Paperwork Reduction: Burden Reduction Goal Unlikely To Be Met (Testimony,
06/05/96, GAO/T-GGD/RCED-96-186).

GAO discussed governmentwide implementation of the Paperwork Reduction
Act of 1995, and three federal agencies' actions to implement the act.
GAO noted that: (1) between 1980 and 1995, reported governmentwide
paperwork burden hours increased from about 1.5 billion to 6.9 billion;
(2) the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accounts for most of the federal
paperwork burden; (3) IRS accounted for a three-fold increase in 1989
because it changed the way it calculated its information collection
burden; (4) governmentwide burden hours increased almost 8 percent in
the month before the act's effective date because agencies were trying
to get proposed information collection activities approved before that
date; (5) as of May 1996, the Office of Management and Budget's Office
of Information and Regulatory Affairs had not set burden reduction goals
or kept Congress informed about implementation progress; (6) agencies'
weighted average burden reduction is likely to be 1 percent for fiscal
year (FY) 1996, but the act's FY 1996 reduction goal is 10 percent; (7)
agencies believe that statutory mission-related requirements limit their
ability to reduce paperwork burdens; and (8) Congress should consider
several measurement issues, including counting adjustments toward or
against reduction goals, the difference between measured and actual
paperwork burdens, and potentially incomplete agency burden estimates.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  T-GGD/RCED-96-186
     TITLE:  Paperwork Reduction: Burden Reduction Goal Unlikely To Be 
             Met
      DATE:  06/05/96
   SUBJECT:  Paperwork
             Statutory law
             Congressional/executive relations
             Noncompliance
             Reporting requirements
             Data collection operations
             Statistical methods
IDENTIFIER:  EPA Toxic Release Inventory
             IRS Business Master Plan
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Before the Committee on Small Business
U.S.  Senate

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
10:00 a.m.  EDST
Wednesday
June 5, 1996

PAPERWORK REDUCTION - BURDEN
REDUCTION GOAL
UNLIKELY TO BE MET

Michael Brostek
Associate Director, Federal Management and Workforce Issues
General Government Division
and
Peter F.  Guerrero
Director, Environmental Protection Issues
Resources, Community and Economic Development Division

GAO/T-GGD/RCED-96-186

GAO/GGD/RCED-96-186T


(410027/160347)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  EPA - Environmental Protection Agency
  GAO - General Accounting Office
  ICB - Information Collection Budget
  IRS - Internal Revenue Service
  OMB - Office of Management and Budget
  OIRA - Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
  OSHA - Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  TRI - Toxic Release Inventory

PAPERWORK REDUCTION:  BURDEN
REDUCTION GOAL UNLIKELY TO BE MET
====================================================== Chapter SUMMARY

The paperwork burden that the federal government imposes on the
public, which is commonly measured in terms of "burden hours," has
increased significantly since 1980 both governmentwide and in
particular agencies.  In 1995, the Internal Revenue Service accounted
for about 80 percent of the total paperwork burden of nearly 7
billion hours. 

The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 requires the Office of Management
and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to
set a goal of at least a 10-percent reduction in governmentwide
paperwork burden for fiscal year 1996 and goals for each agency that
reduce burden to the "maximum practicable" extent.  It also requires
agencies to follow certain procedures in developing information
collections, including a 60-day notice and comment period.  Just
before these new requirements took effect, agencies submitted
information-collection requests to OIRA that substantially increased
their burden-hour totals. 

As of May 31, 1996, OIRA had not set any burden-reduction goals. 
However, even if the planned agency-specific goals are set, they will
not sum to 10-percent governmentwide reduction goal.  OIRA said that,
consistent with the act, the governmentwide burden- reduction goal
for fiscal year 1996 will be 10 percent.  However, agencies' goals,
based on their burden-hour projections, will average about 1 percent. 
If these projections are accurate, a 10-percent governmentwide burden
reduction will be impossible. 

The act does not explicitly require that the agency-specific goals
should sum to the governmentwide goal.  However, the act does require
OIRA to keep Congress and congressional committees "fully and
currently informed" of any "major activities." OIRA has not done so
regarding (1) why it has not set any goals or (2) agencies'
projections indicating that the 10 percent governmentwide paperwork
reduction goal will not be achieved. 

Several agencies contend that their burden-reduction efforts are
hampered by statutorily based requirements.  In particular, IRS said
that it could not reduce the burden it imposed by more than about 0.9
percent without substantive changes in the tax code.  GAO has not
assessed the extent to which the paperwork burden agencies impose is
directly a consequence of statutory requirements. 

Three agencies GAO examined each took different steps to reduce
paperwork burden.  For example, the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) is attempting to reduce its January 1, 1995, burden-hour total
by 25 percent.  However, EPA's efforts have been largely offset by
increases in what some of its officials describe as statutorily
required information collections. 


PAPERWORK REDUCTION:  BURDEN
REDUCTION GOAL UNLIKELY TO BE MET
==================================================== Chapter STATEMENT

Mr.  Chairman and Members of the Committee: 

We are pleased to be here today to discuss the implementation of the
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.  As you requested, we have reviewed
selected aspects of the act's implementation by the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) and three agencies--the Internal Revenue
Service (IRS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  In your
request letter, you noted that participants at last year's White
House Conference on Small Business believed these three agencies
impose the most significant paperwork burdens on small businesses. 

We will focus on three main issues today:  (1) changes in paperwork
burden governmentwide and in the three selected agencies, (2) OMB's
responsibility to set goals for reducing such burden and whether
agencies will achieve the burden reductions envisioned in the act,
and (3) actions each of the three agencies have taken since the
passage of the act.  We will also discuss some measurement issues
Congress needs to consider as it assesses agencies' progress in
reducing paperwork burden. 


   BACKGROUND
-------------------------------------------------- Chapter STATEMENT:1

First, however, a little background information is needed.  The
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 amended and recodified the Paperwork
Reduction Act of 1980, as amended.  The 1995 act reaffirmed the
principles of the original act and gave new responsibilities to OMB
and executive branch agencies.  Like the original statute, the 1995
act requires agencies to justify any collection of information from
the public by establishing the need and intended use of the
information, estimating the burden that the collection will impose on
the respondents, and showing that the collection is the least
burdensome way to gather the information. 

The act also reauthorized the Office of Information and Regulatory
Affairs (OIRA) within OMB to determine whether agencies' proposals
for collecting information comply with the act.\1 Agencies must
receive OIRA approval for each information collection request before
it is implemented.  OIRA is also required to report to Congress on
agencies' progress in reducing paperwork.  To do so, OIRA develops an
Information Collection Budget (ICB) by gathering data from executive
branch agencies on the total number of "burden hours" OIRA approved
for collections of information for the agency at the end of the
fiscal year, and agency estimates of the burden for the coming fiscal
year.\2

The 1995 act also makes several changes in federal paperwork
reduction requirements.  For example, it requires OIRA to set goals
of at least a 10-percent burden reduction governmentwide for each of
fiscal years 1996 and 1997, a 5-percent governmentwide burden
reduction in each of the next 4 fiscal years, and annual agency goals
that reduce burden to "the maximum practicable" extent.\3 The act
also redefines a "collection of information" to include required
disclosures of information to third parties and the public,
effectively overturning the Supreme Court's 1990 Dole v.  United
Steelworkers of America decision.\4 Finally, the 1995 act details new
agency responsibilities for the review and control of paperwork.  For
example, it requires agencies to establish a 60-day public notice and
comment period for each proposed collection of information before
submitting the proposal to OMB for approval. 

OIRA uses the ICB information to assess whether agencies' burden
reduction goals are being met.  OIRA classifies changes in
burden-hour estimates as caused by either "program changes" or
"adjustments." Program changes are additions or reductions to
existing paperwork requirements which are imposed either through new
statutory requirements or an agency's own initiative.  Adjustments
are changes in burden estimates caused by factors other than changes
in the actual paperwork requirements, such as changes in the
population responding to a requirement or agency reestimates of the
burden associated with a collection of information.  OIRA counts both
program changes and adjustments when calculating an agency's
burden-hour baseline at the end of each fiscal year.  However, OIRA
does not count changes that are due to adjustments in determining
whether an agency has achieved its burden reduction goal. 


--------------------
\1 The act requires the Director of OMB to delegate the authority to
administer all functions under the act to the Administrator of OIRA,
but does not relieve the OMB Director of responsibility for the
administration of those functions.  In this testimony, we refer to
OIRA or the OIRA Administrator wherever the act assigns
responsibilities to OMB or the Director. 

\2 Although OIRA consults with agencies in the preparation of their
ICB submissions and refers to this data collection process as a
"budget," OIRA's information collection budget does not limit the
number of burden hours an agency is permitted to impose in the way
that a financial budget limits expenditures. 

\3 The original act contained burden reduction goals, but they had
expired. 

\4 494 U.S.  26.  The Court ruled that the Paperwork Reduction Act of
1980 (as amended) did not provide OMB with the authority to review
agency regulations that mandate disclosure of information by
regulated entities directly to third parties. 


   CHANGES IN PAPERWORK BURDEN
   OVER TIME
-------------------------------------------------- Chapter STATEMENT:2

Figure 1 shows changes in reported burden-hour estimates
governmentwide and at IRS between September 30, 1980, and September
30, 1995--the day before the new act took effect. 

   Figure 1:  Trends in Paperwork
   Burden Governmentwide and for
   IRS

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Note:  Data are as of September 30 each year. 

Source:  Regulatory Information Service Center and Department of the
Treasury. 

As you can see, the governmentwide total rose substantially during
that 15-year period, from about 1.5 billion burden hours in 1980 to
more than 6.9 billion burden hours in 1995.  The rate of
governmentwide increase was not consistent during this period; the
total rose and fell in the early years, rose dramatically in 1989,
and rose every year since then with the exception of 1993.\5 In each
year since fiscal year 1989, IRS' paperwork burden has accounted for
more than three-quarters of the governmentwide total.  Increases or
decreases in IRS' total number of burden hours have had a dramatic
effect on the governmentwide total.  For example, the near tripling
of the governmentwide burden-hour estimate during fiscal year 1989
was primarily because IRS changed the way it calculated its
information collection burden, which increased its paperwork estimate
by about 3.4 billion hours.\6 Because the IRS paperwork burden is
such a large portion of the governmentwide total, the success of any
governmentwide effort to reduce burden largely depends on reducing
the burden imposed by IRS. 

Figures 2 and 3 show the changes in the paperwork burden at EPA and
OSHA, respectively, during the same 1980 to 1995 period. 

   Figure 2:  Trends in EPA's
   Paperwork Burden

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Note:  Data are as of September 30 each year. 

Source:  Regulatory Information Service Center. 

   Figure 3:  Trends in OSHA's
   Paperwork Burden

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Note:  Data are as of September 30 each year, but data were not
available for 1980 and 1981.  In 1982, 1983, 1993, and 1994, OSHA's
paperwork estimate was less than 2 million burden hours. 

Source:  Department of Labor. 

EPA's burden-hour estimate rose sharply in the late 1980s, fell
somewhat in 1991 (because third-party information collections were no
longer being counted as a result of the Dole decision), and rose
again between 1991 and 1995.  OSHA's burden-hour estimate increased
gradually through 1987, rose rapidly in 1988, fell back to its
previous level by 1990, and decreased slightly until it rose sharply
between 1994 and 1995.\7

Figure 4 shows the month-by-month changes in the governmentwide
paperwork burden between September 30, 1994, and March 30, 1996--the
period including the date the 1995 act was signed by the President
(May 22, 1995) and its effective date (October 1, 1995). 

   Figure 4:  Recent Changes in
   Burden Hours Governmentwide

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Note:  Data are as of the end of each month. 

Source:  Regulatory Information Service Center. 

The number of burden hours governmentwide rose more than 500 million
hours (more than 8 percent) in the 1-month period immediately before
the effective date of the act--from 6.39 billion hours on August 30,
1995, to 6.90 billion hours on September 30, 1995.  IRS increased its
burden-hour estimate by more than 147.6 million burden hours (about 3
percent) between August and September; EPA's estimate went up more
than 21 million hours (more than 25 percent) during that month. 
OSHA's burden-hour estimate rose most dramatically shortly before the
effective date, from about 1.5 million hours on June 30, 1995, to
about 208 million hours on September 30, 1995.\8

Documents we reviewed and officials we talked to indicated that these
increases occurred during this period because agencies were trying to
get proposed information collections approved before the new act took
effect on October 1, 1995.\9 Some of the proposals at OSHA and EPA
were third-party and public disclosures that had previously been
removed from the agencies' estimates because of the Dole decision.\10
Other proposals, particularly those at OSHA, were third-party and
public disclosures that had been added after the Dole decision.\11 By
getting these third-party and other proposed information collections
approved before the act's effective date, agencies were able to avoid
the new requirements imposed by the act, including the 60-day public
notice and comment period at the agencies.  OIRA approved some of
these collections of information for less than 1 year so that the
agencies would have to clear the collections under the new process
during fiscal year 1996. 

However, submitting the proposals for review and approval before the
act took effect also raised the burden-hour baseline against which
the agencies' paperwork reduction goals would be judged.  For
example, the increase in OSHA's burden-hour baseline from about 1.5
million hours to about 208 million hours between June and September
1995 meant that OSHA had to cut more burden hours to achieve a 10
percent reduction (20.8 million hours) than it would have had to cut
before the increase (about 150,000 hours). 


--------------------
\5 According to OMB, more than 90 percent of the fiscal year 1993
decline was because of population changes and other adjustments. 

\6 For more information on this recalculation, see Paperwork
Reduction:  Reported Burden Hour Increases Reflect New Estimates, Not
Actual Change (GAO/PEMD-94-3, Dec.  6, 1993). 

\7 The increase in 1988 resulted from a court-ordered expansion of
the scope of industries covered by the agency's Hazard Communication
Standard.  The burden level decreased by 1990 as industries made use
of a guide OSHA published to simplify compliance with that standard. 

\8 OSHA burden-hour estimates were unavailable for July or August
1995. 

\9 For example, on May 22, 1995, the OIRA Administrator sent a
memorandum to the heads of executive branch departments and agencies
reminding them that, for information collections to be approved by
OIRA on or after October 1, 1995, they would have to comply with the
new procedures specified in the act. 

\10 The burden-hour increases at IRS were not attributable to the
reinstitution of third-party information collections because IRS
never stopped counting them. 

\11 For example, OSHA's Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous
Chemicals Standard (about 135 million burden hours) was added after
the Dole decision. 


   BURDEN REDUCTION GOALS NOT SET
   AND REDUCTIONS LIKELY TO FALL
   SHORT OF ACT'S TARGET
-------------------------------------------------- Chapter STATEMENT:3

One of the key features of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 is the
requirement that OIRA set both governmentwide and agency- specific
burden reduction goals for fiscal year 1996 and for the next 5 fiscal
years.  However, as of May 31, 1996, OIRA had not set any such goals. 
More importantly, information that the agencies submitted to OIRA
indicated that the burden reduction target that the act specified for
fiscal year 1996 is unlikely to be reached. 


      AGENCIES' PLANNED BURDEN
      REDUCTION GOALS WILL AVERAGE
      1 PERCENT
------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:3.1

OIRA staff told us that they plan to set the fiscal year 1996 burden
reduction goals in a soon-to-be-published ICB.  As part of the ICB
development process, in September 1995, OIRA asked agencies to
project what their burden-hour levels would be at the end of fiscal
year 1996.  Agencies submitted that information to OIRA between
December 1995 and February 1996. 

OIRA staff said that they will establish a governmentwide burden
reduction goal of 10 percent for fiscal year 1996, as the act
requires.  They also said that agency goals will reflect the
end-of-fiscal year 1996 burden-hour estimates that the agencies
provided in their ICB submissions unless changed as a result of OIRA
review.  According to unpublished information we obtained from OIRA
and the agencies, the weighted average of the agencies' burden
reduction projections is about 1 percent.  If these projections are
accurate, the fiscal year 1996 goal of a 10-percent reduction in
governmentwide paperwork burden that the 1995 act calls for will not
be accomplished.  Figure 5 shows the actual month-to-month
governmentwide paperwork estimates from March 1995 to March 1996 and,
according to our calculations, what the number of burden hours would
have been by the end of fiscal year 1996 if the 10-percent burden
reduction goal had been achieved and what the burden-hour total is
expected to be on the basis of agencies' projections. 

   Figure 5:  Governmentwide
   Trends in Paperwork Burden and
   Fiscal Year 1996 Goals for
   Burden Reduction

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Note:  Data are as of the end of each month. 

Source:  Regulatory Information Service Center, ICB submissions, and
GAO calculations. 

The act did not explicitly require that the governmentwide goal
should be the sum of the agency-specific goals.  It specifies that
the governmentwide burden-reduction goal for fiscal year 1996 should
be at least 10 percent and that the individual agencies' goals should
reduce information collection burdens to the "maximum practicable
opportunity" in each agency.  Therefore, if the OIRA Administrator
determines that federal agencies are only capable of collectively
reducing their paperwork burden by an average of about 1 percent, she
is authorized to set agencies' goals that will not add up to the
governmentwide goal of a 10-percent reduction in burden. 

Nevertheless, it is logical to assume that agency-specific goals
would be the means by which the governmentwide goal would be
achieved.  Also, the 1995 act's legislative history indicates that
Congress contemplated a connection between the governmentwide and
agency-specific goals.  For example, the act's conference report
states that

     "individual agency goals negotiated with OIRA may differ
     depending on the agency's potential to reduce the paperwork
     burden such agency imposes on the public.  Goals negotiated with
     some agencies may substantially exceed the Government-wide goal,
     while those negotiated with other agencies may be substantially
     less."


      OIRA DID NOT KEEP CONGRESS
      INFORMED
------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:3.2

In addition to setting goals for paperwork reduction, the act
requires OIRA to "keep the Congress and congressional committees
fully and currently informed of the major activities under this
chapter." However, as of May 31, 1996, the OIRA Administrator had not
informed Congress or congressional committees (1) about why OIRA has
not established any burden reduction goals to date and (2) that
agency projections OIRA received at least 3 months ago indicated that
the 10 percent governmentwide paperwork reduction goal called for in
the act would not be achieved.  Both of these issues appear to us to
be "major activities" subject to the act's requirement that the OIRA
Administrator keep Congress fully and currently informed. 


      AGENCIES CONTEND STATUTORY
      REQUIREMENTS IMPEDE BURDEN
      REDUCTION
------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:3.3

Information collection is one method by which agencies carry out
their missions, and those missions are established by Congress
through legislation.  For the past several years, the ICBs have
indicated that agencies' burden-hour estimates increased because of
congressionally imposed statutory requirements.  For example, the
fiscal year 1993 ICB noted that title IV of the Clean Air Act
Amendments of 1990 established new permitting requirements for
emission sources that produce nitrous oxides, resulting in a 1.8
million hour increase to EPA's burden-hour estimate.  As a result of
such requirements, some agencies contend that they are limited in the
amount to which they can reduce their paperwork burden.  If agencies'
paperwork requirements are truly statutorily mandated, those agencies
may not be able to reduce their burden-hour estimates by the amounts
envisioned in the 1995 act without changes in the legislation
underlying those requirements. 

However, neither we nor OIRA have assessed the extent to which the
paperwork burden agencies impose is directly a consequence of
statutory requirements and, therefore, is out of agencies' control. 
Even though a statute may require an agency to take certain actions,
the agency may have discretion regarding whether paperwork
requirements need to be imposed and, if so, the manner or frequency
with which the information is collected.  For example, although
several statutes require employers to provide training to employees,
OSHA may have discretion to determine whether employers need to
submit paperwork to demonstrate their compliance with these
provisions. 


   EPA, IRS, AND OSHA BURDEN
   REDUCTION TARGETS AND ACTIONS
   DIFFER
-------------------------------------------------- Chapter STATEMENT:4

As a part of their ICB submissions to OIRA, EPA, IRS, and OSHA each
projected what it believed its total number of burden-hours would be
as of September 30, 1996.  Each agency also took different steps to
reduce its paperwork burden. 


      ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
      AGENCY
------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:4.1

EPA has its own effort to reduce paperwork that began before the
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 took effect.  EPA has set an internal
burden-reduction target and expects to reach that target by the end
of this year.  Despite these efforts, EPA reported that their
burden-hour reductions will be largely offset by increases in
statutorily-based information collections. 

In March 1995, the EPA Administrator committed to reducing the
agency's January 1, 1995, estimated paperwork burden by 25 percent by
June 1996.  Initially, EPA estimated that its January 1995 baseline
was about 81 million burden hours, so a 25-percent reduction would
bring the agency's total to about 61 million hours.  In March of this
year, we provided a statement for the record to the House Committee
on Small Business indicating that, despite these planned reductions,
EPA projected that its burden-hour total would increase to about 117
million hours by September 30, 1996--an increase of about 44 percent
from EPA's January 1995 baseline.\12

However, in May 1996, EPA revised its baseline estimate from about 81
million burden hours to about 101 million hours.  EPA retained its
goal of reducing paperwork by 25 percent, making its revised
burden-hour target about 76 million hours.  EPA also said its
burden-reduction effort would not be completed until December 31,
1996, and revised its burden-hour projection for September 30, 1996,
from 117 million hours to about 100 million hours.  EPA officials
said their projection was revised because some planned information
collections would not be approved by OIRA by the end of the fiscal
year and because their original estimate did not include all of the
burden-hour reductions that EPA now expects to make by the end of the
fiscal year. 

Using EPA's most recent estimates, figure 6 shows EPA's burden-hour
baseline as of January 1, 1995, the 25-percent reduction goal that
EPA expects to accomplish by December 31, 1996, and the total number
of burden hours that EPA currently projects will be in place as of
September 30, 1996.  As you can see, despite EPA's burden- reduction
efforts during this period, EPA's burden-hour estimate at the end of
this fiscal year is expected to be about what it was at the start of
those efforts.  This is because, at the same time EPA has been
reducing its January 1995 paperwork inventory, new burden hours have
been added to that inventory.  According to EPA, those additions are
primarily third-party burden hours that are now being counted as a
result of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and new information
collections associated with the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and
the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992. 

   Figure 6:  EPA Burden-Hour
   Estimates

   (See figure in printed
   edition.)

Source:  EPA. 

It is also important to point out that the burden-hour totals in
figure 6 do not include some types of paperwork that were being
imposed on the public.  For example, the first two bars do not
include about 9 million hours of third-party disclosures and the last
bar does not include about 5 million hours of burden associated with
the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI).\13

Although EPA's efforts to reduce burden hours have been almost
totally offset by new information collection requirements, EPA's
attempt to reduce its paperwork burden may prevent what would
otherwise be a significant increase in the agency's paperwork burden. 
As of May 1996, EPA said that it had completed reductions of about 15
million hours and had identified about 8 million more hours of burden
for elimination.  If these figures are accurate, EPA would need to
eliminate the 8 million burden hours it had identified and identify
and eliminate about 2 million more hours to reach its goal of
reducing its 101 million burden-hour baseline by 25 percent.  Without
the burden-hour reductions EPA says it has accomplished or has in
progress, the agency's paperwork burden could have increased by 25
percent by the end of the year. 

Although EPA's initiative to reduce the burden it imposes is
promising, its burden-reduction claims warrant continued scrutiny. 
As we reported in our March 1996 statement for the record to the
House Small Business Committee, some of EPA's February 1996 burden
reduction estimates were overstated.  For example,

  -- EPA initially claimed that a recently adopted TRI reporting
     option reduced the burden associated with TRI by about 1.2
     million hours.  However, EPA did not offset this reduction by
     the additional paperwork burden it created--about 800,000
     hours--that would be incurred by those choosing this option. 
     Therefore, the real burden reduction was about 400,000 hours. 

  -- EPA estimated that it had reduced the burden associated with its
     land disposal restrictions program by 1.6 million hours, but its
     January 1, 1995, baseline indicated that the entire program only
     accounted for about 800,000 hours. 

As we observed in our previous testimony on this issue, EPA has
changed the way that it counts its burden reductions to more
accurately reflect the effects of the agency's actions.  This was one
factor that caused the agency to revise its January 1, 1995, baseline
from which the burden-hour reductions are being taken. 


--------------------
\12 Environmental Protection:  Assessing EPA's Progress in Paperwork
Reduction (GAO/T-RCED-96-107, Mar.  21, 1996). 

\13 Third-party information is not included in EPA's January 1, 1995,
baseline because the baseline was established before the Dole
decision was overturned by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. 
Although EPA's baseline included burden hours associated with TRI,
its burden-hour projections for OIRA do not include all of the burden
associated with TRI.  TRI estimates were removed from burden-hour
totals submitted to OIRA in 1993 because the form used to collect TRI
information was no longer submitted to OIRA for clearance.  In EPA's
appropriation for fiscal year 1993, Congress exempted the TRI Form R
from the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act until EPA
promulgates a revision to the form.  Since then, EPA has not
submitted a revised form to OIRA for clearance. 


      INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:4.2

Reducing burden on the taxpayer is one of the primary goals in IRS's
Business Master Plan, in which the agency identifies a number of
burden-reduction actions that it plans to take.  In its ICB
submission, IRS said that it plans to reduce its measured paperwork
burden by about 50 million hours (0.9 percent) during fiscal year
1996 by simplifying forms and instructions, changing reporting
thresholds, and moving eligible taxpayers to "E-Z" versions of
required forms. 

IRS officials said they are limited in the amount to which they can
reduce the agency's paperwork burden because most of IRS' information
collections are statutorily mandated in the tax code.  They said that
unless changes are made to the substantive requirements in the code,
IRS will not be able to substantially reduce its paperwork burden. 

IRS officials also said that significant portions of the agency's
efforts to reduce its burden focus on types of burden that are not
covered by the Paperwork Reduction Act.  For example, they said that
a major part of the real paperwork burden on the taxpayer comes from
responding to IRS notices, and IRS has a major initiative under way
to determine which notices can be eliminated, combined, or
simplified.  However, they said that notices are not covered by the
act because they focus on information collected from a single
individual in the course of an investigation or inquiry. 


      OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND
      HEALTH ADMINISTRATION
------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:4.3

OSHA officials said that they assumed their agency would be
responsible for reducing its burden by 10 percent during fiscal year
1996 as its share of the governmentwide goal.  In its 1995 ICB
submission to the Department of Labor, OSHA said that it would reduce
its fiscal year 1995 paperwork burden by 8.7 million hours (about 4
percent) during fiscal year 1996 by dropping a number of
certification requirements.\14 Although OSHA has begun the process of
eliminating these certification requirements, in the spring of 1996
OSHA officials told us that the process may not be completed in time
to eliminate the requirements by the end of the fiscal year. 

After submission of its ICB, OSHA officials discovered that they
could claim additional burden reductions.  OSHA's Process Safety
Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals Standard is a third-party
information collection that the agency added to its burden-hour total
in August 1995.  At that time, OSHA officials estimated the paperwork
requirements associated with the standard at 135 million burden
hours.  In keeping with a schedule established by the standard when
it was issued in 1992, the burden imposed on employers declined in
May 1996 because they were no longer required to perform certain
recordkeeping functions after that date.  OSHA officials said that
they initially considered the decline in employer responsibilities an
adjustment, which could not be counted toward the agency's 10 percent
burden reduction goal in their ICB submission.  However, they said
the Department of Labor paperwork clearance official told them the
change should be considered a program change, and therefore should be
counted as part of OSHA's paperwork reduction effort.  Consequently,
OSHA reduced its 135 million burden-hour estimate by 17 million
hours--8 percent of OSHA's total fiscal year 1995 burden. 


--------------------
\14 Certifications are prepared in response to regulatory provisions
requiring employers to conduct tests, inspections, maintenance
checks, or training and to prepare and keep on file a signed record
indicating what was done and the date the action was taken. 


   MEASUREMENT ISSUES
-------------------------------------------------- Chapter STATEMENT:5

As Congress exercises oversight in this area, it is important that it
keep in mind several measurement issues.  As noted previously, OIRA
does not count any adjustments (because of reestimates or population
changes) that agencies submit with their information collection
requests in determining whether an agency has met its paperwork
burden reduction goals.  Therefore, an agency that initially submits
a high estimate and later revises it downward does not get credit
from OIRA for the reduction.  Conversely, if an agency initially
submits a low paperwork estimate and later increases the estimate,
OIRA never counts the increase against the agency for goal attainment
purposes.  In fact, the governmentwide increase of about 1 billion
burden hours between 1990 and 1995 was primarily driven by
adjustments that never counted against agencies' goals.  OIRA staff
told us they were not aware of any evidence that agencies were
systematically underestimating the burden associated with their
information collections and then revising them upward. 

It is also important that Congress recognize the difference between
the government's "measured" paperwork burden that is reflected by the
number of burden hours an agency reports and the "real" burden that
is felt by the public and others.  For example, the public did not
feel the 3.4 billion burden-hour increase caused by IRS' 1989
reestimate; the burden had been there all along, and IRS simply
improved its method for gauging that burden.  This example
underscores the care that must be taken in interpreting the official
burden-hour statistics.  Most or all of the burden-hour increase may
have actually existed since 1980 when the original Paperwork
Reduction Act became effective.  If this were the case, the
statistics available to policymakers would seriously underestimate
the burden actually imposed on the public, and figure 1 would
overstate the degree to which paperwork burden actually increased
since 1980. 

The increase in measured burden as a consequence of the inclusion of
third-party and public disclosures in September 1995 was similar to
the IRS reestimate; the burden already existed but had just not been
previously measured.  Likewise, the burden felt by the public does
not diminish when an agency recalculates a lower estimate of its
paperwork burden without eliminating any existing requirements. 

Relatedly, it is important that Congress be aware that certain
elements of agencies' information collection burden are not reflected
in some burden-hour estimates.  As we mentioned earlier, OIRA does
not count about 5 million hours of paperwork burden associated with
EPA's TRI reporting form because the form is not submitted for OIRA
approval.  IRS's burden-hour estimates do not include such
information collections as notices involving errors, nonfilings, and
delinquencies because they are exempted from coverage under the act. 

Finally, as we have said in previous reports and testimonies, users
of paperwork burden-hour estimates should proceed with great caution. 
The degree to which such estimates reflect real burden and the
factors that cause changes to the burden-hour totals are often
unclear.  Nevertheless, they are the best indicators of paperwork
burden available, and we believe that they can be useful as long as
their limitations are borne in mind. 


------------------------------------------------ Chapter STATEMENT:5.1

Mr.  Chairman, this completes our prepared statement.  We would be
pleased to answer any questions. 

*** End of document. ***