Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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7/18/2006
05:03 PM
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Thanks, Uncle Sam. I'm Wasting More Time Filling Out Your Forms

Americans, on average, spend nearly 29 hours a year filling out forms--on paper or online--required by the federal government.

Americans, on average, spend nearly 29 hours a year filling out forms--on paper or online--required by the federal government.The time the government burdened Americans with paperwork last year increased by 5.5%, thanks in part to a lackadaisical attitude taken by some federal agency CIOs in complying with the Paperwork Reduction Act. That's the gist of testimony presented by Linda Koontz, information management director at the Government Accountability Office, before a House subcommittee Tuesday.

The paperwork burden imposed on American residents by federal agencies increased last year to about 8.4 billion hours, an increase of 400 million hours from fiscal 2004, according to an analysis of Office of Management Budget data cited by Koontz. With some 295.7 million people living in the United States last year, that means each man, woman, and child spent about 28 hours and 45 minutes filling out government paperwork.

Nearly all this increase resulted from the implementation of new laws, such as the voluntary prescription drug coverage plan under Medicare, which accounted for 224 million hours.

Koontz said federal agency CIOs could do a better job in helping reduce the time citizens spend on government paperwork. The Paperwork Reduction Act requires agency CIOs to review information collection and certify that they meet standards to minimize inconvenience and maximize usefulness. GAO studied 12 cases in four agencies and concluded that agencies' files contained little evidence that CIOs made effort to support the process to streamline paperwork. "These reviews were not always rigorous," she said, "reducing assurance that these standards were met."

Koontz said fiscal year 2006, which ends Sept. 30, should include an extra 250 million hours--about 45 minutes for each American--of paperwork because of a new way the Internal Revenue Service calculates the burden its forms place on us. Then again, maybe not. OMB contends that the expected rise doesn't reflect any real change in the burden on taxpayers, but only in how IRS estimates it.

If so, that means the IRS didn't figure it was already taking a family of four an extra three hours a year to complete its 1040 returns.

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