July 25, 2014

GAO Suggests Ways to Cut Duplication, Improve Tax Collection

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued its third annual report detailing how Washington could save tens of billions of dollars a year by reducing fragmentation, overlap and duplication in the federal government. The report also suggests improvements to enhance revenue collections.

In a noteworthy step to increase governmental accountability, the GAO last week also unveiled an “Action Tracker” to provide the public with updated information about the status of its recommendations in these areas.

Politicians looking for easy answers often talk as if the nation’s fiscal problems could be solved by simply eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. It will take far more than that. But it is important for elected officials to reduce waste and improve efficiency whenever possible, both to save tax dollars and to build the public credibility needed to move forward on more controversial reforms.

The GAO report goes into considerable detail in many areas, ranging from the Pentagon’s fragmented approach in buying seven different types of camouflage uniforms to a project awarding billions of dollars in “quality bonus” payments to health care plans with only average performance records.

The GAO also says the government could do more to reduce the “tax gap” – uncollected taxes that totaled $385 billion in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available.

This year’s GAO report, together with the 2011 and 2012 reports, identified a total of 162 areas where Congress and the executive branch could make hundreds of specific improvements. The GAO noted several general themes, including better planning, more interagency cooperation, improved management oversight, and the measurement of performance and results.