Transparency in Private Collection of Federal Taxes
80 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2010
Date Written: October 6, 2010
Most federal taxes are collected from taxpayers by business entities, held in a public trust for the United States and then paid over to the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”). While the vast majority of business entities pay over the taxes held in trust in a timely and appropriate manner, a sizeable amount, in dollar terms, does not get paid. The amount of unpaid “collected” taxes in 2008 created a $58 billion tax gap item.
Disclosure law governing federal taxes defaults to non-disclosure for most tax returns. This general rule of non-disclosure governs the returns reporting the taxes collected by business entities even though the information on these returns is information concerning a public trust. This Article analyzes the federal tax disclosure laws and concludes that the amount of taxes collected on behalf of the United States and the amount of these collected taxes paid over to the IRS should be disclosed. Rather than coming under the general rule of non-disclosure which applies to income tax returns and other returns reporting the liability of an individual or entity for the payment of taxes, these returns should be treated like the returns of pension plans which are open for the public to see.
In addition to approaching the issue from the perspective of disclosure policy, the Article also looks at the collection policy issues presented by the disclosure of this information. For the same policy reasons that Congress has decided compliance is enhanced by the disclosure of pension plans and the returns of exempt organizations, the Article concludes that compliance would be enhanced by this proposal and the tax gap reduced.
Keywords: disclosure, collected taxes and shaming
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation