provisions that would repeal the TEFRA audit procedures and put in place new audit procedures for partnerships with more than 100 partners. This legislation was signed into law in November 2015. According to the legislation, the new audit procedures would require partnerships to designate a qualified representative for the partnership audit. However, the legislation did not require audited partnerships to identify a representative who is an individual nor do they require that audited partnerships keep the designation up to date as suggested in GAO's report. The legislation does give IRS the authority to develop regulations about how the partnership representative should be designated by the partnership and such regulations may address the items in GAO's report. Currently regulations are under development at IRS. The legislation specifies that the new partnership audit procedures apply to partnership returns filed for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should track the results of large partnerships audits: (a) define a large partnership based on asset size and number of partners; (b) revise the activity codes to align with the large partnership definition; and (c) separately account for field audits and campus audits.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: No executive action taken. IRS said that it plans to address parts of GAO's September 2014 recommendation about tracking the audit results on large partnerships but has not yet done so. In November 2014, IRS said that it plans to define large partnerships using asset size and the number of partners and to find an alternative method to account for field and campus large partnership cases using existing capabilities, but that revising IRS's activity codes to enable it to track large partnership audits would be dependent on future funding. In March 2017, IRS told GAO that it would need until September 2017 to address this recommendation as IRS continues to monitor efforts to implement the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA). Section 1101 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (Public law 114-74), which was enacted in November 2015, includes provisions that repeal TEFRA audit procedures and put in place audit procedures that would require partnerships with more than 100 partners to pay audit adjustments at the partnership level, among other changes. IRS explained that these changes significantly alter the procedural and administrative components of partnerships. IRS said it would need this additional time to analyze options and determine the most appropriate steps for effectively tracking the results of large partnership audits. Without changes to tracking partnership audit results, IRS cannot conduct analysis to identify ways to better plan and use IRS resources in auditing large partnerships as well as analyze whether large partnerships present a high noncompliance risk.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should analyze the audit results by these activity codes and types of audits to identify opportunities to better plan and use IRS resources in auditing large partnerships.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of October 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said that based on completion of GAO's recommendations on tracking results and after sufficient large partnership audit results have been obtained, it still plans to conduct a study to analyze these results and recommend any ways in which resource use can be improved. IRS still expects to complete this analysis by September 2018.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To take advantage of opportunities to collect UCMR data on additional unregulated contaminants, Congress should consider amending SDWA to give EPA the flexibility to select more than 30 contaminants for monitoring under the UCMR program if high-priority contaminants, such as those on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) or contaminants of emerging concern, can be included at minimal cost, with minimal additional burden on public water systems, and while using analytical methods that EPA is already employing.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Recommendation: To optimize the ability of the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations, Congress should consider adjusting the statutory time frames for the UCMR and regulatory determinations cycles so that EPA can use the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations in the same cycle.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Director: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To further improve agency controls that help prevent payments to participants whose incomes exceed eligibility limits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FSA to implement a process to verify that accountants' and attorneys' statements accurately reflect participants' incomes as reported on income tax returns and supporting documentation or other equivalent documents.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department agreed with this recommendation at the time of our report but, as of April 2017, has not acted to implement it because of the sensitive nature of questioning accountants' and attorneys' professional judgement. However, we believe doing so would reduce the likelihood of improper payments supported by U.S. taxpayers and would be an appropriate action for the agency to take.