Paperwork Reduction Act:

Record Increase in Agencies' Burden Estimates

GAO-03-619T: Published: Apr 11, 2003. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 2003.

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The Paperwork Reduction Act requires federal agencies to minimize the paperwork burden they impose on the public. The act also requires agencies to obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before collecting covered information. GAO examined changes during the past fiscal year in federal agencies' paperwork burden estimates and their causes, focusing on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). GAO also examined changes in the number of violations of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

As of September 30, 2002, federal agencies estimated that there was about 8.2 billion "burden hours" of paperwork governmentwide. IRS accounted for about 6.7 billion burden hours (81 percent) of this estimate. The federal paperwork estimate increased by about 570 million burden hours during fiscal year 2002--nearly double the previous record increase for a 1-year period. IRS and the Department of Transportation (DOT) accounted for almost 90 percent of the increase. IRS increased its paperwork estimate by about 330 million burden hours during fiscal year 2002, which the agency said was primarily caused by growth in the number of taxpayers using Form 1040. DOT's burden estimate rose by about 165 million burden hours, an increase that the department said was almost entirely attributable to the reintroduction and reestimation of one information collection. Federal agencies identified 244 violations of the PRA during fiscal year 2002--a significant reduction from the number of violations reported during the previous fiscal year. OMB deserves a great deal of credit for this decrease in violations. However, 244 violations of the law during a single fiscal year are still troubling and should not be tolerated. Also, although some longstanding violations have been resolved, others remained open at the end of the fiscal year and, in some cases, had been open for 2 years or more.

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