Administrative Burdens, Sludge, and Individual Taxpayer Rights
34 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2020
Date Written: February 27, 2020
The tax system designed by Congress imposes significant administrative burdens on taxpayers. IRS decisions regarding how it administers tax laws can add to congressionally imposed burdens. The administrative burdens are consequential and hurt some people, especially lower- or moderate-income individual taxpayers, more than others. While the IRS strives to measure and reduce the time and money taxpayers spend to comply with their tax obligations, it does not consider the effect administrative burdens have on taxpayer rights, including the right to be informed, the right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax, and the right to a fair and just tax system. In this Article, building on the work of public administration scholars Pamela Herd and Don Moynihan, we discuss the concept of administrative burdens and reveal specific examples of how IRS actions, and inaction, have burdened taxpayers and jeopardized taxpayer rights. In addition to identifying and contextualizing these problems, building off the insights of Cass Sunstein, who refers to a subset of these burdens as sludge, we propose the IRS conducts and reports on internal “sludge audits” to evaluate when it would be appropriate to reduce, eliminate, or shift burdens away from citizens and onto the government or third parties.
Keywords: IRS, Administrative Burden, EITC, Free File, Sludge
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