What GAO Found
Information returns are forms filed by third parties, such as employers and financial institutions that provide information about taxable transactions. These forms are submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration, and taxpayers. Fifty unique types of information returns provide information on individual taxpayers and have a variety of purposes, such as reporting on wages earned or amounts paid that qualify for a tax credit or deduction. IRS identifies mismatches between information returns and tax returns for potential additional review, including enforcement actions. According to IRS research, taxpayers are more likely to misreport income when little or no third-party information reporting exists than when substantial reporting exists.
Overview of Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Process for Matching Information Returns
IRS’s ability to process and use information returns is limited by its outdated legacy information technology (IT) systems. In 2017, IRS developed a plan to modernize its information return processing systems; however, IRS paused its efforts due to, according to IRS, resource constraints. IRS has an opportunity to capitalize on prior planning efforts by re-evaluating and updating these efforts and integrating them into its broader IT modernization efforts.
IRS does not have a coordinated approach with cross-agency leadership that strategically considers how information reporting could be improved to promote compliance with the tax code. While information returns affect many groups across IRS and support multiple compliance programs, no one office has broad responsibility for coordinating these efforts. A formalized collaborative mechanism, such as a steering committee, could help provide leadership and ensure that IRS acts to address issues among the intake, processing, and compliance groups. For example, IRS has not undertaken a broad review of individual information returns to determine if thresholds, deadlines, or other characteristics of the returns continue to meet the needs of the agency.
Why GAO Did This Study
For tax year 2018, IRS received and processed more than 3.5 billion information returns that it used to facilitate compliance checks on more than 150 million individual income tax returns. By matching information reported by taxpayers against information reported by third parties, IRS identifies potential fraud and noncompliance.
GAO was asked to review IRS’s use of information returns. This report provides an overview of information returns and assesses the extent to which IRS has a coordinated approach to identifying and responding to risks related to the use of information returns in the tax system, among other objectives.
GAO reviewed IRS documents and data on information returns filing, processing, and use, and interviewed cognizant officials. GAO compared IRS’s efforts in this area to federal internal control standards, and IRS’s strategic plan.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making nine recommendations to IRS, including that IRS revise its modernization plans for its information returns processing systems and incorporate it into broader IT modernization efforts and develop a collaborative mechanism to improve coordination among IRS groups that use information returns. IRS neither agreed, nor disagreed with the recommendations; however, IRS outlined actions it plans to take to address the recommendations. Social Security Administration had no comments.
For more information, contact James R. McTigue at (202) 512-9110 or McTigueJj@gao.gov.
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- Former Air Force Contractor Pleads Guilty to Illegally Taking 2,500 Pages of Classified InformationBy Sam NewsFebruary 25, 2021A former contractor with the U.S. Air Force pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio today to illegally taking approximately 2,500 pages of classified documents.[Read More…]
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- Department of Energy Contracting: Improvements Needed to Ensure DOE Assesses Its Full Range of Contracting Fraud RisksBy Sam NewsJanuary 13, 2021GAO identified nine categories of contracting fraud schemes that occurred at the Department of Energy (DOE), including billing schemes, conflicts of interest, and payroll schemes. For example, a subcontractor employee at a site created fraudulent invoices for goods never received, resulting in a loss of over $6 million. In another scheme, a contractor engaged in years of widespread time card fraud, submitting inflated claims for compensation. The contractor agreed to pay $18.5 million to settle the case. DOE reported that it identified nearly $15 million in improper payments due to confirmed fraud in fiscal year 2019. However, due to the difficulty in detecting fraud, agencies—including DOE—incur financial losses related to fraud that are never identified or are settled without admission to fraud and are not counted as such. Fraud can also have nonfinancial impacts, such as fraudsters obtaining a competitive advantage and preventing legitimate businesses from obtaining contracts. DOE has taken some steps and is planning others to demonstrate a commitment to combat fraud and assess its contracting fraud risks, consistent with the leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. However, GAO found that DOE has not assessed the full range of contracting fraud risks it faces. Specifically, GAO found DOE's methods for gathering information about its fraud risks captures selected fraud risks—rather than all fraud risks—facing DOE programs. As shown in the figure, DOE's risk profiles for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 did not capture four of nine fraud schemes that occurred at DOE. For example, one entity did not include any fraud risks in its risk profiles, yet GAO identified six types of fraud schemes that occurred at the entity's site. DOE plans to expand its risk assessment process, but officials expect the new process will continue to rely on a methodology that gathers information on selected fraud risks. The Fraud Risk Framework states that entities identify specific tools, methods, and sources for gathering information about fraud risks. Without expanding its methodology to capture, assess, and document all fraud risks facing its programs, DOE risks remaining vulnerable to these types of fraud. Fraud Risks Identified in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019 Risk Profiles Compared with Types of Fraud Schemes That Have Occurred at DOE DOE is planning to develop an antifraud strategy in fiscal year 2022 and has taken some steps to evaluate and adapt to fraud risks, consistent with leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. Part of DOE's effort to manage fraud risks includes adapting controls to address emerging fraud risks. Additionally, DOE is planning to expand its use of data analytics to detect contracting fraud, beginning in fiscal year 2022. DOE relies primarily on contractors to carry out its missions at its laboratories and other facilities, spending approximately 80 percent of its total obligations on contracts. GAO and DOE's Inspector General have reported on incidents of fraud by DOE contractors and identified multiple contracting fraud risks. GAO was asked to examine DOE's processes to manage contracting fraud risks. This report examines, for DOE, (1) types of contracting fraud schemes and their financial and nonfinancial impacts, (2) steps taken to commit to combating contracting fraud risks and the extent to which these risks have been assessed, and (3) steps taken to design and implement an antifraud strategy and to evaluate and adapt its approach. GAO reviewed relevant laws and guidance; reviewed agency media releases, Agency Financial Reports, and DOE Inspector General reports to Congress from 2013 through 2019; and reviewed documents and interviewed officials from 42 DOE field and site offices, contractors, and subcontractors, representing a range of sites and programs. GAO is making two recommendations, including for DOE to expand its fraud risk assessment methodology to ensure all fraud risks facing DOE programs are fully assessed and documented in accordance with leading practices. DOE concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Rebecca Shea at (202) 512-6722 firstname.lastname@example.org or Allison B. Bawden at (202) 512-3841, email@example.com.[Read More…]
- Man Sentenced for Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct with Minors in the Republic of KenyaBy Sam NewsFebruary 4, 2021A Pennsylvania man was sentenced today to over 15 years in prison plus a lifetime of supervised release, and ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.[Read More…]
- U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry to Mark Official U.S. Reentry into Paris AgreementBy Sam NewsFebruary 17, 2021
- Justice Department Settles with Texas-Based Staffing Company to Resolve Immigration-Related DiscriminationBy Sam NewsJanuary 14, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with National Systems America, LP (National Systems), a Dallas, Texas-based staffing agency.[Read More…]
- Request for Statements of Interest: DRL FY20 Iraq ProgramsBy Sam NewsNovember 29, 2020Bureau of Democracy, [Read More…]
- List Brokerage Firm Pleads Guilty To Facilitating Elder Fraud SchemesBy Sam NewsSeptember 28, 2020Connecticut list brokerage firm Macromark Inc. pleaded guilty on Friday to knowingly providing lists of potential victims to fraudulent mass-mailing schemes, the Department of Justice announced. The fraudulent schemes tricked consumers into paying fees for falsely promised cash prizes and purportedly personalized “psychic” services. Thousands of consumers lost millions of dollars to the schemes.[Read More…]
- Mauritania Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020
- Food Safety: CDC Could Further Strengthen Its Efforts to Identify and Respond to Foodborne IllnessesBy Sam NewsNovember 20, 2020The roles and responsibilities of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a multistate foodborne illness outbreak include analyzing federal foodborne illness surveillance networks to identify outbreaks, leading investigations to determine the food causing the outbreak, and communicating with the public. CDC also works to build and maintain federal, state, territorial, and local capacity to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks by awarding funds to state and local public health agencies and through other initiatives. In identifying and responding to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, CDC faces challenges related to clinical methods and communication, and it has taken some steps to respond to these challenges. One challenge stems from the increasing clinical use of culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs). CIDTs diagnose foodborne illnesses faster and cheaper than traditional methods, but because they do not create DNA fingerprints that can specify a pathogen, they may reduce CDC's ability to identify an outbreak. A CDC working group recommended in May 2018 that CDC develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs. By developing a plan, CDC will have greater assurance of continued access to necessary information. CDC also faces a challenge in balancing the competing needs for timeliness and accuracy in its outbreak communications while maintaining public trust. CDC has an internal framework to guide its communications decisions during outbreaks, and it recognizes that stakeholders would like more transparency about these decisions. By making its framework publicly available, CDC could better foster public trust in its information and guidance during outbreaks. CDC has taken steps to evaluate its performance in identifying and responding to multistate outbreaks. Specifically, CDC has developed general strategic goals (see fig.) and taken initial steps to develop performance measures. However, CDC has not yet established other elements of a performance assessment system—an important component of effective program management. CDC's Use of Elements of Program Performance Assessment Systems In particular, CDC has not set specific performance goals, used performance measures to track progress, or conducted a program evaluation of its multistate foodborne illness outbreak investigation efforts. By implementing all elements of a performance assessment system, CDC could better assess its progress toward meeting its goals, identify potentially underperforming areas, and use that information to improve its performance. CDC has estimated that each year, one in six people in the United States gets a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. CDC data show increases in the number of reported multistate foodborne illness outbreaks—groups of two or more linked cases in multiple states—in recent years. Such outbreaks are responsible for a disproportionate number of hospitalizations and deaths, compared with single-state outbreaks. GAO was asked to review CDC's response to multistate foodborne illness outbreaks. This report examines (1) CDC's roles and responsibilities, (2) challenges that CDC faces and the extent to which it has addressed these challenges, and (3) the extent to which CDC evaluates its performance. GAO reviewed agency documents and data; conducted site visits and case studies; and interviewed federal, state, and local public health officials, as well as representatives of stakeholder groups. GAO is recommending that CDC (1) develop a plan to respond to the increasing use of CIDTs, (2) make publicly available its decision-making framework for communicating about multistate foodborne illness outbreaks, and (3) implement all the elements of a performance assessment system. CDC concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact Steve D. Morris at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Requires Waste Management To Divest Assets In Order To Proceed With Advanced Disposal Services AcquisitionBy Sam NewsOctober 23, 2020The Department of Justice announced today that Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) will be required to divest 15 landfills, 37 transfer stations, 29 hauling locations, over 200 waste collection routes, and other assets in order to proceed with its $4.6 billion acquisition of Advanced Disposal Services, Inc. (ADS). The department said that without the divestiture, the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition for small container commercial waste collection or municipal solid waste disposal services in over 50 local markets.[Read More…]
- Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data on Incarcerated AliensBy Sam NewsOctober 16, 2020Today, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released the Alien Incarceration Report for Fiscal Year 2019. The data shows that 94 percent of confirmed aliens incarcerated in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) facilities were unlawfully present in the United States. Additionally, the report found that nearly 70 percent of known or suspected aliens in BOP custody had been convicted of a non-immigration-related offense, and 39 percent of known or suspected aliens in USMS custody had committed a non-immigration-related offense.[Read More…]
- Guild Mortgage Company to Pay $24.9 Million to Resolve Allegations it Knowingly Caused False Claims for Federal Mortgage insuranceBy Sam NewsOctober 28, 2020Guild Mortgage Company has agreed to pay the United States $24.9 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly breaching material program requirements when it originated and underwrote mortgages insured by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Justice announced today. Guild Mortgage Company is headquartered in San Diego, California, with branches across the United States.[Read More…]
- New Caledonia Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Exercise increased [Read More…]
- Operation Legend: Case of the DayBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2020Each weekday, the Department of Justice will highlight a case that has resulted from Operation Legend. Today’s case is out of the Western District of Missouri. Operation Legend launched in Kansas City on July 8, 2020, in response to the city facing increased homicide and non-fatal shooting rates.[Read More…]
- The United States Leads the Fight Against Foreign Bribery and Transnational CorruptionBy Sam NewsNovember 17, 2020Cale Brown, Deputy [Read More…]
- The United States and the Holy See: Promoting Religious Freedom and Defending Human DignityBy Sam NewsSeptember 30, 2020
- Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against Village of Airmont, New York, for Zoning Restrictions that Target the Orthodox Jewish CommunityBy Sam NewsDecember 2, 2020The Justice Department today announced that it filed a lawsuit against the Village of Airmont, New York, alleging that it violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by targeting the Orthodox Jewish community through zoning ordinances restricting religious schools and home synagogues, and by enforcing its zoning code in a discriminatory manner to prevent Orthodox Jews from using their property consistent with their faith.[Read More…]
- How NASA’s Mars Helicopter Will Reach the Red Planet’s SurfaceBy Sam NewsIn SpaceSeptember 26, 2020The small craft will [Read More…]