Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Tax administration"

    36 publications with a total of 99 open recommendations including 5 priority recommendations
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should re-establish long-term, quantitative goals for improving voluntary compliance. (Recommendation 1)

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

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should instruct the appropriate officials to develop and document a strategy that outlines how IRS will use National Research Program data to update compliance strategies that could help address the tax gap. (Recommendation 2)

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

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that IRS leverages lessons learned from the NRP examinations and effectively completes operational employment tax examinations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and document plans to analyze the results in 2017 of the NRP employment tax study to identify the major issues of noncompliance.

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

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, IRS said in July 2017 that it will develop and document plans to comprehensively analyze the National Research Program study results and identify major issues of noncompliance. IRS also said it will complete data perfection activities and deliver the updated data to its data warehouse system. IRS plans to complete these tasks by January 2018.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that IRS leverages lessons learned from the NRP examinations and effectively completes operational employment tax examinations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and document plans for addressing the noncompliance identified in IRS's analysis of the NRP employment tax results.

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

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, IRS said in July 2017 that it plans to research how the National Research Program (NRP) study results can be used to enhance workload selection programs and will develop and initiate an action plans based on studying the NRP results. IRS plans to complete this work by January 2019.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that IRS leverages lessons learned from the NRP examinations and effectively completes operational employment tax examinations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and document plans for assessing the results of the NRP employment tax study to estimate the current state of the employment tax gap.

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

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, in July 2017 IRS said it will update its tax gap estimates, which will include updating the employment tax gap estimates. IRS plans to complete this effort by January 2020.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that IRS leverages lessons learned from the NRP examinations and effectively completes operational employment tax examinations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should determine whether and when to provide the Information Return Analysis System upfront for Small Business/Self-Employed division operational examinations based on criteria such as whether it would help identify more noncompliance, reduce taxpayer burden, and improve audit efficiency by reducing overall IRS costs (examiner versus campus costs).

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

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, in July 2017 IRS said it will gather additional data and insights on the opportunities and challenges of incorporating Information Return Analysis System (IRAS) data into the classification process. IRS plans to complete these tasks by October 2018.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that IRS leverages lessons learned from the NRP examinations and effectively completes operational employment tax examinations, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should regularly remind employment tax examiners how they can access and request the CP2100 and cash transaction data for operational employment tax examinations.

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

    Comments: In response to this recommendation, in July 2017 IRS said it will provide reminders to examiners regarding the cash transaction data and the CP2100, hold training sessions, and include information on both tools on its internal website for examiners. IRS planned to complete these tasks by October 2018.
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    8 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should communicate more clearly the limitations of information not published in the IRB to taxpayers. Such action could include adding clarifying language to some pieces of information not published in the IRB, like FAQs, and amending policies and procedures, such as the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), to clarify when IRS information should contain a statement regarding its legal authority and whether the item can be used or cited as precedent.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should amend current policies and procedures for drafting guidance to include factors to consider when deciding what type of guidance to issue and procedures for documenting those decisions internally.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop policies and procedures to help guidance-drafting teams assess whether non-regulatory guidance should be considered a rule for purposes of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) and in turn major, and document those assessments internally.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take action to ensure that required steps are consistently documented during key phases of the non-regulatory guidance process, as defined in the Chief Counsel Directives Manual.

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

    Comments: As of May 2017, IRS has informed GAO that it has implemented the recommendation. GAO is in the process of verifying that the recommendation was successfully implemented.
    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should examine the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) oversight; and if relevant, make publicly available any reaffirmation of the agreement and the reasons for it.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Treasury agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2017, Treasury stated that it has been reviewing IRS regulations in light of GAO's recommendations. Treasury also stated that Treasury and OMB have been assessing and discussing the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements, but are waiting for key new appointees, including the OIRA administrator, to formalize the discussions.
    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should examine the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) oversight; and if relevant, make publicly available any reaffirmation of the agreement and the reasons for it.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, OMB has not responded to GAO's request for information about any actions taken to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Director of Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should develop a process to ensure that OIRA has the information necessary to determine whether IRS rules are major under CRA and significant under E.O.12866. Consideration should be given on ways to solicit public comments on the potential effects of proposed regulations and non-regulatory guidance, including measures of economic impacts, and on how to document internally the consideration of significant comments by both IRS and OIRA.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2017, Treasury stated that it has been reviewing IRS regulations in light of GAO's recommendations. Treasury also stated that Treasury and OMB have been assessing and discussing the relevance of the long-standing agreement that exempts certain IRS regulations from executive order requirements, but are waiting for key new appointees, including the OIRA administrator, to formalize the discussions.
    Recommendation: The Director of Office of Management and Budget and the Secretary of the Treasury should develop a process to ensure that OIRA has the information necessary to determine whether IRS rules are major under CRA and significant under E.O.12866. Consideration should be given on ways to solicit public comments on the potential effects of proposed regulations and non-regulatory guidance, including measures of economic impacts, and on how to document internally the consideration of significant comments by both IRS and OIRA.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, OMB has not responded to GAO's request for information about any actions taken to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Rebecca Shea
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To maximize resources for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should consult with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explore options to obtain proprietary data to enhance IRS's efforts to ensure taxpayer compliance with the inland waterways fuel tax.

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

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance the budget process and to improve transparency, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, to the extent feasible, should ensure that the CJ includes data by appropriation account on the amount of funding requested to maintain current services for each future state theme.

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

    Comments: In its fiscal year 2017 congressional justification, IRS modified how its budget data were organized, including linking requested increases to future state themes, but did not clarify how current spending by themes relates to appropriation accounts. Information on current spending by theme and account is important to ensure transparency on the current funding levels to assist Congress in making informed budget decisions. IRS did not include data on the future state themes in the fiscal year 2018 congressional justification and, according to IRS officials, it did not report this information in any other budget document. According to IRS officials, it did not report budget data by future state theme because IRS is working to transition the future state themes into the strategic plan. Including data on the appropriation account would provide additional transparency and improve the quality of the information available to Congress for budget deliberations.
    Recommendation: As Treasury works with IRS to improve the quality and accuracy of budget data, the Secretary of the Treasury should ensure sufficient controls are in place to make certain that the information technology investment reports generated from the SharePoint Investment Knowledge Exchange are accurate. This includes, for example, taking steps to reduce the need for manual corrections to the data.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of November 2017, Treasury Department officials took steps to address the need to manually correct budget data for the fiscal year 2017 budget request, but we have not received documentation that they have done so for future budget years. Improved information would help Treasury and IRS better account for information technology resources. We will continue to monitor Treasury's progress.
    Director: David A. Powner
    Phone: (202) 512-9286

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help IRS improve its process for determining IT funding priorities and to provide timely information on the progress of its investments, the Commissioner of IRS should direct the Chief Technology Officer to establish, document, and implement policies and procedures for selecting new and reselecting ongoing business systems modernization activities, consistent with IRS's process for prioritizing operations support priorities, which addresses (1) prioritization and comparison of IT assets against each other, (2) criteria for making selection and prioritization decisions, and (3) ensuring IRS executives' final funding decisions on IT proposals are based on IRS's prioritization process.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS stated that it had several process improvements underway that would impact its documentation of policies and procedures for prioritizing business systems modernization activities. The agency committed to addressing the recommendation by December 2017.
    Recommendation: To help IRS improve its process for determining IT funding priorities and to provide timely information on the progress of its investments, the Commissioner of IRS should direct the Chief Technology Officer to modify existing processes for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Return Review Program (RRP) for measuring work performed by IRS staff to incorporate best practices, including accounting for actual work performed and using the level of effort measure sparingly.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it was continuing to examine methods for modifying existing processes to measure work performed by IRS staff for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and Return Review programs. We are monitoring IRS's efforts as part of an ongoing review of the agency's information technology operations.
    Recommendation: To help IRS improve its process for determining IT funding priorities and to provide timely information on the progress of its investments, the Commissioner of IRS should direct the Chief Technology Officer to report on actual costs and scope delivery at least quarterly for the Customer Account Data Engine 2 and the Affordable Care Act Administration. For these investments, IRS should develop metrics similar to FATCA and RRP.

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

    Comments: IRS began reporting on actual costs and scope delivery at least quarterly using metrics similar to FATCA and RRP and provided the quarterly reports for fiscal year 2016 and the first two quarters of fiscal year 2017 to GAO. As of September 2017, the agency had not implemented the recommendation for the Affordable Care Act Administration investment because it did not see the benefit in doing so given that development work was minimal. We are following up with IRS on this as part of an ongoing review of the agency's information technology operations.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to, building on current efforts, develop a comprehensive operational strategy that includes all the RTCs for which RCPPM is responsible. The strategy could include use of error rates and amounts, evaluation and guidance on the proper use of indicators like no-change and default rates, and guidance on how to weigh trade-offs between equity and return on investment in resource allocations.

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

    Comments: As of February 2017, IRS is taking steps toward developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes the three refundable tax credits GAO reviewed, as well as the PTC. These steps include initial planning meetings with Lean Six Sigma consultants and refundable credit policy and program managers and soliciting volunteers for the teams needed to develop the strategy. GAO will continue to monitor the progress of this effort.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to assess whether the data received from the Department of Education's Postsecondary Education Participants System (PEPS) database (a) are sufficiently complete and accurate to reliably correct tax returns at filing and (b) provide additional information that could be used to identify returns for examination; if warranted by this research, IRS should use this information to seek legislative authority to correct tax returns at filing based on PEPS data.

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

    Comments: In February 2016, Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management asked Wage & Investment Strategy & Solutions (WISS) to test the Department of Education's Postsecondary Education Participants System database (PEPS) to match and validate the EINS reported on Form 8863, Education Credits. According to IRS, preliminary assessment of the PEPS database indicates that it is not a sufficiently complete database to confirm AOTC eligibility during return processing or post processing. GAO reviewed the study results and submitted several follow-up questions to IRS in May 2017. GAO followed-up with IRS on the status of that information request in June 2017.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to take necessary steps to ensure the reliability of collections data and periodically review that data to (a) compute a collections rate for post-refund enforcement activities and (b) determine what additional analyses would provide useful information about compliance results and costs of post-refund audits and document-matching reviews.

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

    Comments: IRS raised concerns about the cost of studying collections data for post-refund enforcement activities. GAO recognizes that gathering collections data has costs. However, a significant amount of enforcement activity is occurring after refunds have been paid, and use of these data could better inform resource allocation decisions and improve the overall efficiency of enforcement efforts.
    Recommendation: To strengthen efforts to identify and address noncompliance with the EITC, ACTC, and AOTC, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct Refundable Credits Policy and Program Management (RCPPM) to, as RCPPM begins efforts to track the number of erroneous returns claiming the ACTC or AOTC identified through pre-refund enforcement activities, such as screening filters and use of math error authority, it should develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze these data that includes such characteristics as identifying timing goals, resource requirements, and the appropriate methodologies for analyzing and applying the data to compliance issues.

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

    Comments: As of February 2017, IRS is taking steps toward developing a comprehensive compliance strategy that includes the three refundable tax credits GAO reviewed, as well as the PTC. These steps include initial planning meetings with Lean Six Sigma consultants and refundable credit policy and program managers and soliciting volunteers for the teams needed to develop the strategy. GAO will continue to monitor the progress of this effort.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To further deter noncompliance in the Taxpayer Protection Program, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) e-authentication guidance, conduct an updated risk assessment to identify new or ongoing risks for TPP's online and phone authentication options, including documentation of time frames for conducting the assessment

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

    Comments: As of August 2017, IRS was taking steps to assess the risks of TPP authentication options, as GAO recommended in its May 2016 report. According to IRS, the agency assessed the e-authentication risk for the TPP web application based on OMB and NIST guidance. Based on the results of these assessments, the agency stated that officials are working to improve the level of assurance for the web application. In the interim, IRS reported that taxpayers will authenticate their identities by phone or in-person until the TPP web application has been sufficiently updated. According to officials, in February 2017, IRS implemented a new authentication process for TPP's phone authentication. Officials also told GAO they plan to finalize their review and risk assessment of TPP's phone, mail, and in-person authentication by October 2017. Once this assessment is finalized, GAO will review the assessment and determine the extent to which IRS has implemented the recommendation. Conducting an updated risk assessment for TPP in accordance with e-authentication and risk management standards will enable IRS to identify appropriate opportunities to strengthen TPP authentication and prevent IDT fraudsters from passing and potentially receiving millions of dollars in refunds. In addition, strengthening TPP could improve IRS's return on investment for its fraud detection efforts.
    Recommendation: To further deter noncompliance in the Taxpayer Protection Program, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, in accordance with OMB and NIST e-authentication guidance, implement appropriate actions to mitigate risks identified in the assessment.

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

    Comments: As of August 2017, IRS was taking steps to assess the risks of TPP authentication options, as GAO recommended in its May 2016 report. According to IRS, the agency assessed the e-authentication risk for the TPP web application based on OMB and NIST guidance. Based on the results of these assessments, the agency stated that officials are working to improve the level of assurance for the web application. In the interim, IRS reported that taxpayers will authenticate their identities by phone or in-person until the TPP web application has been sufficiently updated. According to officials, in February 2017, IRS implemented a new authentication process for TPP's phone authentication. Officials also told GAO they plan to finalize their review and risk assessment of TPP's phone, mail, and in-person authentication by October 2017. Once this assessment is finalized, GAO will review the assessment and determine the extent to which IRS has implemented the recommendation. Conducting an updated risk assessment for TPP in accordance with e-authentication and risk management standards will enable IRS to identify appropriate opportunities to strengthen TPP authentication and prevent IDT fraudsters from passing and potentially receiving millions of dollars in refunds. In addition, strengthening TPP could improve IRS's return on investment for its fraud detection efforts.
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the Taxonomy's IDT refund fraud estimates, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should remove refund thresholds from criteria used to develop IRS's refunds-paid estimates.

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

    Comments: As of October 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the Taxonomy's IDT refund fraud estimates, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should utilize return-level data--where available--to reduce overcounting and improve the quality and accuracy of the refunds-prevented estimates.

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

    Comments: In August 2016, IRS reported that the agency did not agree with GAO's recommendation and noted that the agency does not think that adopting a different methodology for Taxonomy estimates is an effective use of agency resources. According to IRS, the agency established the Global Identity Theft Report (Global Report) as a standardized report that uses return-level data for most of the identity theft protected categories and summary data elsewhere. Further, IRS reported that the agency will continue to improve the Global Report, which will flow into the Taxonomy. However, as we reported in May 2016, by using the Global Report to calculate Taxonomy estimates for refunds prevented, IRS may have overestimated the refunds protected or recovered. For example, electronically filed returns that are rejected are overcounted because the same return can be rejected multiple times. Additionally, IRS already has a count of known and potential identity theft returns in its modeling dataset that the agency could use to help calculate the refunds protected estimates. As of October 2017, GAO is analyzing IRS's 2015 Taxonomy estimates to determine the extent to which GAO's recommendation has been implemented.
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    7 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should establish, document, and implement an organizational structure identifying responsibility for defining objectives with an appropriate line of reporting for measuring costs and results for information referrals.

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

    Comments: As of January 2017, IRS has taken some action to implement this recommendation. IRS told us it established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to conduct a comprehensive review of IRS's referral programs, including the information referral process. IRS completed its review and plan for the organizational structure in December 2016. The Wage and Investment division will retain the intake and screening responsibilities. The Small Business and Self-Employed division will be responsible for defining objectives and monitoring results for information referrals. We continue to monitor IRS implementation of the planned cost and results measurement and reporting.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that the IRM has internal controls for processing information referrals by establishing, documenting, and implementing supervisory review and segregation of duties for inventory management reporting procedures.

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

    Comments: As of January 2017, IRS has taken some action on this recommendation. IRS told us it established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to conduct a comprehensive review of IRS's referral programs, including the information referral process. IRS completed its review and plan for the organizational structure in December 2016. Once IRS approves the organizational structure, IRS will document new and updated screening and routing procedures in the Internal Revenue Manual as well as guidance for the Image Control Team and other IRS units receiving information referrals. IRS plans to implement this recommendation by September 2017.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that the IRM has internal controls for processing information referrals by establishing, documenting, and implementing ongoing monitoring of information referrals retained for destruction, including a mechanism for tracking the reasons referrals were retained prior to destruction.

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

    Comments: As of January 2017, IRS has taken some action to implement this recommendation. IRS told us it established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to conduct a comprehensive review of IRS's referral programs, including the information referral process. IRS completed its review and plan for the organizational structure in December 2016. Once IRS approves the organizational structure, IRS will establish and document Internal Revenue Manual procedures, including criteria for retaining information referrals for destruction. IRS plans to implement this recommendation by September 2017.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that the IRM has internal controls for processing information referrals by establishing, documenting, and implementing procedures for each IRS operating unit receiving information referrals to provide feedback on the number and types of referrals misrouted and on their disposition, and a mechanism to analyze patterns of misroute errors.

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

    Comments: As of January 2017, IRS has taken some action to implement this recommendation. IRS told us it established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to conduct a comprehensive review of IRS's referral programs, including the information referral process. IRS completed its review and plan for the organizational structure in December 2016. Once IRS approves the organizational structure, IRS will establish and document Internal Revenue Manual procedures, including guidelines for IRS units receiving information referrals. IRS plans to implement this recommendation by September 2017.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should establish a coordination mechanism to facilitate communication and information sharing across IRS referral programs on crosscutting tax issues and ways to improve efficiency in the mechanisms for public reporting of possible tax violations.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken some action to establish a coordination mechanism to help IRS referral programs communicate and share information, as GAO recommended in its February 2016 report. IRS established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to comprehensively review IRS's referral programs. Among other things, this team is to explore aligning all IRS referral programs within an organizational structure to more efficiently coordinate, communicate, and share information across the referral programs by December 2017. As of March 2017, the Deputy Commissioner of Services and Enforcement directed the largest recipient of referrals to facilitate quarterly meetings in order to improve communication and information sharing across multiple IRS referral programs. The meetings are scheduled to begin by summer 2017.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the referral programs to establish a mechanism to coordinate on a plan and timeline for developing a consolidated, online referral submission in order to better position IRS to leverage specialized expertise while exploring options to further consolidate the initial screening operations.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken some action to establish a mechanism to coordinate on a plan and timeline for developing a consolidated, online referral submission, as GAO recommended in its February 2016 report. IRS established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to comprehensively review IRS's referral programs. Among other things, the team has explored options to consolidate the initial screening operations and determine the scope and complexity for moving the referral process to an online format. According to IRS, an electronic submission process is expected to provide better access to the program and reduce the burden associated with making a written report or referral. In November 2016, the cross-functional team requested information technology resources for fiscal year 2019 to develop an online system which could potentially replace four separate referral forms, filter out incomplete referrals, and electronically route referrals for further IRS action. IRS assessed options for consolidating all forms for the various referral programs and determined that consolidating them to a single form was not feasible due to the technical nature and complexity of the various referral types. As of March 2017, the cross-functional team has worked with IRS On Line Services to develop an online application prototype and is also considering the cost-effectiveness of a commercial off-the-shelf product. According to the IRS, the online application will make it easier for the public to report possible tax violations. Also, the online system will improve efficiency in coordination and provide reports that will be incorporated into the quarterly coordination meetings, to achieve a broader collaborative mechanism across the multiple referral programs. IRS has said it will consider further consolidating the referral programs once the online application is in place.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) has internal controls for processing information referrals by establishing, documenting, and implementing procedures for maintaining and communicating the information referral screening and routing guidelines to the Image Control Team (ICT) and IRS units receiving information referrals as well as procedures for ICT screening and routing operations.

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

    Comments: As of January 2017, IRS has taken some action on this recommendation. IRS told us it established a cross-functional team in February 2016 to conduct a comprehensive review of IRS's referral programs, including the information referral process. IRS completed its review and plan for the organizational structure in December 2016. Once IRS approves the organizational structure, IRS will document new and updated screening and routing procedures in the Internal Revenue Manual as well as guidance for the Image Control Team and other IRS units receiving information referrals. IRS plans to implement this recommendation by September 2017.
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly define and document: (1) key terms such as "fairness"; and (2) W&I program level objectives, performance measures, and indicators for audit selection to evaluate whether the audit selection process is meeting its mission of applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS told us its definitions of fairness were documented in a policy statement and reflected in the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights. IRS said it agrees with the value of incorporating these definitions into its guidance for examiners and that it was taking appropriate action to do so. In addition, IRS said guiding principles for ensuring fairness in tax return examinations had been communicated from the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement to all Service and Enforcement employees. However, IRS did not provide documentation of this communication. IRS said it will use its definition as the basis of guidance to be incorporated into the Internal Revenue Manual to ensure the audit process supports IRS's mission of applying the tax law with integrity and fairness. IRS did not indicate how it would develop program-level objectives for W&I, as we recommended. Additionally, IRS said many of its existing performance measures provide key indicators and insights as to program performance with respect to fairness, such as the rate of examinations resulting in changes proposed to the reported tax, cycle time for the examination, and yield from the examination. However, as we noted in our December 2015 report, these performance measures focus on audit results rather than audit selection and W&I has not created indicators to evaluate what no-change rate is good or bad, or what rate would indicate fair selections. We will continue to monitor IRS's actions, including reviewing any supporting documentation the agency provides, to determine whether its actions address our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should clearly communicate these terms, objectives, measures, and indicators to all staff involved in the selection of returns for audit.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it was writing expectations about the definition of fairness that would be communicated at the beginning of each annual audit selection planning meeting. IRS told us it plans to implement this in July 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should incorporate the new objective(s) into W&I risk assessments done for audit selection processes.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it would follow the risk process to officially report any risks associated with the outlined expectations identified during the review of the program level objectives, performance measures and indicators for audit selection. This recommendation will remain open until W&I develops program-level objectives--which would be related to its definition of fairness--and incorporates them into risk assessments for the audit selection process. IRS indicated it would implement our recommendation by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should ensure that internal control responsibilities are communicated and documented for all employees, including non-managers, tasked with revising or applying W&I audit selection criteria for potential audits.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said that by July 2017, internal control information would be provided in the expectation document provided to each member of the annual audit selection planning meeting and that receipt would be documented.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and implement procedures to ensure that all criteria or methods used in programs to select returns for audit are consistently documented and approved.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said procedures are in place to document and approve the criteria and methods used in the return selection program. It said it would review these procedures to ensure all criteria or methods used are consistently documented and approved by August 2017.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and document a clear means for IRS staff members to promptly elevate to top management possible internal control issues related to audit selection in a timely manner.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it would expand existing feedback mechanisms to specifically cover the audit selection process by July 2017. It is unclear what specific actions IRS plans to take to address the issues we reported in December 2015. For example, we found that the Internal Revenue Manual does not specify how non-managers should report a significant deficiency (such as a problem in the design or operation of an internal control) to the next level of management or that it should be reported in a timely manner. In addition, we reported that the form that W&I staff would use to report such deficiencies in the automated filters used for return selection does not include space for reporting internal control deficiencies that do not have a proposed solution. The form also states that the reason for modification should be self-explanatory, which may not appropriately highlight the deficiency the modification seeks to address.
    Recommendation: To help ensure W&I meets its mission and selects audits fairly and with integrity, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop, document, and implement additional monitoring procedures to ensure audit selection controls and corrective actions are implemented in a timely manner.

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

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS said it has modified Form 14747, Workload Identification Change Request Modification Approval, to document the request and approval for all changes to workload selection tools. Additionally, IRS said it now requires staff to follow the Unified Work Request process to request revisions/additions to certain audit selection rules. The work requests are documented in a database and require different levels of executive review and approval. IRS said the process has strict time frames outlining required submission dates to be followed for changes for the upcoming filing season. IRS also is developing a new section of the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) to document all of the workload selection methods and to change and outline required approval processes used to revise/add selection criteria for correspondence audits -- including the Form 14747 procedures. IRS did not provide a timeframe when this new IRM section would be published.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of Taxonomy estimates for future filing seasons, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should follow relevant best practices outlined in the GAO Cost Guide by documenting the underlying analysis justifying cost-influencing assumptions.

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

    Comments: As of April 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of Taxonomy estimates for future filing seasons, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should follow relevant best practices outlined in the GAO Cost Guide by reporting the inherent imprecision and uncertainty of the estimates. For example, IRS could provide a range of values for its Taxonomy estimates.

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

    Comments: As of April 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's 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

    8 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: If IRS delays are continuing, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should further revise the notices to provide more realistic response times based on the data and take other appropriate actions to ensure efficient use of IRS tax examiner resources. For example, IRS could choose to provide taxpayers who call IRS with a recorded message notifying them of delays in IRS responding and when to expected an IRS response.

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

    Comments: IRS revised the automated telephone message that taxpayers hear when they call but has not revised its notices. The new message provides taxpayers information on the correspondence audit workload and time frames and asks that they allow a certain number of days before calling to check on the status of their audit. However, IRS has yet to further revise notices to provide more realistic time frames. In July 2016, IRS officials said they were in the process of revising the notices in order to allow individual correspondence audit offices to enter a customized response date based on their respective inventory levels at the time notices are sent. As of March 2017, IRS officials said additional programming changes will delay implementation until July 2017.
    Recommendation: To clarify the desired results of the correspondence audit program and its linkages to IRS-wide activities, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should establish formal program objectives.

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

    Comments: IRS correspondence audit program officials planned a working group to develop formal program objectives. In November 2016, IRS officials provided documents intended to define the program objectives, but the objectives were unclear. As of March 2017, officials said they had no planned date by which to clearly document the objectives, but said they expect to describe them in program guidance changes anticipated in the next 12 to 18 months.
    Recommendation: To clarify the desired results of the correspondence audit program and its linkages to IRS-wide activities, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should ensure that the program measures reflect those objectives.

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

    Comments: IRS officials said that, among other actions, they plan to review and update program documentation and guidance as warranted to ensure a clear link between correspondence audit program objectives and related measures. IRS officials provided documentation in August 2016, but program measures could not be clearly linked to objectives because the objectives were not clear. As of March 2017, officials had no planned date by which to clearly document the program objectives and their links with program measures.
    Recommendation: To clarify the desired results of the correspondence audit program and its linkages to IRS-wide activities, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should clearly link those measures with strategic IRS-wide goals on ensuring compliance in a cost-effective way while minimizing taxpayer burden.

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

    Comments: IRS officials said that, among other actions, they plan to review and update program documentation and guidance as warranted to ensure that program measures clearly link to IRS strategic goals. IRS officials provided documentation in August 2016, but measures for the program could not be clearly linked to either the program objectives or IRS goals because the objectives were not clear. As of March 2017, officials had no planned date by which to clearly document how the program measures link to the objectives and IRS strategic goals.
    Recommendation: To better inform decisions being made about the correspondence audit program, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should document how the decisions are to be made using the performance information (including criteria and tolerances used).

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

    Comments: IRS officials agreed with the recommendation and said they would thoroughly document the program plan development process but did not refer to documenting how program decisions are to be made using performance information. In April 2016, officials provided documents describing current correspondence audit planning processes, but the documents lacked specifics on the decisions and performance information, criteria, and tolerances used. IRS officials said they would provide documentation on these specific details in Spring 2017.
    Recommendation: To better inform decisions being made about the correspondence audit program, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should track and use other program data that have not been used to provide more complete performance information. Examples of data that could be tracked and used include how much of the recommended tax amounts is collected over time; taxpayer burden and experience such as how often audits are resolved in one contact, how often taxpayers correspond or call, and how long taxpayers wait for IRS to respond to their documents and for the audit to close; and costs beyond the direct audit time, such as the costs to answer taxpayer calls per audit, assess the recommended tax, and collect those tax assessments.

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

    Comments: IRS officials said they would evaluate the methodology used in several existing studies to determine the most productive use of collectability data and evaluate the feasibility of collecting and using additional data. In April 2016, officials provided information on researching and testing of a new audit planning method during fiscal year 2016, using costs and collection results data. In November 2016, IRS officials said they had implemented the planning method to consider collection results for fiscal year 2017 but had not yet provided supporting documentation on how the method has used the collection results or on the status of efforts to use other program data, such as whether or when IRS will use performance information on costs and taxpayer burden related to audits. IRS officials said they will provide the documentation in Spring 2017.
    Recommendation: To better ensure an effective investment of resources in the CEAP efforts, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should clearly document the intended benefits of ongoing efforts to address identified problems, and the process for measuring and tracking actual benefits.

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

    Comments: IRS Correspondence audit program officials said they would document the expected benefits of ongoing changes by June 2016. We have since asked IRS officials to provide related documents. As of April 2017, we are awaiting documents.
    Recommendation: To better ensure an effective investment of resources in the CEAP efforts, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service should develop a plan and timeline for implementing the CEAP contractor's recommendations on possible ways to improve the (a) selection of correspondence audit workload and (b) allocation of resources between providing telephone assistance and reviewing taxpayer correspondence to resolve audits or develop justifications for not implementing the recommendations.

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

    Comments: IRS officials agreed with the recommendation and said they would continue to pursue efforts with research functions to further improve workload selection and maximize resource usage. However, they did not refer to any plan or timeline for implementing contractor recommendations to improve the selection of correspondence audit workload and allocation of examiner resources, or develop justifications for not implementing those recommendations. In March 2017, officials confirmed that IRS does not intend to implement the contractor's recommendations or to evaluate them, for example, by developing justifications for not implementing them.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider expanding the mandate for partnerships and corporations to electronically file their tax returns to cover a greater share of filed returns.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislation enacted as of March 2017. Current law requires entities that file more than 250 returns during a year or partnerships with more than 100 partners to file electronically. A bill has been introduced in Congress, S. 3178, which would gradually lower the threshold to 20 returns. Requiring greater digitization of tax return information, as GAO suggested in May 2014, would help the Internal Revenue Service identify which partnership and S corporation tax returns would be most productive to examine. Improving IRS's selection of partnership and S corporation returns to examine would also benefit compliant taxpayers whose returns may otherwise be selected for examination. Further, expanded e-filing would reduce IRS's tax return processing costs.
    Recommendation: While IRS works to improve the quality of its Schedule K-1 data, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a plan for conducting testing or other analysis to determine whether the improved Schedule K-1 data, perhaps combined with other IRS information about businesses and taxpayers, could be used more effectively to ensure compliance with the reporting of flow-through income.

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

    Comments: IRS stated that it understands the objective of this recommendation and, at such time that resources are available to enhance capabilities, it would consider the proposed methodology of advanced testing. However, based on current and anticipated budget constraints, it does not expect its plans to change in the near future.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that IRS is meeting the stated goals of CAP, the Principal Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue and Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement should track savings from Compliance Maintenance and CAP overall and develop a plan for reinvesting any savings.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken some steps to implement this recommendation, but is not fully tracking the amount of dollar savings from using CAP nor developing a plan to reinvest any savings, as GAO recommended in August 2013. IRS is tracking savings by analyzing and comparing the workload inventory of account coordinators who handle CAP cases against team coordinators who handle non-CAP cases. This caseload comparison is a part of IRS's annual CAP evaluation and was included in its June 2014 CAP evaluation plan. Based on GAO's review of the evaluation plan and results, IRS's caseload comparison did not show the amount of dollar savings from CAP. The comparison for tax years 2010 through 2012 showed that account coordinators handling CAP cases exclusively or in conjunction with non-CAP cases have a larger caseload than team coordinators handling non-CAP cases. In addition, IRS has not developed a plan for reinvesting any savings, as GAO recommended in August 2013. Such a plan could help IRS increase audit coverage. IRS stated that it cannot measure the CAP's impact on audit coverage because audit coverage is based on staffing and compliance priorities. Also, IRS said that while quantifying monetary savings would be difficult, it has reinvested its savings by expanding account coordinators' caseloads as shown in the average caseload of CAP and non-CAP cases worked. However, without a plan for tracking savings and using them to increase audit coverage, IRS cannot be assured that the savings are effectively invested in either CAP or non-CAP taxpayers with a high compliance risk. IRS is evaluating the CAP program to determine how it fits with IRS's future vision for examinations. It has no timetable for completing this evaluation. IRS did not accept new CAP applications for 2016, deciding that CAP would be limited to taxpayers who are in the program for 2017.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase the effectiveness of IRS's examinations individual tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should transcribe data from paper-filed Form 1040 Schedules C and E that are not currently transcribed and make that data available to SB/SE examiners for classification. If IRS has evidence that the costs related to transcribing all such data on Schedules C and E are prohibitive, IRS could do one or both of the following actions: (1) transcribe less data by transcribing only the missing data for selected line items, such as certain, large expense line items, or (2) develop a budget proposal to fund an initiative for transcribing Schedule C and E.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had completed its study on whether to transcribe more data from paper-filed returns by comparing the benefits to classifying tax returns for audit from doing this transcription. They said the benefits to be derived from additional transcription are not significant and would not outweigh the added cost. However, IRS has not provided specific information about the costs and benefits from transcribing information from Schedules C and E that we mentioned in our recommendation. Having more data transcribed and electronically available from these areas likely will improve the classification of audits as well as the quality of the audits, according to examiners we spoke with for the report.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take the following action outline a strategy that defines appropriate levels of telephone and correspondence service and wait time and lists specific steps to manage service based on an assessment of time frames, demand, capabilities, and resources.

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

    Comments: IRS has made progress in developing a customer service strategy with defined appropriate levels of service and steps needed to provide such service, as we recommended; however, as of March 2017, IRS has not completed its efforts. In December 2015, concerned that the Department of the Treasury and IRS did not believe they needed to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy, we suggested that Congress consider requiring Treasury to develop such a strategy in consultation with IRS that would, among other things, determine appropriate telephone and correspondence levels of service. This includes establishing a customer service standard and identifying the resources required to achieve that standard. Taking these steps would increase transparency and help IRS communicate its resource needs, while helping Congress make more informed decisions about IRS's budget. In February 2016, IRS announced a "Future State" vision for agency-wide operations, which aims to improve services across different taxpayer interactions such as individual online account assistance, exams, and collections. In December 2016, IRS reported that it had undertaken a study on benchmarking its telephone performance against the best in the business, which we are currently reviewing. It also reported that many of our taxpayer service-related recommendations will ultimately be incorporated into IRS's Future State initiative. In November 2016, IRS provided documentation on the goals of the initiatives, which included goals on improving taxpayer service. However, this documentation does not include specific numerical targets that IRS expects to achieve for those goals. We will continue to assess this initiative as IRS works to develop it. However, it is unclear the extent to which and when our recommendations will be fulfilled by IRS's initiative. We maintain that Treasury should develop a comprehensive strategy in consultation with IRS which would enable IRS to make a more informed request to Congress about resource requirements needed to deliver specific levels of service. Finalizing a long-term comprehensive strategy will help ensure IRS is maximizing the benefit to taxpayers and possibly reduce costs in other areas, such as for IRS's telephone operations.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congressmay wish to consider amending the Internal Revenue Code to authorize IRS to assess penalties on preparers for failure to comply with section 6011(e)(3).

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: A bill was introduced on June 28, 2011, which would have amended electronic filing requirements for paid preparers. This included language amending section 6695 of the Internal Revenue Code to include a penalty of $50 for failure to electronically file returns under section 6011 (e)(3). However, this bill was never enacted. As of March 2017, there are no bills pending that would provide IRS with authority to penalize paid preparers for failure to electronically file returns as GAO recommended
    Director: Mctigue, James R Jr
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that economically similar outcomes are taxed similarly and minimize opportunities for abuse, the Secretary of the Treasury should undertake a study that compares the current approach to alternative approaches for the taxation of financial derivatives. To determine if changes would be beneficial, such a study should weigh the tradeoffs to IRS and taxpayers that each alternative presents, including simplicity, administrability, and economic efficiency.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury disagreed with this recommendation based on the fact that many outside studies already exist and IRS did not comment. While Treasury disagreed with the recommendation, debate on tax reform, both in Congress and within IRS, continues and actions to ensure that economically similar outcomes are taxed similarly seem likely. GAO continues to maintain that further study is needed in coordination with IRS. If financial derivatives are included in tax reform, this could lead to savings for the federal government. GAO will continue to monitor progress on tax reform and whether it includes changes to the taxation of financial derivatives consistent with the recommendation.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that IRS can adequately enforce certain tax provisions, Congress may wish to consider providing IRS with MEA to use tax return information from previous years to ensure that taxpayers do not improperly claim credits or deductions in excess of lifetime limits where applicable.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, Congress had not yet provided IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use tax return information from previous years to ensure that taxpayers do not improperly claim credits or deductions in excess of lifetime limits.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To gain efficiencies and improve taxpayer service, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials, based on the quality of service provided by comparable organizations and on what matters most to the customer, to determine a customer service telephone standard, and the resources required to achieve this standard based on input from Congress and other stakeholders.

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

    Comments: In January 2017, IRS officials provided results of a benchmarking study that it completed in response to our recommendation. In that study, an IRS team compared IRS's service, measures and goals to comparable agencies and companies. For example, IRS compared the types of measures the companies used, including those that were primarily service-driven and resource-driven. As a result, the team recommended options for additional measures to indicate the level of access taxpayers have to service, including across channels. In addition, IRS concluded that the ideal level of service is 83 percent, which optimizes a balance between wait time, disconnects, and assistor availability. It also recommended exploring using new technology including email, online chat, and telephone call back features as well as to establish regularly scheduled follow-up benchmarking. However, IRS did not adopt the standard level of service goal of 83 percent. Furthermore, in its fiscal year 2018 performance measures and goals, IRS planned a 39 percent level of service, which is substantially lower than the prior 2 year targets, both of which IRS exceeded. In addition, IRS did not estimate the resources required to achieve the level of service standard that it identified in its 2016 benchmarking study. While these benchmarking results represent an important step toward delivering a certain standard of telephone service, without actually setting goals that are consistent with those results and determining and communicating the resources required to achieve them, IRS is unable to work effectively with Congress and other stakeholders to deliver desired levels of service.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To understand the scope of the business nonfiler population, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should estimate the magnitude of business nonfiling among businesses registered with IRS, using data from its operational files to select cases for further investigation. Based on the results of this work IRS should develop a tax gap estimate for the impact of business nonfiling insofar as doing so is cost-effective.

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

    Comments: As of August 2017, IRS said it did not plan to develop a partial estimate of the business nonfiler rate, as we recommended in August 2010. IRS reported that funding would likely be unavailable for it to do so using operational data. According to IRS, its existing operational data on business nonfilers are sufficient. However, even a partial estimate could give IRS additional information that would be useful in its strategic planning and help it determine what priority it should place on this type of noncompliance.
    Recommendation: To monitor the performance of business nonfiler activities, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should set a deadline for developing data that can be used to measure the performance of the BMF CCNIP and its business nonfiler compliance activities overall.

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

    Comments: IRS has determined that it does not have the necessary data that could be used to measure its business nonfiler efforts across the agency and that it therefore cannot set a deadline for developing such data, as GAO recommended in August 2010. According to IRS, developing such data would be prohibitively costly. Rather, as of August 2017, IRS plans to continue to use the data at the operating division level. Without going through the process of developing performance data, IRS is unable to know what data would aid in monitoring and evaluating its business nonfiler efforts. Absent cross-agency performance data, IRS is unable to fully understand the outcomes of its business nonfiler efforts.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance IRS's ability to detect noncompliance with mortgage debt forgiveness provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should modify Form 982, Part 1 to segregate the total dollar amount of forgiven debt by exclusion type and capture the information in IRS's databases.

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

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS has not yet revised the Form 982 consistent with our recommendation. Form 982 directs taxpayers to identify the type(s) of forgiven debt. For example, taxpayers check a box to indicate forgiven mortgage debt used to buy, build, or substantially improve a principal residence. However, the Form 982 is used to report other types of forgiven debt, such as debt related to real property used in a trade or business, and the form does not require taxpayers to report the dollar amounts for each exclusion type. This means that IRS does not necessarily know how much of the forgiven debt should be attributed to a taxpayer's principal residence. Section 151 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) extended the exclusion of forgiven mortgage debt to debt discharged before January 1, 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension will be more than $5.1 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 making it important for IRS to have more specific information from taxpayers concerning the amount of forgiven debt attributable to a taxpayer's principal residence.
    Recommendation: To enhance IRS's ability to detect noncompliance with mortgage debt forgiveness provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should modify the Form 982 and Form 1099-C so that filers disclose the address of the secured property for which the debt is being forgiven and capture the information in IRS's databases.

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

    Comments: While IRS has not revised the Forms 982 and 1099-C consistent with our recommendation, Congress directed IRS to collect additional information concerning mortgage interest payments, which prompted IRS to revise a related form. Congress in July 2015 enacted the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act (Public Law 114-41). Section 2003 of the act requires taxpayers receiving mortgage interest payments to report the origination date of the mortgage, the amount of outstanding principal at the beginning of the calendar year, and the property's address. This new reporting requirement applies to returns that would be filed in 2017. In response to the legislation, IRS updated Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement. While IRS officials have told us that they believe the new data to be collected on this form have the potential to be helpful, they will not know the extent of any benefits from this new reporting requirement for several years. As of March 2017, IRS had not yet revised two other forms to the extent we recommended--the Forms 982 and 1099-C--to collect specific information from taxpayers and lenders concerning the amount of forgiven debt attributable to a principal residence and the location of the taxpayer's principal residence. Specifically, Form 982 does not direct taxpayers to identify the address for which debt is being forgiven nor does Form 1099-C direct lenders to report the address. Section 151 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) extended the exclusion of forgiven mortgage debt to debt discharged before January 1, 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension will be more than $5.1 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, making it important for IRS to have more specific information concerning the address of the properties for which debt is being forgiven.
    Recommendation: To enhance IRS's ability to detect noncompliance with mortgage debt forgiveness provisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should use the additional data reported on the revised Form 982 and Form 1099-C to assess the extent to which taxpayers are compliant.

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

    Comments: While IRS has not fully revised the Forms 982 and 1099-C consistent with our recommendation, Congress directed IRS to collect additional information concerning mortgage interest payments which prompted IRS to revise a related form, and IRS officials are considering how to use the additional data. As of March 2017, the Form 982 does not direct taxpayers to identify the address for which debt is being forgiven. For the Form 1099-C, IRS began requiring lenders to provide more information about the type of event that resulted in the cancellation of the debt. However, as of March 2017, the Form 1099-C does not direct lenders to report the address of the property for which mortgage debt is being forgiven. In July 2015, Congress enacted the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act (Public Law 114-41). Section 2003 of the act requires taxpayers receiving mortgage interest payments to report the origination date of the mortgage, the amount of outstanding principal at the beginning of the calendar year, and the property's address. This new reporting requirement applies to returns that would be filed in 2017. In response to the legislation, IRS updated Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement for the 2017 filing season. While IRS officials told us that they believe the new data to be collected on this form have the potential to be helpful, they will not know the extent of any benefits from this new reporting requirement for several years. Section 151 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) extended the exclusion of forgiven mortgage debt to debt discharged before January 1, 2017. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension will be more than $5.1 billion for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, making it important for IRS to use the additional data we recommended they collect in enforcement efforts.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202)512-9521

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of IRS should direct the appropriate IRS officials to, once IRS identifies the control weaknesses that result in inaccuracies or errors that affect the financial reporting of unpaid tax assessments, implement control procedures to routinely prevent, or to detect and correct, such errors.

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

    Comments: IRS created a long-term corrective action plan that contains specific actions to improve control procedures to prevent or detect errors. While IRS completed some actions during fiscal year 2016, it has not completed most of the actions in the plan or documented milestones or target completion dates for these remaining actions. In addition, during fiscal year 2016, GAO and IRS continued to identify misclassified unpaid assessments that resulted from inaccuracies or errors in taxpayer accounts. Thus, IRS's actions to date have not been effective at fully addressing the issues that continue to cause a lack of transaction traceability and material inaccuracies produced by the subsidiary ledger. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: White, James
    Phone: (202) 512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Congress may wish to consider broadening IRS's ability to use math error authority (MEA), with appropriate safeguards against misuse of that authority.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has expanded IRS's math error authority in certain circumstances, but not as broadly as we suggested in February 2010. Congress enacted legislation in December 2015 that expands the circumstances in which IRS may use math error authority. Section 208 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) gives IRS the authority to use math error authority if (1) a taxpayer claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) during the period in which a taxpayer is not permitted to claim such credit as a consequence of either having made a prior fraudulent or reckless claim; or (2) a taxpayer omitted information required to be reported because the taxpayer made prior improper claims of the Child Tax Credit or the AOTC. While expanding math error authority is consistent with what we recommended Congress consider, we had suggested that math error authority be authorized on a broader basis with appropriate controls rather than on a piecemeal basis. Our previous work has identified additional tax provisions for which expanded math error authority would be helpful, such as the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, Individual Retirement Accounts, and Residential Energy Property Credit. While Congress expanded math error authority for the First-Time Homebuyer Credit in November 2009 and for other individual credits as previously described, we maintain that a broader authorization of math error authority with appropriate controls would enable IRS to correct obvious noncompliance, would be less intrusive and burdensome to taxpayers than audits, and would potentially help taxpayers who underclaim tax benefits to which they are entitled. If Congress decides to extend broader math error authority to IRS, controls may be needed to ensure that this authority is used properly. Our prior work identified potential controls, such as requiring IRS to report on its use of math error authority. The administration also requested that Congress grant the Department of the Treasury regulatory authority to expand IRS's use of math error authority as part of its budget submission for fiscal year 2017. The 114th Congress did not provide Treasury with such authority. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated this change could raise $274 million through fiscal years 2018 through 2026.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-9039

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Should the program be extended beyond 2009, to ensure that the maximum amount of capital ends up in low-income community businesses, Congress may wish to consider offering grants to CDEs that would provide the funds to low-income community businesses. If it does so, Congress may wish to require Treasury to gather appropriate data to assess whether and to what extent the grant program increases the amount of federal subsidy provided to low-income community businesses compared to the NMTC; whether the grant program otherwise affects the success of efforts to assist low-income communities; and how costs for administering the program incurred by the CDFI Fund, CDEs, and investors would change. One option may be for Congress to set aside a portion of funds to be used as grants and a portion to be used as tax credit allocation authority under the current structure of the program in a future allocation round to facilitate comparison of the two program structures.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 extended the NMTC through 2019 (Public Law 114-113). However, the act did not modify the program to include grants in lieu of credits, as GAO suggested in January 2010. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the cost of this extension to be approximately $2.6 billion. As of June 2017, Congress has not taken additional action that would address this matter for consideration.
    Director: Brostek, Michael
    Phone: (202)512-9039

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve compliance with shareholder basis rules, Congress may wish to require S corporations to calculate and report shareholder's stock and debt basis as completely as possible. S corporations would report the calculation on the Schedule K-1 and send it to shareholders as well as IRS. If Congress judges that stock purchase price information that is currently only available to shareholders should not be transmitted to the S corporation due to privacy concerns, an alternative is to require that S corporations report less complete basis calculations using information already available to the S corporation.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to require S corporations--a federal business type that provides certain tax benefits like passing income and losses to shareholders' individual returns-- to calculate and report shareholder's stock and debt basis as completely as possible and report the calculation to shareholders and IRS, as GAO suggested in December 2009.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress may wish to consider providing IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use prior years' tax return information to automatically verify taxpayers' compliance with the limit on the number of years the Hope credit can be claimed.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 3, 2017, Congress has not provided IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use prior years' tax return information to automatically verify taxpayers' compliance with the limit on the number of years the Hope Scholarship Credit, now known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) can be claimed. The AOTC can be claimed by taxpayers for qualified tuition and related expenses for 4 years of postsecondary education. Under the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, IRS was granted MEA to disallow a claim for the AOTC if the taxpayer is not permitted to claim the credit due to prior fraudulent or reckless claims, or if the taxpayer omitted information relating to prior improper claims of the credit. IRS does not have authority to automatically deny an AOTC even if the taxpayer claims the credit for more than the 4 allowable years. GAO has in the past provided technical assistance to the House Solutions Caucus in drafting legislative language for a bill on extending MEA to use prior years' returns for verifying compliance with limits on the credit. In addition, the Administration has for many years included a revenue proposal in Treasury's Green Book to provide IRS with "correctable error authority" where the (1) information provided by the taxpayer does not match the information contained in government databases, (2) taxpayer has exceeded the lifetime limit for claiming the credit or deduction, or (3) taxpayer failed to include proper documentation with his or her return. If this revenue proposal was enacted, IRS would have the authority to deny claims for the AOTC if the taxpayer has already received the credit for 4 years.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to significantly reduce the uncertainty that some taxpayers have about their ability to earn credits for their research activities, the Secretary of the Treasury should issue regulations clarifying the definition of gross receipts for purposes of computing the research credit for controlled groups of corporations.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: Treasury issued proposed regulations clarifying the definition of gross receipts on December 13, 2013 and solicited public comments. During the course of 2014 tax practitioners and business executives submitted comments criticizing the regulations and asking for them to be withdrawn. As of April 2017, Treasury has yet to issue final regulations that would include responses to these criticisms. The regulations would not become effective until tax year beginning after the date on which the regulations are published in final form.
    Recommendation: In order to significantly reduce the uncertainty that some taxpayers have about their ability to earn credits for their research activities, the Secretary of the Treasury should provide additional guidance to more clearly identify what types of activities are considered to be qualified support activities.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Treasury has not issued regulations to clarify what types of activities are considered to be qualified support activities.
    Recommendation: In order to significantly reduce the uncertainty that some taxpayers have about their ability to earn credits for their research activities, the Secretary of the Treasury should provide additional guidance to more clearly identify when commercial production of a qualified product is deemed to begin.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Treasury has not issued regulations to more clearly identify when commercial production of a qualified product is deemed to begin.
    Recommendation: In order to reduce economic inefficiencies and excessive revenue costs resulting from inaccuracies in the base of the research tax credit, Congress should consider eliminating the regular credit option for computing the research credit.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to eliminate the regular computation option for the research tax credit or add a minimum base to the ASC option, as GAO suggested in November 2009. Section 121 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 made permanent the research tax credit (Public Law 114-113). The credit designed to encourage business innovation by providing a subsidy to new research has historically been a temporary provision. However, neither this act nor other enacted legislation has adopted GAO's suggested change to the research tax credit's design. Continued use of the regular computation credit option, which arbitrarily distributes subsidies across taxpayers, can distort investment decisions so that research spending and economic activity are not allocated to sectors that offer the highest returns to society. These misallocations may reduce economic efficiency and, thereby, diminish any economic benefits of the credit.
    Recommendation: In order to reduce economic inefficiencies and excessive revenue costs resulting from inaccuracies in the base of the research tax credit, Congress should consider adding a minimum base to the ASC that equals 50 percent of the taxpayer's current-year qualified research expenses.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 2017, Congress had not enacted legislation to eliminate the regular computation option for the research tax credit or add a minimum base to the ASC option, as GAO suggested in November 2009. Section 121 of division Q of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 made permanent the research tax credit (Public Law 114-113). The credit designed to encourage business innovation by providing a subsidy to new research has historically been a temporary provision. However, neither this act nor other enacted legislation has adopted GAO's suggested change to the research tax credit's design. Continued use of the regular computation credit option, which arbitrarily distributes subsidies across taxpayers, can distort investment decisions so that research spending and economic activity are not allocated to sectors that offer the highest returns to society. These misallocations may reduce economic efficiency and, thereby, diminish any economic benefits of the credit.
    Recommendation: If Congress nevertheless wishes to continue offering the regular research credit to taxpayers, it may wish to consider reducing inaccuracies in the credit's base and to reduce taxpayers' uncertainty and compliance costs and IRS's administrative costs by updating the historical base period that regular credit claimants use to compute their fixed base percentages.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken by Congress as of February 2017 to update the historical base period that regular credit claimants use to compute their fixed base percentages.
    Recommendation: If Congress nevertheless wishes to continue offering the regular research credit to taxpayers, it may wish to consider reducing inaccuracies in the credit's base and to reduce taxpayers' uncertainty and compliance costs and IRS's administrative costs by eliminating base period recordkeeping requirements for taxpayers that elect to use a fixed base percentage of 16 percent in their computation of the credit.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken by Congress as of February 2017 to eliminate base period recordkeeping requirements for taxpayers that elect to use a fixed base percentage of 16 percent in their computation of the credit.
    Recommendation: If Congress nevertheless wishes to continue offering the regular research credit to taxpayers, it may wish to consider reducing inaccuracies in the credit's base and to reduce taxpayers' uncertainty and compliance costs and IRS's administrative costs by clarifying for Treasury its intent regarding the definition of gross receipts for purposes of computing the research credit for controlled groups of corporations. In particular it may want to consider clarifying that the regulations generally excluding transfers between members of controlled groups apply to both gross receipts and QREs and specifically clarifying how it intended sales by domestic members to foreign members to be treated. Such clarification would help to resolve open controversies relating to past claims, even if the regular credit were discontinued for future years.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken by Congress as of February 2017 to clarify for Treasury its intent regarding the definition of gross receipts for purposes of computing the research credit for controlled groups of corporations. In particular, it may want to consider clarifying that the regulations generally excluding transfers between members of controlled groups apply to both gross receipts and QREs and specifically clarifying how it intended sales by domestic members to foreign members to be treated. Such clarification would help to resolve open controversies relating to past claims, even if the regular credit were discontinued for future years.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to ensure the most efficient, fair, and consistent administration of civil tax penalties, and that penalties are achieving their purpose of encouraging voluntary compliance, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the Office of Servicewide Penalties (OSP) to evaluate penalty administration and penalties' effect on voluntary compliance.

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

    Comments: The Office of Servicewide Penalties (OSP) initiated a plan to comprehensively evaluate penalty administration and the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance. They stated that they understand such a plan will be useful in identifying priorities and determining additional potential resource needs. However, OSP put this plan on hold while they developed a business case for obtaining more staff and resources. OSP is in the process of obtaining feedback to refine their business case for final submission. While they await approval of the business case they have not done any work on the comprehensive plan. As the comprehensive plan remains incomplete, OSP has not yet undertaken an evaluation of penalties' effect on voluntary compliance. In December 2011 OSP formed a Civil Penalties Administrative Improvement Initiative team that has the goal of making improvements to civil penalty administration. Activities underway as of February 2013 include developing measures to improve taxpayer consistency and taking actions to improve the Reasonable Cause Assistant computer system. We learned in February 2015 that the program is now under a new executive. When we met with the new agency officials in April 2015 they told us that they had a new effort underway to develop a comprehensive strategy that examines the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance while ensuring quality. IRS finalized a Penalty Performance Plan on March 6, 2017, which we are currently reviewing.
    Recommendation: In order to ensure the most efficient, fair, and consistent administration of civil tax penalties, and that penalties are achieving their purpose of encouraging voluntary compliance, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct OSP to develop and implement a plan to collect and analyze penalty-related data. The plan should address the constraints officials have identified as impeding progress in analyzing penalties.

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

    Comments: Office of Servicewide Penalties (OSP) initiated a plan to comprehensively evaluate penalty administration and the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance. However, OSP put this plan on hold while they developed a business case for obtaining more staff and resources. As of February 2013 the business case has not progressed and OSP has taken no additional action to complete the comprehensive plan. We learned in February 2015 that the program is now under a new executive. When we met with the new agency officials in April 2015 they told us that they had a new effort underway to develop a comprehensive strategy that examines the impact of penalties on voluntary compliance while ensuring quality. IRS finalized a Penalty Performance Plan on March 6, 2017, which we are currently reviewing.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To simplify the burden that the corporate exemption places on payers to distinguish payees' business status and also provide greater information reporting, Congress may wish to consider requiring payers to report payments to corporations on the form 1099 MISC, as we previously suggested and as proposed in the Bush Administration's budget.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislative action has been identified to require payers engaged in a trade or business to report on payments to corporations for services, thereby reducing these payers' burden to determine which payments require reporting. On March 23, 2010, Congress enacted section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-148), which expanded information reporting to include payments made to corporations, consistent with GAO's January 2009 matter for congressional consideration. The provision also required payers to report payments for property and gross proceeds. The provision was to be effective for payments after December 31, 2011, requiring payers to report beginning in January 2013 on payments to corporations made in 2012 for property or services. However, Congress repealed the provision on April 14, 2011, by section 2 of the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-9).
    Recommendation: To gauge the extent of 1099-MISC payer noncompliance and its contribution to the tax gap, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, as part of future research studies, develop an estimate of 1099-MISC payer noncompliance.

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

    Comments: According to IRS, developing such an estimate requires a multi-pronged approach and a large amount of coordinated effort. One prong is to determine the extent of filing compliance among employers. A second prong would determine the extent to which 1099-MISC payers properly report their payments. Starting with the Tax Year 2001 individual income tax reporting compliance study, the National Research Program (NRP) office has been collecting some data related to Form 1099-MISC compliance, from both the payer and payee perspectives. With the ongoing annual individual income tax reporting compliance studies, the IRS will gather more data on this issue. However, by themselves, these efforts will not provide a comprehensive picture of the scope of potential Form 1099-MISC non-compliance. Additional data will be generated by the NRP reporting compliance study for employment tax. As part of the NRP employment tax research, IRS examiners were to review taxpayers' Form 1099 filing compliance. Data collected from these studies should shed some light on whether employers are appropriately reporting required payments on Form 1099-MISC. As of July 2017, IRS had completed portions of its analysis of the NRP employment tax sample results and was working to resolve data issues. IRS estimates its analysis of the extent of Form 1099-MISC payer noncompliance will be complete by December 2017. We will continue to monitor IRS's progress.
    Recommendation: To gauge the extent of 1099-MISC payer noncompliance and its contribution to the tax gap, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, as part of future research studies, determine the nature and characteristics of those payers that do not comply with 1099-MISC reporting requirements so that this information can be factored into an IRS-wide strategy for increasing 1099-MISC payer compliance.

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

    Comments: IRS researchers are collecting data on 1099-MISC reporting as part of its National Research Program (NRP) study on employment taxes, a program that involves examinations of a sample of tax returns expected to culminate in 2015. The examinations include tax years 2008 through 2010. As part of the NRP employment tax research, IRS examiners were to review taxpayers' Form 1099 filing compliance. Collecting data on this issue will enable IRS to study the nature and characteristics of payers that do not comply with 1099-MISC reporting requirements. As of July 2017, IRS had completed portions of its analysis of the NRP employment tax sample results and was working to resolve data issues. IRS estimates its 1099-MISC payer reporting compliance analysis will be completed in December 2017.We will continue to monitor IRS's progress.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide clarity for which taxpayers with rental real estate activity must report expense payments on information returns and to provide greater information reporting, Congress may wish to consider amending the Internal Revenue Code to make all taxpayers with rental real estate activity subject to the same information reporting requirements as other taxpayers operating a trade or business.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, no legislation had been identified to make owners of rental real estate subject to the same payment reporting requirements regardless of whether they engaged in a trade or business under current law. In the 112th Congress, Congress enacted the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-240), which contained a provision that required, in general, persons receiving rental income from real estate to be considered engaged in a trade or business and therefore subject to the reporting requirements of section 6041 of the Internal Revenue Code, which was consistent with GAO's August 2008 matter for congressional consideration. However, Congress repealed the provision on April 14, 2011, by section 3 of the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-9).
    Director: White, James
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the lack of information on IRD users and where property claimed under IRD is placed in service, Congress may wish to consider requiring IRS to collect information identifying which taxpayers use IRD and the reservation and/or address where they have placed the property into service. In deliberating additional requirements, Congress should weigh the need for more IRD information with the associated costs of collecting and analyzing the information as well as the effects on IRS's other priorities.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we continue to monitor the issue.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9039

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: As Congress considers whether tax-exempt governmental bonds should be used for professional sports stadiums that are generally privately used, it may also wish to consider whether other facilities, including hotels and golf courses, that are privately used should continue to be financed with tax-exempt governmental bonds.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: No legislative action enacted as of March 2017. A bill was introduced in Congress in February 2017 (H.R. 811) which, if enacted, would, in general, not allow tax-exempt government bonds to be used to finance professional sports stadiums. Reconsidering the tax-exempt status of certain bonds could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional federal revenue.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    5 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should resume presenting tax expenditures in the budget together with related outlay programs to show a truer picture of the federal support within a mission area.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken. OMB had not presented tax expenditures in the budget together with the related outlay programs in the fiscal year 2018 budget released in May 2017. OMB did not agree that GAO's September 2005 recommendation is necessary and stated that presenting information on tax expenditures together with related outlay programs is not useful for budgeting and that such a presentation is not part of the congressional budget process. However, the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires a list of tax expenditures, including special tax credits, deductions, exclusions, exemptions, deferrals, and preferential tax rates. Whereas OMB favors reporting tax expenditures separately from the rest of the budget, GAO has reported that an integrated presentation is also useful to show the relative magnitude of tax expenditures compared to spending and credit programs across mission areas. OMB previously presented tax expenditure sums alongside outlays and credit activity for each budget function in the federal budget from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2002, but discontinued the practice. Tax expenditures resulted in $1.4 trillion in forgone revenue in fiscal year 2016, more than the discretionary spending level that year.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should require that tax expenditures be included in the PART process and any future such budget and performance review processes so that tax expenditures are considered along with related outlay programs in determining the adequacy of federal efforts to achieve national objectives.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: OMB made some progress in including tax expenditures along with related outlay programs in the executive branch's budget and performance review processes, as GAO recommended in September 2005, but as of July 2017, OMB had not developed a systematic approach for conducting such reviews. The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that the administration would work toward examining the objectives and effects of the wide range of tax expenditures in the budget. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires OMB and the agencies to identify the relevant tax expenditures that contribute to each crosscutting priority goal. Beginning with its August 2012 update to Circular No. A-11 with guidance for implementing GPRAMA and continuing in subsequent annual updates, OMB has directed agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to each of their agency priority goals. Beginning with the July 2013 update, OMB expanded its guidance to include identifying these contributions to agency strategic objectives. In both its July 2013 and July 2014 guidance, OMB stated that it planned to work with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and agencies to facilitate alignment of tax expenditure information with agency priority goals and strategic objectives. However, in its June 2015 update of this guidance, OMB removed the language about working with Treasury and agencies to align tax expenditures with agency goals. OMB staff told GAO in July 2017 that it was not an effort they were pursuing due to competing priorities, as well as capacity and resource constraints. OMB's July 2017 guidance still requires agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to their agency priority goals and strategic objectives.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should develop and implement a framework for conducting performance reviews of tax expenditures. In developing the framework, the Director should (1) determine which agencies will have leadership responsibilities to review tax expenditures, how reviews will be coordinated among agencies with related responsibilities, and how to address the lack of credible performance information on tax expenditures; (2) set a schedule for conducting tax expenditure evaluations; (3) re-establish appropriate methods to test the overall evaluation framework and make improvements as experience is gained; and (4) to identify any additional resources that may be needed for tax expenditure reviews.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: No executive action taken. As of the last President's budget released in May 2017, the Director of OMB had not developed a framework for reviewing tax expenditure performance, as GAO recommended in June 1994 and again in September 2005. Since their initial efforts in 1997 and 1999 to outline a framework for evaluating tax expenditures and preliminary performance measures, OMB and the Department of the Treasury have ceased to make progress and retreated from setting a schedule for evaluating tax expenditures.The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that developing an evaluation framework is a significant challenge due to limited data availability and analytical constraints of isolating the effect of any single program. The administration planned to focus on addressing some of these challenges so it can work toward crosscutting analyses that examine tax expenditures alongside related spending programs. However, OMB and Treasury have not reported on progress on this recommendation since the President's fiscal year 2012 budget.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should develop and implement a framework for conducting performance reviews of tax expenditures. In developing the framework, the Director should (1) determine which agencies will have leadership responsibilities to review tax expenditures, how reviews will be coordinated among agencies with related responsibilities, and how to address the lack of credible performance information on tax expenditures; (2) set a schedule for conducting tax expenditure evaluations; (3) re-establish appropriate methods to test the overall evaluation framework and make improvements as experience is gained; and (4) to identify any additional resources that may be needed for tax expenditure reviews.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: No executive action taken. As of the last President's budget released in May 2017, the Director of OMB had not developed a framework for reviewing tax expenditure performance, as GAO recommended in June 1994 and again in September 2005. Since their initial efforts in 1997 and 1999 to outline a framework for evaluating tax expenditures and preliminary performance measures, OMB and the Department of the Treasury have ceased to make progress and retreated from setting a schedule for evaluating tax expenditures. The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that developing an evaluation framework is a significant challenge due to limited data availability and analytical constraints of isolating the effect of any single program. The administration planned to focus on addressing some of these challenges so it can work toward crosscutting analyses that examine tax expenditures alongside related spending programs. However, OMB and Treasury have not reported on progress on this recommendation since the President's fiscal year 2012 budget.
    Recommendation: To ensure that policymakers and the public have the necessary information to make informed decisions and to improve the progress toward exercising greater scrutiny of tax expenditures, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, should require that tax expenditures be included in the PART process and any future such budget and performance review processes so that tax expenditures are considered along with related outlay programs in determining the adequacy of federal efforts to achieve national objectives.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In October 2005, the Department of the Treasury responded that this recommendation did not relate to Treasury. OMB made some progress in including tax expenditures along with related outlay programs in the executive branch's budget and performance review processes, as GAO recommended in September 2005, but as of July 2017, OMB had not developed a systematic approach for conducting such reviews. The President's fiscal year 2012 budget stated that the administration would work toward examining the objectives and effects of the wide range of tax expenditures in the budget. The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (GPRAMA) requires OMB and the agencies to identify the relevant tax expenditures that contribute to each crosscutting priority goal. Beginning with its August 2012 update to Circular No. A-11 with guidance for implementing GPRAMA and continuing in subsequent annual updates, OMB has directed agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to each of their agency priority goals. Beginning with the July 2013 update, OMB expanded its guidance to include identifying these contributions to agency strategic objectives. In both its July 2013 and July 2014 guidance, OMB stated that it planned to work with the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and agencies to facilitate alignment of tax expenditure information with agency priority goals and strategic objectives. However, in its June 2015 update of this guidance, OMB removed the language about working with Treasury and agencies to align tax expenditures with agency goals. OMB staff told GAO in July 2017 that it was not an effort they were pursuing due to competing priorities, as well as capacity and resource constraints. OMB's July 2017 guidance still requires agencies to identify tax expenditures that contribute to their agency priority goals and strategic objectives.
    Director:
    Phone:

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should match independent contractors' information returns with their tax returns to more systematically identify employers who are misclassifying employees as independent contractors and to better target audit resources for doing employment tax examinations.

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

    Comments: Call 202/512-6100 for additional information.
    Recommendation: Section 630 of the Revenue Act of 1978 restricts IRS' authority to ensure that current and future classifications will be correct. In view of the equity issues and tax revenues involved, Congress may wish to consider repealing this restriction against requiring employers to prospectively reclassify employees who have been misclassified as independent contractors.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Call 202/512-6100 for additional information.