Recommendations Database

GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed. 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. Below you can search only priority recommendations, or search all recommendations.

Our recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Moreover, when implemented, some of our priority recommendations can save large amounts of money, help Congress make decisions on major issues, and substantially improve or transform major government programs or agencies, among other benefits.

As of November 30, 2021, there are 4659 open recommendations, of which 482 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.

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1 - 20 of 22 Recommendations
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Tax Filing: Actions Needed to Address Processing Delays and Risks to the 2021 Filing Season

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should revise IRS's estimates for resolving its backlog of work from the 2020 filing season. (Recommendation 1)
Open

IRS disagreed with this recommendation. In February 2021, IRS said it continues to monitor and assess the 2020 filing season carryover paper inventory daily, and that it adjusts processing priorities based on constantly changing variables that affect the paper inventory backlog, such as social distancing requirements and shutdowns in functional areas due to reported positive COVID-19 tests. We agree that monitoring inventory levels is a useful management tool. However, the backlog of work includes more than paper inventory, such as millions of e-filed returns suspended for errors or potential

Tax Administration: Better Coordination Could Improve IRS's Use of Third-Party Information Reporting to Help Reduce the Tax Gap

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5 Open Recommendations
5 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should research, evaluate, and develop potential recommendations to expand third-party information reporting to include more information on sole proprietor's income and expenses. (Recommendation 2)
Open

IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. IRS officials reported that IRS will further research and evaluate the tax administration benefits and taxpayer burdens of expanding third-party information reporting for sole proprietors' income and expenses. Further, upon conclusion of its research and evaluation, IRS will also prepare a briefing document for the Department of Treasury (Treasury) and offer its support in developing any recommendations that Treasury chooses to pursue. Without research into options to increase information reporting for sole proprietorships, IRS is

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a collaborative mechanism to coordinate among the internal stakeholders who are responsible for the intake, processing, and use of information returns, as well as to improve outreach to external stakeholders in relation to information returns. (Recommendation 9)
Open

IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Officials reported that IRS is currently developing a new organizational structure and design, as required by the Taxpayer First Act that will provide for collaboration and coordination on the delivery of servicewide programs, such as those involving information returns. Without a collaborative mechanism to develop, implement, and lead a coordinated approach to using information returns, IRS risks missing opportunities to improve the effectiveness of its development, intake, processing, and use of information returns.

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should revise the 2017 Information Returns Systems Modernization plans by evaluating changes in the environment, assessing risks to systems and programs, and detailing how the agency plans to address issues in the intake, processing, and use of information returns across business units. (Recommendation 6)
Open

IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Officials reported that IRS will submit an Information Return System Modernization plan to Congress that leverages the 1099 Internet Platform required by section 2102 of the Taxpayer First Act as the foundation for its information return modernization efforts. As part of the agency's broader modernization effort, it is important that IRS can explain to Congress and other decision makers the critical need to modernize the information reporting system, as well as the proposed scope, schedule, and resource requirements needed to implement

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should submit a revised information returns system modernization plan to Congress that describes how it integrates with IRS's broader IT modernization efforts, the resources needed to achieve effective and timely modernization, and the proposed schedule and scope of the effort. (Recommendation 7)
Open

IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Officials reported that IRS will submit an Information Return System Modernization plan to Congress that leverages the 1099 Internet Platform required by section 2102 of the Taxpayer First Act as the foundation for its information return modernization efforts. As part of the agency's broader modernization effort, it is important that IRS can explain to Congress and other decision makers the critical need to modernize the information reporting system, as well as the proposed scope, schedule, and resource requirements needed to implement

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a plan and schedule to systematically evaluate the suite of information returns with a goal of improving compliance, and reducing fraud and reporting burden. The evaluation should consider factors such as filing requirement thresholds, deadlines for filing, corrections and amendment data, and the potential to consolidate similar forms and include recommendations for needed changes. (Recommendation 8)
Open

IRS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Officials reported that IRS is considering the type of evaluation or study that would be appropriate to address the recommendation. Reviewing the entire suite of information returns regularly and proactively--instead of conducting reactive reviews--could help IRS achieve administrative efficiencies and improve tax compliance. Such reviews could help IRS better achieve its stated goal of advancing data access, usability, and analytics to inform decision-making and improve operational outcomes.

Taxpayer Service: IRS Could Improve the Taxpayer Experience by Using Better Service Performance Measures

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2 Open Recommendations
2 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should identify agency-wide and division performance goals that align with IRS's strategic service goals and objectives for an improved taxpayer experience. (Recommendation 1)
Open

IRS generally agreed with the recommendation. In January 2021, IRS released a report to Congress that identified a new framework of strategic goals and objectives for improving the taxpayer experience and some high-level service performance measures with targets for improving the taxpayer experience. However, the report did not specify related performance goals aligned with strategic goals for assessing progress in improved taxpayer experience outcomes, particularly in the divisions that provide taxpayer services. Without performance goals, IRS cannot have a clear picture of what specific

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should identify performance measures with targets for improving the taxpayer experience that link with the related performance goals. (Recommendation 2)
Open

IRS generally agreed with this recommendation. IRS's January 2021 report did not link measures with targets to performance goals aligned with strategic goals for improving taxpayer services. IRS plans to continue identifying new measures to inform efforts to improve the taxpayer experience. These new measures will also need targets. Without clear linkages between performance measures with targets and related performance goals, IRS managers and staff providing taxpayer services do not know how their day-to-day activities can contribute to improving the taxpayer experience. Without targets for

Virtual Currencies: Additional Information Reporting and Clarified Guidance Could Improve Tax Compliance

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take steps to increase third-party reporting on taxable transactions involving virtual currency, which could include clarifying IRS's interpretation of existing third-party reporting requirements under the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations, or pursuing statutory or regulatory changes. (Recommendation 2)
Open

IRS agreed but has not taken action to increase third-party reporting on virtual currency, as GAO recommended in February 2020. As of March 2021, IRS planned to issue guidance to address third-party reporting under section 6045 of the Internal Revenue Code on certain taxable transactions involving virtual currency by December 31, 2021. Guidance aimed at clarifying and increasing the requirements for third-party reporting would address the intent of the recommendation. On August 10, 2021, the Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, section 80603 of which, if enacted, would

Identity Theft: IRS Needs to Better Assess the Risks of Refund Fraud on Business-Related Returns

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2 Open Recommendations
2 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should designate a dedicated entity to provide oversight of agency-wide efforts to detect, prevent, and resolve business IDT, consistent with leading practices. This may involve designating one business unit as a lead entity or leveraging cooperative relationships between business units to establish a business IDT leadership team. This entity should have defined responsibilities and authority for managing fraud risk. (Recommendation 1)
Open

As of February 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had taken steps to designate a dedicated entity to provide oversight of its business identity theft (IDT) refund fraud efforts, as GAO recommended in January 2020. Business IDT refund fraud occurs when thieves create, use, or try to use a business's identifying information to fraudulently claim a tax refund. In September 2020, IRS stated that the Services and Enforcement Executive Steering Committee would be the lead oversight body for agency-wide efforts to detect, prevent, and resolve business IDT. However, in February 2021, IRS

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a fraud risk profile for business IDT that aligns with leading practices. This should include (1) identifying inherent fraud risks of business IDT, (2) assessing the likelihood and impact of inherent fraud risks, (3) determining fraud risk tolerance, and (4) examining the suitability of existing fraud controls. (Recommendation 2)
Open

As of February 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had taken steps to identify and assess business identity theft (IDT) fraud risks and develop a fraud risk profile, as GAO recommended in January 2020. Business IDT occurs when thieves create, use, or try to use a business's identifying information to fraudulently claim a tax refund. Specifically, in October 2020, IRS completed a fraud risk assessment of 35 business-related tax forms using six quantitative measures of IDT refund fraud risk. These measures included assessing the likelihood of business IDT fraud risks occurring and impact on

2019 Tax Filing: IRS Successfully Implemented Tax Law Changes but Needs to Improve Service for Taxpayers with Limited-English Proficiency

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the Wage and Investment division to develop and implement a strategy, in collaboration with its strategic workforce planning initiative, for the efficient use of overtime. (Recommendation 6)
Open

IRS agreed with this recommendation, but stated that its existing process within the Wage and Investment division for the use and approval of overtime is sufficient, so it would not take any further action. However, as we reported in January 2020, offices in the Wage and Investment division had exceeded their overtime allocations in several of the preceding years. We continue to believe that such a strategy, in collaboration with IRS's strategic workforce planning initiative, would help ensure an efficient use of overtime. If not well managed, overtime can be expensive, inefficient, contribute

Taxpayer Information: IRS Needs to Improve Oversight of Third-Party Cybersecurity Practices

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a governance structure or other form of centralized leadership, such as a steering committee, to coordinate all aspects of IRS's efforts to protect taxpayer information while at third-party providers. (Recommendation 1)
Open

In its initial response to our draft report, IRS disagreed with this recommendation. In November 2019, IRS said that it agreed with the intent of the recommendation, but did not agree to implement it. In January 2021, IRS executives reiterated the agency's stance as documented in a risk assessment tool. Executives cited the need for additional explicit authority to establish security requirements for the information systems of paid preparers and others who electronically file. IRS reported that to effectively establish data safeguarding policies and implement strategies enforcing compliance

Internal Revenue Service: Strategic Human Capital Management is Needed to Address Serious Risks to IRS's Mission

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of the IRS should fully implement the workforce planning initiative, including taking the following actions: (1) conducting enterprise strategy and planning, (2) conducting workforce analysis, (3) creating a workforce plan, (4) implementing the workforce plan, and (5) monitoring and evaluating the results. (Recommendation 1)
Open

IRS agreed with this recommendation. As of March 2021, IRS reported they established a workforce plan, including an enterprise strategy, and initiated the associated workforce analysis. Our review of the workforce plan found IRS was on schedule to implement the plan and have a process to monitor and evaluate the results of the effort by December 2021. Full implementation of a workforce plan that provides a comprehensive inventory of its current workforce will allow IRS to develop competency and staffing requirements to conduct agency-wide activities associated with identifying and addressing

Tax Administration: Opportunities Exist to Improve Monitoring and Transparency of Appeal Resolution Timeliness

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should establish timeframes and monitoring procedures for timely transfer of taxpayer appeals requests by examination compliance units to the Office of Appeals. (Recommendation 3)
Open

IRS agreed with this recommendation. All four IRS business operating divisions have a corrective action plan. They also established and documented time frames for timely appeal transfer as of March 2021. While three of them have reporting procedures planned for monitoring timely appeal transfer, one division has not provided a plan for monitoring its timeliness in transferring cases to the Office of Appeals. IRS needs to assess whether the planned monitoring actions will result in timely transfer of examination appeals. As of April 2021, IRS is working on a new reporting mechanism tracking the

Tax Fraud and Noncompliance: IRS Could Further Leverage the Return Review Program to Strengthen Tax Enforcement

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2 Open Recommendations
2 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
Based on the assessment in recommendation 2, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should implement the most cost-effective method to digitize information provided by taxpayers who file returns on paper. (Recommendation 3)
Open

IRS agreed with this recommendation and in March 2021 reported that the agency completed the first phase of its IRS Digitization Strategy. Digitizing paper returns at intake would allow IRS to reduce processing time, use the same RRP fraud filters on all paper and electronic forms, and allow more pre-refund audits or investigations, among other benefits.

Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should evaluate the costs and benefits of expanding RRP to analyze individual returns not claiming refunds to support other enforcement activities. (Recommendation 4)
Open

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agreed with GAO's July 2018 recommendation, noting that an agency goal is to expand the use of RRP to improve tax compliance and enforcement. As of March 2021, IRS has analyzed labor and other costs associated with expanding RRP, but has not quantified the potential benefits. IRS told GAO it plans to analyze potential benefits in the future as the agency further develops RRP. A more thorough analysis of the benefits and costs of expanding RRP would help IRS identify opportunities to operate more efficiently, such as by streamlining the detection and treatment

Identity Theft: IRS Needs to Strengthen Taxpayer Authentication Efforts

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
In accordance with the plan developed in Recommendation 8, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should implement improvements to IRS's systems to fully implement NIST's new guidance. (Recommendation 9)
Open

As of January 2021, IRS has taken steps to develop plans for and test a new authentication capability to authenticate taxpayers' identities online using external partners, consistent with National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidance. IRS officials stated that they are determining a schedule for fully implementing these NIST-compliant taxpayer authentication capabilities. As noted in our report, IRS's timely implementation of NIST's new guidance is critical, as it can help the agency mitigate potential security weaknesses in its existing online authentication programs.

Improper Payments: Improvements Needed in CMS and IRS Controls over Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To comply with improper payments reporting requirements and improve procedures related to processing PTC information on tax returns, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to assess the program against applicable IPIA-defined thresholds and conclude on its susceptibility to significant improper payments, and revise the scope of its improper payments susceptibility assessment for the PTC program to include instances in which advance PTC is greater than or equal to the amount of PTC claimed on the tax return. If the program meets the IPIA definition for being susceptible to significant improper payments based on this assessment, estimate and report improper payments associated with the PTC program consistent with IPIA requirements.
Open

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) partially agreed with this recommendation. On December 13, 2019, IRS provided us a status update and stated that its Research, Applied Analytics and Statistics division completed an analysis of net premium tax credit (PTC) using National Research Program (NRP) tax years 2015 and 2014 data during the 4th quarter of fiscal year 2019 and developed improper payment estimates using two different methodological approaches. However, IRS indicated that it did not publish these improper payment estimates in Treasury's Agency Financial Report (AFR) at that time for two

IRS Referral Programs: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Controls and Increase Coordination across Overlapping Programs

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1 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service
Priority Rec.
This is a priority 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.
Open

As of March 2021, 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. In December 2020, IRS prioritized development of a secure online public referral intake system as part of its Enterprise Case Management (ECM) workplan. As of March 2021, ECM staff held two initial development meetings to identify the information needs and features needed to support multiple referral programs. IRS does not have a timeline for developing the system to consolidate

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