Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on how the
Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) has been implemented at the Internal
Revenue Service (IRS), focusing on: (1) the extent to which IRS'
paperwork burden estimates contribute to the governmentwide estimate,
and the extent to which those estimates have changed over time; (2)
factors that IRS believes affect its estimates; and (3) IRS concerns
about its burden-estimation methodology.
GAO noted that: (1) because IRS constitutes the preponderance of the
governmentwide paperwork burden-hour estimate, changes in IRS'
burden-hour estimate have a highly significant--and even
determinative--effect on the governmentwide total; (2) non-IRS
departments and agencies estimated that, in the aggregate, they had come
close to the 25-percent burden-reduction goal envisioned in the PRA of
1995 by the end of fiscal year 1998; (3) however, despite several
initiatives by the agency to reduce its paperwork burden, IRS'
burden-hour estimate increased by about 7.5 percent between fiscal years
1995 and 1998, resulting in an increase in the governmentwide estimate
of the paperwork burden imposed on nonfederal entities; (4) IRS said
that most of the increase in its burden-hour estimates was due to
factors outside of its control, such as changes in economic activity and
new legislative requirements; and (5) IRS is currently attempting to
change the way it measures paperwork burden to correct what it believes
are significant weaknesses in its current methodology, including
reliance on out-of-date data and questionable technical assumptions.
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