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Estimating the Revenue Effects of Proposals to Increase Funding for Tax Enforcement

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For its baseline budget projections, CBO estimates the revenue effects of enacted legislation that changed the amount of funding for tax enforcement. Similarly, CBO’s annual analysis of the President’s budget includes its estimates of the revenue effects of the Administration’s proposals to change such funding. (But CBO does not estimate the changes in revenue from proposals to amend the tax code; those estimates are the responsibility of the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.)

However, for legislation being considered by the Congress, CBO does not include projections of additional receipts from proposed increases in funding for tax enforcement in its estimates of the budgetary effects that are used for budget enforcement purposes. That approach follows the budget scorekeeping guidelines specified in the conference report for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

These slides describe the circumstances under which CBO estimates the revenue effects of changes in funding for tax enforcement and the factors that affect those estimates. They were the basis for a presentation by Janet Holtzblatt, a unit chief in CBO's Tax Analysis Division, at the sixth annual Internal Revenue Service-Tax Policy Center Joint Research Conference on Tax Administration.

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Estimating the Revenue Effects of Proposals to Increase Funding for Tax Enforcement

  1. 1. Congressional Budget Office Estimating the Revenue Effects of Proposals to Increase Funding for Tax Enforcement June 23, 2016 Janet Holtzblatt Tax Analysis Division The information in this presentation is preliminary and is being circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment as developmental work for analysis for the Congress.
  2. 2. 1CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The Tax Gap and the Budget Deficit
  3. 3. 2CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the budget deficit will be $534 billion in fiscal year 2016. The “net tax gap” is the difference between the amount of tax that taxpayers should pay under the tax law and the amount they actually pay, either voluntarily or as a result of enforcement actions. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that the annual net tax gap from 2008 to 2010 was, on average, $406 billion ($447 billion in 2016 dollars).
  4. 4. 3CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The amount of budgetary savings from proposals to reduce the tax gap is uncertain. Detection and deterrence probably improve compliance, but many types of tax evasion are difficult for the IRS to identify and prevent. Businesses and people will try (often successfully) new ways to evade taxes.
  5. 5. 4CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Another consideration is the size and allocation of the IRS budget. IRS funding fell by 15 percent from 2010 through 2016 (in real dollars). The biggest cuts were in enforcement, but that activity still receives the largest share of the IRS budget.
  6. 6. 5CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The Internal Revenue Service’s Budget, Fiscal Years 2000 Through 2016 2016 Dollars 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 0 11 12 13 14
  7. 7. 6CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Components of the IRS’s 2016 Budget Taxpayer Services (21%) Enforcement (43%) Operations Support (33%) Computer Modernization (3%)
  8. 8. 7CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE As IRS funding declined, its costs of collecting an additional $100 of taxes also fell—from 53 cents in 2010 to 35 cents in 2015, the IRS estimates.
  9. 9. 8CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Budget Scorekeeping Guidelines
  10. 10. 9CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE CBO estimates the net cost (including any revenue effects) of proposals to increase IRS funding. The staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates the change in revenue from proposals to amend the tax code.
  11. 11. 10CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE CBO, JCT, the Office of Management and Budget, and House and Senate budget committees adhere to the same budget scorekeeping guidelines.
  12. 12. 11CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The budget scorekeeping guidelines were developed over time and formalized in the conference report for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The guidelines ensure consistent budgetary treatment across programs and over time.
  13. 13. 12CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Two guidelines, Rule 3 and Rule 14, are especially relevant to analysis of tax compliance proposals.
  14. 14. 13CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Budget Scorekeeping Rule 3: “Revenues, entitlements, and other mandatory programs (including offsetting receipts) will be scored at current law levels…unless Congressional action modifies the authorizing legislation.”
  15. 15. 14CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Budget Scorekeeping Rule 14: “No increase in receipts or decrease in direct spending will be scored as a result of provisions of a law that provides direct spending for administrative or program management activities.”
  16. 16. 15CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE In a hypothetical example of the application of budget scorekeeping rules, if a bill includes a provision to increase the IRS’s budget to fund more audits...
  17. 17. 16CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE • CBO’s estimate of the bill’s cost would include the additional funding for the new audits. • Under Rules 3 and 14, CBO would exclude any revenue increases from the additional audits in its estimate of the bill’s budgetary effects. • CBO might provide the Congress with an estimate of the “nonscorable” revenue increases that are not included in the estimate used for budget enforcement purposes.
  18. 18. 17CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Rules 3 and 14 do not apply to CBO’s baseline budget projections or its analysis of the President’s budget. CBO will include the resulting revenue increases in its: • Next estimate of the budget deficit under current law if an increase in IRS funding is enacted • Analysis of the President’s budget if it includes a proposal to increase IRS funding
  19. 19. 18CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE A number of factors affect revenue estimates for compliance proposals: • IRS infrastructure (technology and staff) • Adjustment issues (flexibility and complexity) • Compliance behavior (detection, deterrence, and learning curves)
  20. 20. 19CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Many of the IRS’s activities probably increase compliance. Customer service can reduce unintentional errors by taxpayers. Enforcement enables detection and deterrence. Computer modernization supports customer service and enforcement.
  21. 21. 20CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE In its baseline projections, analysis of the President’s budget, and estimates of nonscorable effects of legislation, CBO focuses on improvements in detection resulting from increases in enforcement funding.
  22. 22. 21CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Because of the substantial uncertainty about their effects, CBO does not estimate changes in revenue from: • Increases in funding for customer service • Increases in funding for computer modernization • Changes in deterrence from increases in enforcement funding
  23. 23. 22CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Estimates of changes in revenues from changes in IRS funding are based on expected returns on investment (ROIs). An ROI is equal to the additional dollar of revenues from an additional dollar of funding.
  24. 24. 23CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Typically, CBO starts with the IRS’s estimates of ROIs. IRS researchers have access to detailed data unavailable to CBO. CBO makes adjustments to those ROIs if, in the agency’s judgment, the estimates do not fully take into account some of the factors affecting compliance proposals.
  25. 25. 24CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE An Example: The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal— Additional Funding for Program Integrity Initiatives
  26. 26. 25CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The Budget Control Act of 2011 (Public Law 112-25) imposed caps on discretionary funding in 2013 and subsequent years. Those limits have been modified by subsequent legislation. However, the caps are automatically adjusted to accommodate additional appropriations for certain program integrity activities.
  27. 27. 26CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget contained a proposal to boost discretionary spending by $667 million in 2016 to fund IRS program integrity initiatives. Of that amount, $421 million was for enforcement. Most of the remainder was for operations support.
  28. 28. 27CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE CBO estimated ROIs only for the enforcement initiatives. The estimated ROIs on each component were different—ranging from 0 to 9.
  29. 29. 28CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Components of Proposed 2016 Funding Increase for Enforcement Initiatives 2016 IRS Enforcement Initiatives Cost in 2016 (Millions of Dollars) Return on $1 of Investment (Dollars) Prevent Identity Theft and Refund Fraud 2.7 9.0 Increase Audit Coverage 150.7 2.6 Improve Audit Coverage of Large Partnerships 16.2 2.7 Address International and Offshore Compliance Issues 40.7 1.2 Enhance Collection Coverage 122.8 2.8 Other Initiatives 87.5 0 Total Cost 420.6 n.a. Average Return on $1 of Investment n.a. 2.0
  30. 30. 29CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The President proposed to continue the 2016 enforcement initiatives throughout the entire 10-year budget period. The annual costs would rise to $435 million in 2018 and then stay at that level.
  31. 31. 30CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE CBO estimated that the aggregate ROI on the increased funding for enforcement would gradually rise over three years. CBO anticipated improvements in IRS technology and staff from 2016 through 2018 as a result of the additional funding. CBO projected a drop in the ROI after 2018 as taxpayers found new ways to evade taxes.
  32. 32. 31CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Estimates of Return on Investment From Proposed Funding Increases for 2016 Enforcement Initiatives Dollars Return on $1 of Investment Year 1 (2016) 2.0 Year 3 (2018) 6.4 Year 6 (2021) 5.9 Year 10 (2025) 5.2
  33. 33. 32CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE The fiscal year 2016 budget proposal would also increase discretionary funding by additional amounts through fiscal year 2020 to fund other new IRS enforcement initiatives. The Administration did not provide any details on the components of those future initiatives.
  34. 34. 33CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE In CBO’s judgment, ROIs would decline for each new initiative as the IRS tackled more difficult types of tax evasion.
  35. 35. 34CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE Estimates of Return on Investment From Proposed Funding Increases for 2020 Enforcement Initiatives Dollars Return on $1 of Investment Year 1 (2020) 1.5 Year 3 (2022) 4.6 Year 6 (2025) 4.2
  36. 36. 35CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE CBO estimated the total 10-year net budgetary gains from the proposed increase in funding for IRS program integrity efforts: • Spending: $18.7 billion • Revenues: $55.3 billion • Net budgetary gains: $36.6 billion
  37. 37. 36CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE ROIs vary by type of enforcement activity. Thus, the ROI would probably not be the same for another budget proposal with different features.

For its baseline budget projections, CBO estimates the revenue effects of enacted legislation that changed the amount of funding for tax enforcement. Similarly, CBO’s annual analysis of the President’s budget includes its estimates of the revenue effects of the Administration’s proposals to change such funding. (But CBO does not estimate the changes in revenue from proposals to amend the tax code; those estimates are the responsibility of the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.) However, for legislation being considered by the Congress, CBO does not include projections of additional receipts from proposed increases in funding for tax enforcement in its estimates of the budgetary effects that are used for budget enforcement purposes. That approach follows the budget scorekeeping guidelines specified in the conference report for the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. These slides describe the circumstances under which CBO estimates the revenue effects of changes in funding for tax enforcement and the factors that affect those estimates. They were the basis for a presentation by Janet Holtzblatt, a unit chief in CBO's Tax Analysis Division, at the sixth annual Internal Revenue Service-Tax Policy Center Joint Research Conference on Tax Administration.

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