Tax Administration

Changes Needed to Reduce Volume and Improve Processing of Undeliverable Mail Gao ID: GGD-95-44 December 7, 1994

This report reviews the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) processes for handling undeliverable mail. GAO identifies the amount of undeliverable and the reasons why some of the mail IRS sends to taxpayers was undeliverable and the impact nondelivery of this mail had on taxpayers and IRS. GAO focuses on notices IRS sent taxpayers on the assessment and collection of taxes. GAO also assesses IRS' procedures for processing undeliverable mail.

GAO found that: (1) IRS estimates that it had about 6.5 million pieces of undeliverable mail in 1986 and about 15 million pieces in 1992; (2) undeliverable mail is principally caused by taxpayers failing to leave forwarding addresses, the U.S. Postal Service not delivering or forwarding mail, and IRS incorrectly recording taxpayers' addresses in its files; (3) taxpayer interest and penalties can substantially increase because of undeliverable mail, which eventually can lead to IRS attachment of taxpayers' liquid assets; (4) IRS loses millions of dollars in revenue annually and incurs increased operating costs because of undeliverable mail; (5) the IRS Collection Division plans to start processing undeliverable mail after the first occurrence and send only two instead of four service center notices to decrease collection costs; (6) IRS has implemented only a few recommendations to decrease its undeliverable mail because it expects its Tax Systems Modernization initiative to resolve its undeliverable mail problem; (7) senior IRS management recently requested responsible IRS offices to develop action plans to decrease the amount of undeliverable mail in a recent internal IRS report; (8) IRS needs to increase taxpayers' awareness of the need to provide address changes to minimize the volume of undeliverable mail; and (9) more efficient processing of undeliverable mail could result if IRS consolidates mail processing functions into one centralized unit.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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