GAO Reports  
GGD-99-4 November 16, 1998

Paperwork Reduction Act: Implementation at IRS

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burden to correct what it believes are significant weaknesses in its current methodology, including reliance on out-of-date data and questionable technical assumptions.

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